Unposed group of creative business people in an open concept office brainstorming their next project.Whatever your line of work, asking the best interview questions can help narrow the search for the right intern. You want to know how the candidate reacts in certain situations, what drew them to your company, and why they applied in the first place. There are many ways to ensure the best match between the intern and the tasks a job entails, but in each case, an interview is key.

How do you go about asking questions in an interview? Do you wing it? The right questions can get past the preparation of someone who might simply be great at interviewing. Here are twenty questions that will get to the heart of what you need to know in almost any internship interview situation.


16 Questions for Face to Face, Phone, or Skype Internship Interviews

Interviews don’t just happen around desks or conference tables anymore. Often, they happen over the phone or via an online platform such as Skype. Wether your internship position is on-site or remote, the need to search the capabilities, personality, and other important qualities of a intern is as prevalent as ever. The first sixteen interview questions will assist in any spoken interview, whether face to face, phone, or online.

What attracts you to this company?

You want to know that they didn’t just stop there because of a now hiring sign on the front door. This question helps find out whether they have researched your company and it could tell you what they are willing to do to get a leg up on the competition. A internship candidate who knows your company and knows why they want to work there is a better candidate every time.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

This isn’t a simple list of good and bad qualities. You’re asking for their investigation into their own skillset, something that is increasingly important if you’re interviewing a student or a recent graduate. NACE suggests "that only 11 percent of business leaders and 14 percent of the general public felt strongly that students graduated from college with the skills that are needed for success in the workplace." Getting into what the candidates strengths and weaknesses are can inform you on how engaged they were or are as a student which directly translates to how engaged they’d be as a worker.

What makes you a great candidate?

Go ahead and let them brag. While you want someone who is honest about their shortcomings, you need someone with a certain level of confidence in themselves. This question not only shows what they know they can do well but what they think they might do well for your company.

What are your hobbies outside of work?

Hobbies tell a great deal about a person and it isn’t prying to ask. At a point in the interview when you’ve asked a few tough questions, this could lighten the mood by getting them thinking and talking about something they enjoy. It also provides much needed information about the person and their personality.

What can you tell us about the job?

If you know why they like the company and why they want the job, you still could dig deeper to find out what they know about your internship program. Are they just hoping to luck out and get an open job? Are they passionate about the vocation you’re talking with them about? This question will help find out.

What can you tell us about this company?

Go beyond why they were attracted to the company, to the heart of how much preparation they’ve done for the interview. How much they know about your company could matter a great deal, depending on the position. If you want someone walking into the job already knowing how the company’s business model works, you’ll need to ask a question like this.

How can this job further your career development?

Every intern candidate is likely to want their career path to move upwards and to the right. Success is important to a good employee. Do you want someone just happy to have a job or someone who knows this position can teach them valuable career skills? 

What goals do you hope to achieve?

Go deeper than their interaction with your company. Find out what goals they want to achieve at your company and also dig into their personal goals. Do they want to write a book, tour the world, or become a CEO one day? These types of questions can be simple enough on the surface but the deeper you dig the more you find out about your candidate.

Have you ever taken part in a team project? How did it work out?

In most companies, teamwork comes into play at one point or another. Seek a decent and honest answer to this question to help mold your expectations of the candidate. Are they a loner? Perhaps there is a position where that type of person works okay. If the internship is strictly a team effort, day in and day out, you’ll need to know how well they play with others.

What is one of the most difficult decisions you’ve had to make?

Everyone has trials in life and that leads to difficult choices. We’ve all been there. Take the interview into a conversational tone and get into the surface details of something that shook the candidate. You need to know how they react to tough questions like this and what type of difficulty they choose to share in their answer. 

How do you react to negative feedback?

Constructive criticism is vital to the learning process, but it works best when the employee doesn’t misunderstand negative feedback and take it personally. Nobody likes doing a job the wrong way or doing something that should have been handled better. The intern you want is someone who can make that mistake, receive the negative feedback, and better themselves because of it.

How do you react to positive feedback?

It might sound odd, but a good intern needs to be able to handle positive feedback in the correct way as well. You need to know how they handle the idea of positive reinforcement. Do they get big headed and cause trouble for themselves and others or do they utilize the good feedback for building of their skills and the betterment of themselves? 

Is your schedule flexible or strict?

In today’s work environment, schedules aren’t always simple. Everyone doesn’t work eight to five with an hour lunch anymore. The individual you’re interviewing can give you vital information just by answering this question. Whether they’re booked solid and only have three hours per day to work or completely open and free, you need to know.

Do you work best with a team or alone? Why?

The candidate’s opinion of themselves can be telling when answering a question like this. Adding the request for an explanation helps to avoid the simple answer of them saying they do both well. Maybe they do both well or both poorly, but you’re wanting to know which they think they do better and why. Depending on the exact intern position in question, getting a good answer here can be very telling.

Name one of your proudest professional moments.

According to NACE “Nearly 91 percent of employers … prefer that their candidates have work experience, and 65 percent … indicate that they prefer their candidates to have relevant work experience.” Asking about their proudest professional moments gives you information on what they view as a successful work history and what related experience they have.

What professional skills do you need to improve upon?

You want someone who seeks to improve themselves in all areas. A candidate who strives to be better, even as they are just launching their career, displays important personality qualities. Self-reflective questions are important to any interview and those, like this one, which force the candidate to be honest about an area where they know they need improvement, give incredible feedback to the interviewer.

4 Questions for Micro-Internships and Written Interviews

The professional world is changing rapidly, and internships are changing along with it. In an increasingly digital workplace, Micro-Internships are on the rise and can be a great option for getting work done and testing a candidate’s skills without a long-term commitment. Even still, you need to know specific details before handing a project out to someone. Because there is no face to face interview at the start of this process, things are a bit different. The following four questions are helpful in narrowing the search for the right remote internship candidates.

Tell us about yourself

A paragraph or so about the person is vital information in this kind of setting. Some of these internships are completely digital but you still need to know personality details about the candidate. This prompts the applying person to prioritize what exact information they give out and shows what they believe is important enough to tell in a work situation.

Share work samples or examples

Many times, a Micro-Internship will include the need for a certain project to be completed. In that situation you need to understand what the person is capable of and what they’ve done before. A copywriter with zero work samples will carry less weight than someone who shares a few nice projects which relate to the assignment they’re applying for.

Why are you a good fit for this position?

Much like in a face to face or phone interview, this question is important for understanding the level of confidence a candidate has in themselves. What reasons they give and how confident they present themselves is telling for the type of work you are likely to get from them during a Micro-Internship.

Are you comfortable with this type of work?

Find out what they know about your company, what you do, and the project or position for which they’re applying. More than that, find out if they’re confident in themselves to achieve the desired outcome of the given project. If someone isn’t comfortable doing the work, this question will either turn them back to their search or give you much needed insight in your search for the right person.

Ready to extend an offer?

The importance of a successful interview is vital to the success of the intern hiring process. For a company to achieve their goals and reach the levels they strive to reach, the right people must be hired for the right jobs. Working to improve the questions asked in the interview for the internship or Micro-Internship remains one of the best avenues for improving your company’s overall rate of success over the years.

More-Info_iconLearn more about managing interns and get tips on running an effective internship program with Internships 101 for Employers