Tips for a Successful Internship Interview

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 like 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?

Dress for the job you want. Err on the side of dressing more professionally, even though it’s for an interview that may be through videoconference. Put your best foot forward.

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.

[READ: How to Make the Most of Your College Career Center.]

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.”

[Read: How to Ask for the Job at the Interview.]

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?

[Read: Job Market Outlook.]

Overall Tips for a Successful Interview

There are some general internship interview tips to keep in mind to feel confident about your interview:

Familiarize yourself with the industry. Especially if you are wanting to intern in a field that is new to you, it’s important to learn the basics and how your previous experience translates to that industry. You don’t have to know everything, but using any industry-specific language or mentioning some recent news can show the interviewer that you have done your homework.

Practice your interview. Interviewing can be nerve-wracking, so practicing your interview answers with someone else, such as a friend or career coach, can help you feel more confident and at ease. If you are unable to practice with someone else, record yourself and watch the playback to see how you come across.

Arrive early for your interview. Whether your interview is virtual or in-person, arriving early will help you feel more relaxed. Make sure to account for driving time and parking if your interview is in-person, and have a backup plan for your internet if your interview is virtual.

Dress professionally. While dress codes vary by industry, dress professionally for any kind of interview, even for an internship. This will help give a good first impression and show you are serious about the opportunity. If your interview is virtual, you should still be fully dressed and pay careful attention to what the interviewer can see in your background.

Pay attention to your posture. Avoid slouching or looking at the floor during your interview. Sitting up straight and appropriate eye contact with the interviewer transmits confidence. Don’t forget to smile!

Take extra copies of your materials. It’s always good to be prepared with a few extra copies of your resume and other marketing materials in case there are additional interviewers or something happens to the document.

Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. Sometimes you may not understand what the interviewer has asked you. Perhaps there was a lag in the audio on your virtual interview or you just aren’t sure what direction the interviewer wants you to go with your answer. It’s OK to ask for clarification before answering.

Take a notebook. You may want to reference some notes or even write down certain details the interviewer mentions during your interview. Having a notebook on hand shows your attention to detail.

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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Tips for a Successful Internship Interview originally appeared on

Update 11/01/21: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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