Step 5: Interview potential interns and make your selection
You may be wondering how to interview an intern when they often don’t have any professional experience to speak of. You’ll need to ask specific questions to determine whether a student has the knowledge, skills (mostly soft in this case) and temperament to thrive in your company. In order to do that, your hiring team should be prepared to conduct more than one interview with each potential intern.
If you’re thinking, “Hold on, it’s just a temporary internship,” here’s why your hiring team should be prepared to conduct two interviews:
- Imagine you’re a student with no relevant work experience. Do you think you’d nail your first job interview? A second interview gives candidates a chance to learn from the first one, get comfortable talking to you and share more of their personality.
- You can only ask so many questions in one interview without overwhelming a candidate – and especially a student who may not have much interview experience. In the second interview, you can cover more ground and learn the rest of the important stuff.
- A second interview with you and/or another team member gives you a more complete picture of the candidate. Oftentimes, one interviewer will ask or discover something others may have missed. Afterwards, you get to compare the experiences and confirm or contest your initial reactions.
- Interviews that include different co-workers let the potential intern meet more of your team. This helps you balance out personal biases and get different perspectives on the candidate. Plus it’s a nice way for a candidate to get to know the various people they might be working with and vice versa.
Before the interview, send a brief email to intern candidates with all the information they need – i.e. when and where the interview will take place, how long it will last and what they can expect to talk about. This will help relieve some of those pre-interview jitters and allow them to prepare in advance.
At the actual interview, you can start by introducing yourself, reiterating what’s going to happen and then share a bit about the company and the role. Then you can move on to your questions.
We've got a list of 30 insightful interview questions for internship candidates to get you started.
Intern interview questions to ask
These intern interview questions are designed to help candidates open up, to share a bit about themselves and what they hope to gain from this internship. Remember to take it slow and don’t feel like you need to ask every question!
This may be their first professional interview, so smile and help them to feel as comfortable as possible. ☺️ Be sure to answer some of these questions yourself – like what your hobbies and interests are – before asking them. This will help the candidate know what sort of things you’d like them to share and provides a nice model for them.
- 1. Tell me about you.
- 2. What are your hobbies?
- 3. What are you most passionate about?
- 4. How would others describe you?
- 5. Why are you interested in this internship?
- 6. What attracted you to our company?
- 7. What excites you about this internship?
- 8. What are you looking to have learned by the time you’ve completed the internship?
- 9. How will this internship prepare you for your future career goals?
- 10. Is this internship part of an official college program? If so, are there any requirements as an employer that we would need to fulfill? (Forms, evaluations, feedback, etc.)
Internship interview questions covering education and skills
By talking to students about their education, coursework and extracurricular activities, you’ll be able to identify some of their soft skills such as: motivation, organization, leadership, positivity, adaptability, time management, critical thinking and collaboration. You may learn that they already possess some hard skills and work experience as well!
- 11. What were your reasons for selecting your college or university?
- 12. Why did you choose your major, and what do you hope to do with it?
- 13. Tell me about your coursework. How do you think it can be applied to this position?
- 14. What are your favorite and least favorite classes and why?
- 15. What previous work experience do you have?
- 16. Tell me about your extracurricular activities. How have they prepared you for this internship?
- 17. Do you have any volunteer or community service experience you can tell us about?
- 18. What other skills do you have that will help you in this internship and where did you get them?
- 19. Describe your work style.
- 20. What are your goals after graduation?
Internship interview questions to help you dig deeper
It’s the home stretch. Time to find out those final, important details that will help you make your hiring decision. These questions are definitely fitting for a second interview, but you may choose to ask a few in the first one if you feel the intern candidate is ready.
Make this an open dialogue. Respond and share some of your own insights so the person interviewed doesn’t feel like they’re being drilled with questions. And remember to guide and prompt candidates to ask questions of their own.
- 21. Tell me about a time you had to learn something new quickly. How did you approach that?
- 22. Do you prefer working within a team or alone and why?
- 23. When completing a task or project, how do you know you’ve done a good job?
- 24. What skills do you hope to gain from this experience?
- 25. What skills would you bring to our team?
- 26. What do you know about the industry and what do you want to know?
- 27. What’s the most valuable feedback you’ve received personally or professionally?
- 28. How do you plan to make an impact as an intern?
- 29. What would we need to do to ensure that this internship is a positive and fruitful experience for you?
- 30. Do you have any questions for us?
Remember, even if the intern is only with you for a short period of time, they’ll still be a member of your team, so approach this process as if you’re hiring for a full-time position. Take notes during the interview, jot down your interview insights afterwards in a shared space where your hiring team can view them and add their own, and schedule a meeting to discuss as a team later.
With a hiring tool like Homerun, you don’t have to ping-pong between email, spreadsheets and other apps. All candidate info is stored in a centralized dashboard where everyone on the team can find what they need and easily weigh in.
Ready to select your intern? Here are 7 things you can look out for in interviews to help you evaluate their soft skills, availability and potential:
- Enthusiasm. Candidates who are passionate and engaged are more likely to learn, develop new skills and motivate others in the workplace.
- Good communication skills. If an applicant is able to give detailed descriptions about their education or previous work experience, they should be able to communicate clearly with you and your team at work.
- Interest in your company. You’ll be able to tell if candidates have a genuine interest in your organization and/or what you do there by the way they listen, ask questions and share how they feel about the internship opportunity.
- Availability. You’ll want to learn what potential interns’ current responsibilities are to make sure they’re not overscheduled.
- Willingness to learn and work within a team. If you’re talking to students, there’s already a very good chance they’re willing to learn! 🤓 Listen carefully when they talk about their roles within teams, i.e. how they interact with others during projects, volunteer work, sports or clubs.
- Innovative ideas. Interns may think differently than you, and that’s a good thing! Get a sense of how they approach problems and projects and think about how their ideas that might positively impact your company.
- Character. Wouldn’t it be great to hire an intern who is a culture add and a value fit? After the interview, ask yourself and the hiring team: Do the candidate’s values align with ours? What new/welcome perspectives and elements would they bring to our team?