9 Common Interview Questions (and How to Answer Them)

Preparing to enter the workforce and gaining internship experience can be daunting, especially when preparing for an internship interview for the first time. Many common interview questions tend to be open-ended, making them challenging to answer without practice and preparation beforehand. Whether you have a clear-cut answer for these common interview questions or not, it’s important to be prepared to answer them, and as time passes, your answers to each question will grow and build upon the experiences you gain in academic and work settings. Remember when answering these common interview questions, it is more important to have a concise, quality answer rather than a long answer that has less substance and valuable information for a recruiter.

Question #1: Tell me about yourself.

“Tell me about yourself” is a simple question that may appear easy to answer at first, until you begin to ramble about your entire life story to the interviewer, and you’ve only gotten to which high school you went to by the time the interviewer begins to doze off. When answering this question, it is imperative to pick the most salient aspects of who you are. While the “elevator pitch” solely includes who you are, what you do/what you’re interested in, and what you want, “tell me about yourself” includes the content of the elevator pitch as well as what you’re involved in on your college campus or something interesting pertaining to your career goal. Expanding upon why you’re passionate about your interests can also be a valuable addition to the answer to this interview question. Although this question can be intimidating, consistent practice and editing your answer will make this question feel like second nature.

Question #2: What are your strengths?

When being asked this internship interview question, it is completely acceptable to compliment yourself and emphasize your strengths. Don’t be afraid to show off your desirable qualities! However, it is better to choose one or two and expand on those than to list off many strengths without giving any evidence or background information. When responding to this question, it is especially beneficial to speak about your strengths with confidence and presence, even though it can feel uncomfortable to talk about yourself in this manner.

Example: My key strengths are my organizational/time management skills as well as being a mediator. I am involved in several organizations on campus while maintaining a high GPA. I am capable of keeping high involvement on campus and managing my priorities in a timely manner Being involved in leadership positions in these organizations has highlighted my ability to be a mediator by understanding different people’s viewpoints and situations, and I always want to let people speak on a team.

Question #3: What are your development areas?

“Development areas” are HR speak for “weaknesses,” and this question can be very telling to recruiters. There is no incorrect answer for this question unless you respond with “I have no development areas” because every person has different aspects of themselves that they can work to improve. When answering this internship interview question, give your one most prominent “development area,” but immediately follow it up with how you are working to improve that weakness. It is also completely acceptable to keep your answer to this question relatively short, as long as you include the development area and how you’re working on it.

Example: My development area is my perfectionism. Although I want my work to be done to the best of my abilities, this can often set me back when I become too keen on everything being “perfect.” However, I have learned that it is more important for something to be done than for it to be perfect.

Question #4: Discuss your resume.

When preparing to explain your resume in an internship interview, make sure to have a detailed understanding of the three most enticing parts of your resume in the case that the interviewer lets you take the lead in the answer. If the interviewer asks about specific parts of your resume, be prepared to expand on these parts that can apply to the job you’re interviewing for. It is always safe to assume that the recruiter has either looked at your resume for 6 seconds or none. Do not answer this question giving a word-for-word read of the bullet points under each of your experiences because this is an opportunity to bring your resume to life! To end this question off, although this seems like an obvious tip, make sure to look over the resume you submitted to prevent being confused by anything on your resume since resumes go through many iterations.

Question #5: Why are you interested in working for ___?

Researching the company before an interview will greatly help in answering any questions pertaining to that company. However, besides being able to answer these types of questions, knowing a company’s work culture and what you’re looking for in a workplace is an extremely valuable element to consider when searching for a job. To learn more about a company, you can visit their website and read the different sections, visit their LinkedIn page to learn about the people who work at the company and their past experiences, and visit their Glassdoor page to learn about employees’ first-hand experiences at the company. To answer this interview question, you should be able to comment on both what the company does as well as the type of work environment you are searching for, and why this company in particular is appealing to you. Make sure your answer to this question is tailored to the company you’re interviewing for! Think about your college applications and the question pertaining specifically to why you wanted to attend that specific college.

Question #6: What can you offer us that someone else cannot?

When answering this question in an interview, further highlight your strengths and make them applicable to the company goals. Formulate an answer that emphasizes what makes you unique according to your personality, interests, and abilities that again, relate to the company in some manner. Giving examples of past job experiences and how those experiences make you a strong candidate for the job is one way to separate yourself from others. As with every question, it is crucial to answer this question with enthusiasm and presence. Interviewers want to see your personality shine in a way that gives an insight to how you would be working at the company. With this question, you can create a baseline answer not tailored to any company, practice it over and over again, and when you have an interview for a certain company, you’ll already have a foundation to your answer that can be tweaked to accentuate your different strengths.

Question #7: Describe a long-term project you managed.

To answer this common behavioral interview question, follow the format of: explain the situation, elaborate on the task at hand, talk about the actions you took to accomplish the task, and then explain the result of the situation. Practice using this format for behavioral interview questions because it inherently makes your answers easier to follow and digest. If you give the result of the situation before explaining any actions you took, there won’t be any lead up to revealing what the result was! In an internship interview, a long-term project may be a final group project in a college class or a project in a previous internship. Emphasize your leadership qualities and explain how you applied these qualities in this project. Saving the result for the end of your answer will show recruiters how your work led to something tangible, which is another important way to formulate your answer. Giving a quantifiable, tangible result of the project makes your answer even more impressive to the interviewer.

Question #8: Tell me how you handled a difficult situation.

This behavioral interview question is a way for interviewers to learn a lot about a candidate in only one answer. Many companies nowadays are shifting their workplace environments to be more employee focused and want to build a positive company culture, so these behavioral interview questions mainly work towards. Again, use the method explained in the previous question, which can be more easily remembered as the “STAR” method, which stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Using this method to answer these types of questions will help keep your answers concise. With this question in particular, the interviewer is trying to get information about your communication skills and how you work with other people in tricky situations. Be sure to focus more on the positive aspects of how you handled the difficult situation rather than spending more time on why the situation was negative. Don’t downplay your skillset or talk negatively about another student or previous coworker.

Question #9: Tell me about an accomplishment you are most proud of.

This common internship interview question is open ended and requires previous brainstorming and practice. Similar to your resume, try to choose something that is relatively recent and relates to the job you’re interviewing for because this gives the interviewer an insight into how your work ethic would be at their company. Even if the interviewer doesn’t ask for a professional accomplishment, it is more valuable to give a professional accomplishment as it again, relates more to the job you’re applying for. It is also important to give a tangible and quantifiable result to the accomplishment, as mentioned earlier for question 7. This is another question where it is especially crucial to have presence in your answer. Because this is meant to be something you are proud of, make sure this is evident in the tone of your answer! Be prepared for possible follow-up questions, so prepare to expand on the details of your accomplishment.

Conclusion:

Practicing and improving your answers to these questions will give you a great advantage when going into an internship interview. Having confidence in your answers and minimizing the amount of time it takes for you to respond to each question allows you to focus more on the delivery of your answers. We know that searching for an internship is intimidating and can be mentally taxing, but spending time practicing your answers to common questions will boost your confidence when you’re in the interview. Show your best self and crush those interviews!

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