How to Prepare for an Internship Interview : 12 Pro Tips

Landing an internship can be the first step to achieving your career goals. In fact, 70% of companies offer full-time jobs to successful interns. But before you get too excited about your future career path, you’ll need to get and then ace your internship interview. No matter if this is the first time or the fourth time you’re going through the interview process, it’s important to take the time to prepare. Here are a few interview tips to help you nab a highly coveted internship position. 

Get in the right mindset 

In the internship interview process, mindset is key. While an internship isn’t a full-time job, it’s just as important at this stage in your life. As you prepare for your internship interview, treat it like a job interview and approach your prep with the same level of rigor. Internships provide invaluable work experience and an opportunity to build relationships with others in your potential future field. They can also teach you about what type of career path you may – or may not – want to pursue. 

Identify your goals

Before you complete an internship application, think about what you want out of an internship. Are you torn between two majors and hoping this position will give you some clarity? Are you eager to explore your passion with the goal of landing a full-time role? Or, are you simply looking to get an idea of what working in an office is like? Establish a sense of what you need out of the internship before your interview. 

Research the company

Put your study skills to work and do some research on your potential employer:

  • Visit the company website. 
  • Familiarize yourself with their products, services, and values. 
  • Know the company’s industry position (is it a leader, or trying to become the leader, or a new upstart?) and recent achievements.
  • Prepare some (informed!) questions for the end of your interview, when you will likely be asked by your interviewer: “Do you have any questions for me?” 

It’s a small amount of work that goes a long way toward distinguishing you from other applicants. On top of that, this knowledge will allow you to frame your answers in alignment with the company’s goals and values.

Research the interviewer

If you know the name of the hiring manager conducting your interview, do some research on them. 

  • Visit their LinkedIn profile. 
  • Take note of their career path. How long have they been at the company? What did they study in school
  • Do you have anything in common? If so, a shared alma mater, major, or extracurricular activity can be a natural point of connection. 

Find something about them to be interested in. It will demonstrate your enthusiasm and preparedness. 

Research industry news and trends 

Almost everyone preparing for an internship interview researches the company and practices answering common interview questions. Fewer applicants take the time to get up-to-date with the latest trends, developments, and challenges in their prospective industry:

  • Who’s the market leader? What do they do differently that makes them win?
  • What’s going on in the industry that people are talking about? That might be something specific to the industry (like if the industry is SAT prep, maybe it’s that colleges are increasingly going test-optional), or it might be something that affects lots of industries (like the economy, or the rise of AI).

You might think this is excessive, but anything that helps you stand out can help you land the job. And don’t forget –– an internship isn’t just a way to gain experience. It can also be a gateway to a full-time position. So if you want to be a full-timer in the industry, it helps to act like one. Again, mindset is key. 

Understand the role

Review the internship description and understand the responsibilities and requirements of the role. 

  • Identify the key skills, knowledge, and experience that the company is looking for. Take note of the language they use when referring to these skills, so you can use the same terminology in your interview.
  • Reflect on your own background and how your experience or skills align with the job description. Think about all your relevant experiences — that could be in a previous internship, a work-study job, or an extracurricular activity.

This way, when the interviewer asks you why you’d be a good fit for the role, you’ll be ready to answer with specific examples from your past.  

Review your resume and cover letter 

During your internship interview, expect to be asked questions based on the content of your resume and cover letter. For example, “I see that you’ve done a lot of volunteering throughout high school. Which role do you think has best prepared you for this internship?” 

Review your resume and refamiliarize yourself with the details. Be prepared to elaborate on your relevant experiences, projects, and achievements. Go the extra mile to think about how your past experience ties into the internship position and company culture. Make note of any transferable skills you’ve learned through previous work experience and be prepared with specific examples of why you’re a strong candidate for the role.  

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Practice answering common internship interview questions 

If there’s one thing you can count on in most internship interviews, it’s the chance to answer softball questions like:

  • “Tell me about yourself”
  • “Why are you interested in this internship?” or
  • “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”

If one of these common questions comes up first, use it as an opportunity to set the tone and steer the conversation in the direction you want it to go. For example, if you want to highlight your passion for math, talk about your experience in the math club, the relevant courses you’re taking, your goals, heroes you admire, etc., and see if it sparks a conversation with the interviewer. 

If these types of questions are toward the end of the interview, it’s your chance to leave the conversation on a high note or recover from questions that didn’t go the way you wanted. Practice answering these internship interview questions. Be personable and use specific examples to illustrate your points.  

Practice answering behavioral interview questions 

If you’re a college student without much interview experience, you might not be familiar with the term “behavioral interview questions.” Though they might sound intimidating, these are simply questions about how you’ve acted in specific situations. And while you might not have a lot of work experience to pull from, you can pull examples from other areas of your life. 

Examples of common behavioral interview questions are: 

  • Tell me about a time when you made a big mistake. What happened, how did you resolve it, and what did you learn from it? 
  • Tell me about a time when you took initiative / made a big impact on your team or organization. What did you do? 
  • Give an example of when you had a conflict or disagreement with a team member. How did you handle it? 

To tackle these interview questions with confidence, use the STAR method, which stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Take, for example, the interview question, “Tell me about a time when you failed and how you recovered from it.” 

  • Situation: Identify a time when you experienced some type of failure.
  • Task: Identify what task you needed to accomplish and how you subsequently failed to complete the task at the level required.
  • Action: Next, talk about the steps you took to rebound or re-approach the task. 
  • Result: Finally, present the outcome. Were you able to overcome your failure to succeed? Or did your failure teach you something meaningful? 

Whatever behavioral interview question you encounter, the STAR method gives you guidelines to answer questions with specificity. Find a list of common behavioral interview questions and use them to brainstorm your STAR method answers. Remember to time yourself as you answer them, to make sure that you’re giving enough context, but also keeping things succinct (aim for 3-5 minutes). 

Don’t be afraid to have a conversation 

During a formal question-and-answer session, don’t shy away from starting an organic conversation. A more free-flowing, conversational interview can relieve some pressure, which may allow you to loosen up, showcase your personality, and ultimately perform better. Engaging in an authentic conversation can also demonstrate soft skills the hiring manager might be hunting for, like curiosity and critical thinking. If your interviewer wants to go deeper on a topic, like a shared love of a sports team or novel, take the opportunity to engage and connect on a human level.  

Prepare questions to ask the interviewer 

It’s also a good idea to come up with a list of thoughtful questions to ask the interviewer. Asking questions both demonstrates your interest and allows you to gauge whether the internship is a good fit for you (it’s better to find out now than a month into a summer internship you find miserable). 

A few questions to consider asking questions about your role and fit, the company, and the interviewer?

Questions about your role and fit:

  • What specific projects or tasks would I be involved in?
  • Could you tell me more about the team that this role would be part of or working with?
  • What’s the company culture like?

Since you’ve already outlined what you’re looking for, your interviewer’s answers should give you insight into whether or not this internship is right for you. 

Questions about the company or industry

  • In your opinion, what’s the greatest challenge facing the company right now? 
  • What are the company’s main goals in the next 3-6 months?

These questions indicate interest and curiosity in the company itself. And if you have a more specific question about the company or industry that showcases your prior research, feel free to add that in too! 

Questions about the interviewer: 

  • What do you like most about working at the company? Or Why did you choose to work at this specific company? 
  • Do you have any career advice for someone entering this field?

These questions show the interviewer that you respect their perspective and experience — and might result in some concrete advice for your future internship or job. If you have specific questions based on your Linkedin research on them, you might also ask those too/instead.

Practice and polish your interview skills 

You may be no stranger to practicing interview answers in front of the mirror. That’s better than nothing, but getting external feedback is even more valuable. Practice your interview skills with friends, family, counselors, or mentors. If possible, conduct a mock interview in an office setting to recreate the interview atmosphere. If your interview is via Zoom, find a friend to practice a virtual interview with (this is also a good time to make sure your internet is strong and your video conferencing application is up to date). 

Rehearse until you feel comfortable answering questions and expressing yourself. Pay attention to things like your body language, tone of voice, and eye contact. Work on presenting yourself as a professional and engaged candidate. The more you practice, the more relaxed you’ll feel on the day of your interview.

Dress professionally

This should go without saying, but it’s important to wear appropriate clothing that aligns with the company culture and industry norms. Remember that it’s better to be slightly overdressed than underdressed, even if you know the company maintains a casual dress code. 

This doesn’t mean you need to wear a suit (unless the company’s dress code requires one) –– but you probably shouldn’t show up in flip-flops and jeans. What you wear plays a huge part in your first impression, and dressing professionally not only shows your respect for the opportunity, but your readiness to be a part of a professional environment as well.  

If you’re taking part in a virtual interview, think through your appearance and your background. Find a quiet area with good lighting and no clutter, and if you have a roommate, make sure they know when and where you’re interviewing ahead of time. This will minimize the chance of interruptions like loud background noise, or someone walking through the frame during your video call.

Organize necessary documents and materials 

Yes, your interviewer probably already has a copy of your resume and cover letter –– but that doesn’t mean they’re going to have it the day of the interview. 

Prepare a folder containing multiple copies of your resume, cover letter, and any other relevant documents. Not only will it allow you to remind the interviewer of who you are, but it may also be helpful for you to refer to during the interview. 

You may also want to carry a notepad and pen to take notes on any important information or questions that come up. When you have the necessary materials, it shows soft skills like attention to detail and readiness to engage in the interview. 

Be authentic and enthusiastic 

If you are honest and passionate, you’re already halfway to a successful interview. Remember, the people interviewing you have seen a lot of qualified candidates. If you’re genuinely excited by the opportunity, they’ll be able to tell. Interviews can be nerve-wracking, but do your best to calm your anxiety and let your passion shine through.

At the same time, don’t set unrealistic expectations. If you’re not a naturally bubbly person, don’t feel pressure to show up that way in an interview. In most lines of work, all types of personalities are represented. Being authentic yourself is the best way for both you and the hiring manager to gauge whether or not this position will be a fit for you. 

Follow up with a “thank you” 

One internship interview tip that will set you apart is this: Send a “thank you” email. Regardless of how your interview goes or whether you want the position, thanking the hiring manager for their time will go a long way. If it feels authentic, use the note to re-establish your passion and highlight any specific skills that distinguish your application. If you connected with your interviewer on a personal level, weave that in. Even if it’s short, sending a “thank you” email will earn you points in your interviewer’s eyes. 

Get matched to scholarships with Going Merry

No matter which career path you choose, the internship application and interview process will prepare you for your future job search. It could even lead to a full-time position someday, so make sure you take it seriously. 

As you search for internships, keep in mind that some college scholarships include internship opportunities, too. If you’re in need of extra money to lower your tuition bills, college scholarships can do that and give you a leg up on finding a great internship. 
Going Merry curates high-quality college scholarships for all types of students. Whether you’re a high school student preparing for college or a rising college senior gearing up to join the workforce, Going Merry has a scholarship that’s right for you. Just sign up, create a profile, and we’ll send you scholarships you’re already eligible for. Start here on Going Merry.

Need help with scholarships & paying for college?

Get 1:1 advice from a specialist on finding free funding sources to pay for college with Going Merry’s FREE Concierge Program. Our specialists will work with you one-on-one to help your family unlock more money for your (or your child’s) education. A scholarship specialist will pick out a customized short list of scholarships based on grades, interests, and other characteristics – all through Going Merry’s FREE Concierge program. We’ll help you find small local scholarships with less competition and better chances of winning. Click “learn more” and then fill out the form to check your eligibility

Disclaimer: This blog post provides personal finance educational information, and it is not intended to provide legal, financial, or tax advice.

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