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How to Prepare for an Internship Interview

Updated on September 20, 2012
ChrisMcDade8 profile image

Christine McDade is a Human Resources professional (PHR & SHRM-CP) with over 18 years in the public sector.

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Internships are valuable experiences to both the intern and the hiring organization. For the intern, there is an obvious reward of fulfilling the educational requirements of their college or university, the fabulous practical experience they will gain, and the added bonus of having this experience added to their resume. This experience might just be the thing that pushes the individual past the competition when he/she interviews for that regular position after college. For the employer, the reward will be the fresh outlook from someone out of an educational institution who could just have some great ideas to add to the team.

Because there is much to gain by both the intern and the employer, it is very important for the applicant to be well prepared for the interview and to take the opportunity very seriously. The recruitment, selection and screening of the intern candidates will resemble the same process used for filling job vacancies. Furthermore, the employer will be taking a good look at who will be coming to their organization for the internship. Spending a little more time preparing for the experience will be very prudent for the prospective intern.

Why Do People Participate in Internships

There are many reasons to secure an internship through an organization. Students, graduates, and adults seeking a position in a new field recognize the value of practical experience on their resumes. The internships can be paid or unpaid, depending on what the organization can offer. University or other institutions of higher learning usually require a structured job description or internship program outline for those interns who must fulfill the internship as part of their curriculum to graduate from their course of study. Still, others may need to do an internship to meet the legal requirements of a professional license. Some may just value the practical experience in their chosen field of study that an internship would offer. Historically, apprenticeships and other forms of learning programs have been used to provide "on the job training". As one can easily conclude, there are a variety of reasons that people decide to pursue an internship. Examples of common interns are medical, teaching and government.

As an intern, it is important to know that your background will be screened in ways much like a job applicant selected for a job vacancy. Many interns will be working around ill patients, children, or other sensitive situations that require confidentiality and sensitivity to the care/service they will provide. Therefore, criminal, sexual predator, reference checks and drug screens are often performed as a way to screen out those individuals with bad backgrounds that could lead to potential problems with the employer.

Intern Interview

Much like a job interview, internship interviews are valuable tools for learning more about the person interested in joining an organization. A representative from the organization's HR Department or the manager, from the department where the intern will be working, will call the prospective intern to schedule an interview. Regardless of the field or area of study, the following is recommended for those seeking an internship:

  • Dress appropriately. Since interns will be essentially a representative of this organization to the public or outside vendors, it will be important to dress for the interview with the idea of presenting a good image for the intern and eventually the organization. The interviewer will want to know that the intern can be relied upon to set a good image for the company.
  • Arrive to the interview on time. Because the company is taking the situation of hiring an intern seriously, it is absolutely crucial that the internship applicant arrive to the interview on time. Arriving late to an interview could be perceived as a bad work behavior or habit that would be problematic for the organization.
  • Be prepared to talk about professional goals and ambitions. Since internships are geared toward a specialized field of knowledge, an intern can expect to be questioned about their future aspirations concerning their career. An interviewer will be interested in their education and specific interests in their chosen field of study. It is important for the applicant to have an idea of how to respond to such questions.
  • Be prepared to talk about past work history. Interviewers will likely ask about any other jobs the applicant has had in the past. Since customer service and service experience cover a lot of different specializations, interviewers will be interested in the past work history to determine what practical experience the applicant has had. For young professionals who have not had many jobs, there are past volunteer and extra curricular experiences which will provide some good information to an interviewer.
  • Become familiar with potential interview questions. Interviewers will ask many typical interview questions to gain insight as to what the potential intern's strengths and weaknesses happen to be. In order to alleviate some of the stress that the questions can inflict during an interview, it is helpful to review typical interview questions prior to the interview. Some examples of interview questions can be found on the Internet.

Organizations conduct internship interviews to meet the interns to assess their fit and potential contribution to the organization. Some interns are paid for their work during the internship while many internships are unpaid. Often, educational programs require internships to earn a professional license, certification or degree. For these individuals, it is mandatory to find an internship, paid or unpaid, with an appropriate organization. Because there is no obligation for the organization to take an intern with mediocre skills and a limited professional work history, it is important for an applicant seeking an internship to sell their attributes and potential contribution to the organization.

Some Final Tidbits About Internship Interviews

Interns are generally welcomed by the hiring manager of an organization because they realize that there is a contribution to be made to the organization by having an intern as part of their work team. Fresh ideas and a new outlook on a service or project will likely come from their participation. Since organizations want to select the right person for an internship, they will conduct interviews to meet with the prospective intern in order to learn more about their skills. Individuals interested in meeting the challenge of serving in an internship will be wise to prepare ahead of the interview to help them secure this awesome opportunity for professional growth.

Tell Me About Your Internship Experience.

Have you ever participated in an internship?

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If you have had an internship in the past, did you find the experience to be helpful?

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Would you recommend doing an internship to others?

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    • ChrisMcDade8 profile imageAUTHOR

      Christine McDade 

      6 years ago from Southwest Florida

      Some interns do work harder than the employees! You bring up a good point.

      Also, interns should remember that an internship is not necessarily a "foot in the door" at the hosting employer. Rather, it is a means for gaining practical experience that may get you a step closer to other organizations who will be interested in your experience. Thanks.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 

      6 years ago

      Good hints for folks looking for internships. I think many times people think it's an easy way into a company and it really is not. Some interns work harder than the employees!

    • ChrisMcDade8 profile imageAUTHOR

      Christine McDade 

      6 years ago from Southwest Florida

      Thank you for the comments. Internships are wonderful experiences for people who want to gain some practical experience in their chosen field of study. Also, I think employers benefit from new perspectives that interns bring to the workplace.

    • kiran21 profile image

      Kiran 

      6 years ago from India

      Useful hub indeed for to-be-interns. Both the intern-to-be and the organization can test their feet in the water in an internship. I think that factors which can impress an organization during an interview as well as post selection are the learning ability and ability to bring in new views. Long-time employees sometimes are so used to the system that they can miss out on some deficiencies that a new comer can question.

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