10 Best Questions to Ask Interns in an Interview

Knowing the best questions to ask interns can help you find the right fit, as this picture of a manager shaking the hand of a new interns illustrates.

A good interview can be a lot like a good conversation, especially when you’re hiring an intern. But, while the conversation may be more relaxed with a prospective intern, knowing the right questions to ask interns can help you find the right fit.

Most college students don’t have on-the-job experiences to discuss. But when interviewing interns, you can always chat about the three things that are common to all students:

  1. Where they are now
  2. Where they hope to be
  3. How the internship can help get them there

More importantly, your internship interview questions should help you determine whether the intern has the skills, knowledge, and temperament required to succeed in your business. Every organization is different, so there’s no one size that fits all when determining which questions to ask interns during the interview, but the following 10 sample questions will help you get started.

1. Why Did You Choose to Go to Your College?

People learn well in different environments, and where they choose to attend college may help inform how well they may perform at your place of business. For instance, someone who’s at a smaller school may prefer a relationship-based learning environment, while someone at a large university may be a better fit with larger corporation. Knowing the right learning environment for an internship candidate can help you determine if the internship is a good fit.

2. What Do You Want to Do With Your Degree?

One of the most important questions to ask interns concerns their future career plans, which will help you determine whether the applicant is the right cultural fit. Scrappy startups and other small businesses may prefer entrepreneurial-minded interns; but if the intern’s goal is to succeed in the corporate world and you’re a smaller business, they would likely be better off at a larger company.

3. Is This Part of an Official College Program?

You need to know whether the candidate will be accountable. If a student isn’t working for college credit, they’re a volunteer, not an intern. They may not be as responsible as an intern who knows their going to be evaluated at the end of the semester.

4. What Would Make This Internship Successful for You? What are You Looking to Have Learned by the Time You’ve Completed the Internship?

These questions will help you manage expectations. If a student tells you their ideal outcome is a permanent job, but you don’t offer an internship leading to a hire, they need to know the situation. But don’t fret if the student’s answer is all about what they want. Expect to hear answers that are a bit more self-serving than with a prospective employee, since the internship is an important early milestone in their budding career.

5. What Skills do You Have That Will Help You in This Internship and Where Did You Get Them?

If people can make the connection between learning and doing, they are likely capable of seeing how a small project fits within the business. It’s an indication you’ve found the right intern to hire.

6. Have You Ever Been Part of a Team Where Someone Didn’t Pull Their Weight? How Did You Deal With That?

These are behavioral questions that can tell you how a person works with peers. The best answer is the one that shows the intern can manage the situation and isn’t a tattletale: “I talked to the person, and when they still didn’t do the work, I picked up the slack and didn’t partner with them again.”

7. Tell Me About a Time or Situation When You’ve Had to Teach a Concept to a Peer or Another Person.

If you’re hiring an intern to work with customers, the best answers include patience, reading a peer’s level of understanding without judgment, and addressing the learner’s needs at that moment.

8. Are You Happier With Structure or With a More Fluid Environment? Do You Enjoy Doing a Lot of Different Things or One Thing Really Well?

These are some of the most important questions to ask interns if you have a small business, since your intern needs to be happy working where employees are flexible multi-taskers. When recruiting interns, look for entrepreneurship majors. They’ll likely be happier to join you because they want to see how a small business is run.

9. How Well do You Handle Disorganization and Does it Bother You?

It’s important for interns—and employees—to bounce from one project to the next without getting frustrated. The entrepreneurial mind needs to have a certain level of flexibility to see opportunities and jump on them. Particularly in smaller organizations, you have to be able to set things aside and work on the immediate need.

10. How Would You Rate Your Job Skills on a Scale of 1 to 10?

By rating themselves, interns will tell you whether they have confidence in the skills you need. If someone rates themselves a 9 or 10, though, you may want to follow up with a couple of questions to double-check them on that. When you offer the internship, you can ask them to think about what and how they can contribute.

Ask the Right Internship Interview Questions and Find the Right Fit

Interns are a great resource for referrals—and branding—but knowing which questions to ask interns will help you find the right one. Interns make great campus ambassadors for your business once the position ends, and they may just become employees once they graduate. Find the right fit today by taking advantage of a free job posting.