35+ Internship Interview Questions to Hire for Talent

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interview questions for interns

35+ Internship Interview Questions to Hire for Talent

It is not news that organizations worldwide warn about a shortage of talent in the workforce market. The reasons behind this situation are complex. They include skills gaps, issues with the educational system, and companies’ delays in nurturing and rewarding the talent they need. In this context, internship programs are one saving solution, among others. They allow companies to recruit, train, hire and retain talent. In turn, this workforce will become tomorrow’s business leaders. As recruiters and executives, it is our responsibility to find the right people for internships to educate and prepare them for their future careers. Today, we will present you with 35+ internship interview questions to ask when you recruit interns for a company.

At the end of this article, we will also resume other recruiting techniques you can employ to ensure you get the right interns for the right programs/job roles,/careers.

How to Approach The Internship Interview and Acquisition Strategy

internship interview questions strategy

Most internship programs recruit students and a young workforce ready to contribute to humankind’s greater good. With few exceptions, you will face individuals who are just now starting their career journey.

In other words, you should not focus your recruiting process and interview strategy on their work experience. They may have volunteering practice and a few summer jobs in college, but you are not doing this right if you expect them to be seasoned rocket scientists. So forget about the common interview questions everybody dreads (and know how to answer already).

It is absurd to ask potential interns where they see themselves in five years. Still struggling with student loans, most likely, so there you have it: honesty, one of the most sought-for employability skills of our times.

As an HR expert recruiting for an internship program, you know your company’s mission is to educate the interns and prepare them for future careers. The second aim is to find talent, train it, engage it, and keep it for your company. As talent enrolling strategies go, hiring a select few interns and turning them into valuable members of your team is a time-tested practice.

So how do you approach an interview when you recruit interns for a certain program? Our recommendation is to use a candidate scorecard. The common practice is to use this system only when you screen candidates for permanent open positions, but do it for future interns as well

  • Draft the characteristics and skills you are looking for in internship applicants;
  • Create custom questions and avoid common interview questions that do not add up to your KPIs;
  • Score candidates during the interview, so at the end of the process, you can easily select top performers for other types of pre-employment assessments.  

Once you gain an objective vision of the ideal interns you could convince to stay with your company after the internship program is over, you can start preparing the questions to ask at an internship interview. We did some of the work for you, so let’s see them!

35+ Internship Interview Questions to Acquire Top Talent for the Program

how to approach an internship interview

An interview for an internship should focus on multiple areas. You want to learn more about the candidates’ goals, education, work experience (if any), hobbies, skills, business personality, behavior, attitudes, etc. So let’s see how to approach internship interview questions!

Interview Questions Tapping into Candidate Goals

Let’s see some interview questions that might help you identify and understand candidates’ career goals and plans!

1. Can you tell me some things about yourself? Why did you choose to specialize in this field? What other degree subjects interest you?

2. Why do you want to be a part of an internship program? Why are you interested in this position?

3. Why have you chosen to apply for an internship with our company? What did attract you the most?

4. Tell me a few reasons why you want to work in this industry.

5. How do you think this internship is going to help you accomplish your career goals?

6. What are your plans after this internship program?

7. Can you describe to me how you set goals and plan to achieve them?

8. Tell me about some of your medium-term or long-term career goals.

With these questions, you try to learn more about applicants’ interests in what the internship program has to offer. Recruiters also want to understand if candidates carefully considered their future career paths.

Academic, Work, and Extracurricular Experience Assessment

The candidates you are talking to probably highlighted past jobs in their resumes. However, if they only listed academic or extracurricular experience, it does not mean they are not capable interns and future talented employees you want to retain. Let’s see some experience questions to ask at an internship interview:

1. What accomplishments make you the proudest? They can be academic, professional, extracurricular, or personal;

2. Why did you choose this major? How do you think you can put into practice the knowledge you gained with this major?

3. What other academic classes or topics did you like best and why?

4. Can you give me an example where you applied knowledge and skills from one field/subject to another field/subject?

5. What do you think are the top three skills that recommend you for this internship?

6. Tell me more about your extracurricular activities, volunteering efforts, projects you’ve been a part of, hobbies, etc. What did you learn from them?

7. How do you think the knowledge and skills you gained from your academic and extracurricular experience will help you with this internship and future career?

8. How did you manage your time to juggle successfully with academic progress, extracurricular activities, hobbies, and leisure?

9. How do you handle meeting very tight deadlines?

10. Give me examples of a time when you had to work in a project team. Describe the experience and tell me what you learned from it.

As you can see, these interview questions revolve around soft skills, cognitive abilities, and so on. You will most likely test them with standardized HR assessment tools, but for now, you are just making a better idea of who is the person in front of you. We all know transferrable skills and personality traits weigh a lot in the recruitment and retaining process.

Interview Questions to Discern Leadership Skills

If your company only wants interns to have some staff around that brings the coffee or carries papers from one office to the next, you probably don’t need to keep an eye on emerging leaders. However, if your purpose is to recruit interns to keep as talented employees, leadership skills assessment should be a priority. You can go many routes in this situation (simultaneously is the best):

  • Organize simulations and see how your future interns handle real-work contexts where they have to display and use leadership skills;
  • Screen internship candidates with a personality test and correlate their results with the ones you get from applying an integrity test;
  • Use our specialized Leadership Aptitude Test to measure various personality traits, cognitive skills, and interpersonal abilities representing leadership performance predictors.

Nevertheless, if you choose to perform the interviewing first for candidate screening, keep these tools close, as their time will come soon. Now, let’s focus on the interview questions to ask your future interns!

1. Tell me an example (from college/work/extracurricular setting) of a situation where you felt you were in the presence of a good leader. How were they like? What did they do? What made you follow them?

2. What famous leaders (in business/politics/society, etc.) do you admire? What are their qualities that appeal to you the most?

3. Have you ever been in a situation where you were the leader of your group? How did you handle the situation? What was the team’s result?

4. What types of people do you work with best?

5. What are your favorite communication methods to get the message across to colleagues, team members, friends, etc.?

6. Can you give me an example when you had to put the team first, thus compromising your goals/objectives or personal opinions/feelings?

7. Tell me about a time you had to decide during part of a team. How did you reach that decision? Did the others agree to it?

8. Did you ever have to manage a difficult/conflictual situation with another colleague/coworker/teacher/manager? How did you handle things?

9. In a work environment, how would you handle a challenging/conflicting situation with a coworker?

10. If you felt that something or someone held you back on your job/goal achievement, what would you do to solve the problem?

You can see that such a line of interviewing relies on behavioral questions. When you decide on this assessment path, remember that leadership means more than pushing others to do their jobs. It would help if you looked beyond problem-solving, decision-making, conflict resolution, integrity, work ethics, interpersonal skills, and more.

We recommend you use our focused integrity test. However, ensure you use it in the right blend of personality and cognitive assessments.

Internship Interview Questions to Address People Skills

We will dedicate some time to discuss people skills or interpersonal skills in more detail. For this guide’s purpose, we will remind you that such abilities are crucial for organizational success. Recruiters and companies have to differentiate between technical skills and people skills. When you want to acquire talent, nurture it, and retain it, you need to look at both these dimensions.

As we said, we will discuss interpersonal skills later. We want to emphasize that such skills revolve around emotional intelligence, temperament, verbal and nonverbal communication, diplomacy, negotiation, etc. Most experts consider that leadership skills are interpersonal. However, we all know plenty of leaders who don’t have any people skills whatsoever, so we like to distinguish between the two.

So let’s see some internship interview questions tapping into people skills because your future interns and employees will need them every day on the job.

1. Do you like to work more in a team, or do you achieve better results when you focus on a project alone? What is different for you in each of these situations?

2. If you and a coworker didn’t see eye to eye and had a difficult relationship, how would you suggest solving this situation?

3. What motivates you to do your job to the best of your abilities every day?

4. How would you act if a colleague had a personal emergency and left all their work on your shoulders? What would your approach be in this situation?

5. Some of your coworkers are fighting. What do you do?

These were just a few examples. Your approach here should focus on candidates’ people skills that you find the most valuable for your organization. We suggest using our highly specialized Aptitude & People Skills to assess applicants’ EQ, logical processing, decision-making skills, teamwork, learning curves, etc.

Internship Interview Questions Tapping Into Cognitive Abilities

We will end this guide with a few examples of internship interview questions focusing on candidates’ cognitive skills. They are just a way for you to warm things up and move on to actual standardized cognitive testing and position-specific skills testing, but a conversation regarding such abilities does not hurt.

1. Tell me about a situation when a problem did not have an obvious, standard solution. What did you do to solve it?

2. Can you describe a situation where you had to multitask? How did that work for you? What did you learn from this experience?

3. Do you consider yourself a person with a high level of attention to detail? Was there a situation in your academic/extracurricular/personal life when your attention to detail proved useful?

4. Do you prefer to communicate verbally or in writing more?

5. What steps do you follow to analyze a problem before deciding how to act on it?

As you can see, such questions help you learn more about your candidate’s thought processes and how individuals perceive and are mindful of their cognitive abilities.

Bottom Line

We don’t have to tell you that you can use some of these internship interview questions when recruiting permanent employees. However, it would help if you tailored the questions with experienced candidates to suit your goals and KPIs better.

If your company runs an internship program for students, feel free to use this guide! Don’t forget to prepare for your assessment with another pre-employment assessment test we offer! Good luck acquiring the talent you are looking for, and feel free to tell us about other internship interviewing strategies you use in your current practice!

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