Internship interview questions

Use these sample interview questions to evaluate and recruit interns, junior candidates and recent graduates.

Internship interview questions

What you should consider when hiring interns

Internship programs help companies connect with recent graduates who fill needs for a specific time period. Here are some key points to consider when hiring interns:

  1. Determine whether you need an intern in the first place. Interns usually cover short-term business needs. If you have ongoing projects or if you want more experienced professionals, consider hiring a full-time employee or a freelancer instead.
  2. Specify what projects and tasks your interns will undertake. Plan your interns’ job duties, decide who they’ll be working closely with and set specific goals.
  3. Agree on the internship duration. It’s best to offer five or six-month internships, instead of one or two-month long stints, so that interns have enough time to onboard and get used to their new duties.
  4. Check your local labor laws about compensation and working hours. Interns should not be viewed as “free employees.” Make sure to comply with labor legislation and offer compensation based on interns’ contributions.
  5. Advertise your internships on targeted job boards. To attract people who are looking for internships, post your job ads on sites like Internships.com and WayUp as well as college careers pages and social networks.
  6. Prepare to onboard and train interns. Inexperienced workers will struggle to perform on their own from day one. Give them an overview of your regular procedures, train them on tools they’ll be using and assign mentors to help them complete their first tasks. For more help with onboarding, visit our onboarding checklists.

Sample questions to ask interns during interviews

  • Why did you choose this major / field of study?
  • What do you hope to gain from this internship?
  • What are your long-term career goals and how do you plan to achieve them?
  • What are your salary/ compensation expectations?
  • Do you currently attend any courses? If so, what days and hours are you available to work?
  • What software have you used?
  • Describe one or two of your projects at college. How do they relate to this position?
  • How do you deal with tight deadlines when you’re working on multiple assignments?
  • Describe a time when you worked as part of a team. What challenges did you face and what was the outcome?
  • If you faced a problem on the job, would you reach out to your manager for help, would you consult your coworkers or would you try to solve on your own? Why?
  • Describe a time when you received negative feedback from a professor or team member. How did you react?
  • Would you consider furthering your studies in the future? What would you want to learn more about?

Tips when interviewing interns

  • Explain the hiring stages in detail. While it’s important to be transparent about your recruiting process to all candidates, you might need to offer extra guidance to junior candidates. If they have little or no experience with job interviews, describe each hiring stage in detail so that they know what to expect (e.g. who they’ll meet, what they will talk about, etc.)
  • Set expectations and spot dealbreakers early on. During your hiring process, treat interns the way you treat candidates for the rest of your positions. Use knockout questions in application forms and screening calls to determine whether candidates have the minimum requirements for your internships. For example:
    • Do they know how to use X software?
    • Do their salary expectations match the compensation package you offer?
    • Are they able to commit to an X-month-long internship program?
    • Are they available to work during X hours? (if you have a specific work schedule)
  • Give candidates skills-based assignments. Projects that simulate job duties will help you understand how junior candidates and interns apply knowledge despite their lack of work experience. Make sure to give candidates clear instructions so that they’re able to complete their assignments accurately.

Red flags

  • They have different career goals. If candidates’ long-term professional goals don’t match your internship, they will likely be disengaged when performing their tasks. But, if they’re skilled and interested in your company, consider offering an internship in a different department, if available, or stay in touch for future job opportunities.
  • They lack motivation. Internships have a fixed duration (usually three to six months) and help college students or recent graduates gain work experience. But, that’s only if they take their tasks seriously. Candidates who view their internship as a chore and look forward to getting it over with may not be worth the time you’ll invest in them.
  • They are unprofessional. Arriving late to interviews, missing deadlines or being arrogant are red flags for all candidates. And while you shouldn’t judge interns harshly if they’re less experienced with job interviews, it’s best to disqualify candidates who present themselves in unprofessional ways.
  • They’re not good culture fits. If you set up internship programs to get to know potential hires before offering full-time employment, screen for culture fit early on the hiring process. Hire, onboard and train interns who are likely to stay with you in the long-run.
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