What comes to your mind when you think about an internship? Many may think of internships as something only recent college graduates pursue, but that isn’t always the case. It can also be a great way for someone making a career transition to get their feet wet in a new industry. Even more so in today’s economic climate, an internship can be a great opportunity to learn new skills, make networking connections and boost your overall career game.
If you have determined that you would like to land an internship, how can you ensure you make a great impression and conduct a successful interview? Any interview process can be stressful, so here are some helpful tips to help you prepare for an internship interview.
How to Prepare Before the Interview
Avoid falling into the trap of thinking that this interview is less important since it’s for an internship as opposed to a full-time job. Instead, you should treat it as any other job interview. You want to do your due diligence and make sure that you are well prepared.
— Research the company. Take some time to explore their website and LinkedIn page to understand what the company is accomplishing and how you can contribute to that goal.
— Look up the interviewer. Do you know who will be conducting the interview? Look them up on LinkedIn and on the company website and try finding something you admire about them or something you have in common. While you don’t want to give the impression that you are stalking them online, you can compliment them for a recent accomplishment.
— Get all the details in advance. Will this be a phone, Zoom or in-person interview? What materials does the employer need in advance?
— Decide what you want out of the internship. Write down the top three things you want to gain from this experience and the top three things you want the employer to gain from your time there. Having and knowing the purpose for wanting the internship will help you express yourself more clearly to the employer. It will also help you avoid frustration if you are not hired for a job after the internship.
— Make sure you have a financial plan. To avoid undue stress, make sure you have a good financial plan in place if you accept an unpaid internship. This will help you feel excited about your internship and ensure good work performance.
Common Questions to Expect and Sample Answers
Internship interview questions are much like any other job interview questions. Here are some common questions you may be asked along with possible ways to answer.
— What do you hope to gain from this internship? You will want to talk about the purpose that you defined in your preparation for the interview. For example: “I am excited about the opportunity to work with a team and hone my problem-solving skills. I also look forward to contributing to the success of the company with my strong work ethic.”
— Why do you want to work in this industry? While this question seems similar to the above, the employer wants to know why you chose this industry as opposed to another one. For example: “I am in the process of making a career transition to this industry, and I would love the opportunity to see if this is a good fit for me long-term.”
— Tell us a little bit about yourself. While this is a seemingly casual question, you want to be strategic about your answer. Be honest, but aim to speak to a professional accomplishment as well as something personal about yourself, such as a hobby. For example: “I majored in business management and have helped several firms implement an updated leadership program. I also love to travel in my spare time, my favorite place is X.”
— What are your strengths and weaknesses? For this question, the employer wants to know if you are honest about yourself and aware of things you need to work on. However, try to spin your weakness in a positive way. For example: “I am punctual and have a strong work ethic. Sometimes I struggle with deadlines, but I am working on that by setting periodic reminders for myself on my phone to keep myself on track.”
Questions to Ask the Interviewer
It’s important to ask questions so you know how this internship can help you with your long-term career goals. Again, an internship can be a great opportunity for your career, but you want to be strategic about your choice. You want to ask good questions to make sure it will align with your goals and be a good fit for you. For example:
— Is a full-time position at this company a possibility after the internship?
— What would I have to achieve to get a full-time job at this company?
— What do you expect an intern to accomplish in the first 30 and 60 days of the internship?
Overall Tips for a Successful Interview
There are some general internship interview tips to keep in mind to feel confident about your interview:
— Be early and dress professionally. Whether the interview is virtual or in-person, being early and dressing appropriately will help give you a confidence boost.
— Close the loop. Make sure that you know what you need to do after the interview. Who do you need to follow up with? What paperwork do you need to fill out? Don’t leave the interview with any looming questions.
— Thank the interviewer. No matter how the interview goes, make sure to thank the interviewer for their time. This shows true professionalism.
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