13 Questions to Ask in an Internship Interview
- Discover the importance of asking thoughtful, strategic questions at the end of an interview, including how this impacts an employer’s perception of your engagement, critical-thinking skills, and suitability for the team culture.
- Be equipped with a diverse range of 13 valuable questions to pose during an internship or job interview, helping to assess company culture, expectations, progression paths, challenges, and more.
- Learn how to craft additional, unique questions by effectively researching the company, assessing the interviewers’ LinkedIn profiles, deeply understanding the role, and preparing a sufficient list of questions to accommodate any interview situation.
When you walk into your job or internship interview, you’re ready to put it all on the table. That’s why you’re here: to answer questions about yourself. But as the clock ticks down, the interviewer turns to you and asks, “Now, what questions do you have for me?”
This question can trip up even the coolest candidate. They’re interviewing you—why would you be asking the questions? But don’t brush this off as a casual query or an opportunity to wrap up the interview early. This may be the single most important question you answer.
In this guide, we’ll give you 13 best-in-class, can’t-miss questions to ask. Then, we’ll take a look at why the end of an interview is critical and what areas you should focus on when, and how to practice your interview. You’ll knock your interviewer’s socks off!
Before we dive into the details, let’s answer your most-pressing question: why do interviewers want you to ask questions? First, they’re gauging your level of interest and engagement. A response of, “Nope, you answered them all!” shows a lack of passion and curiosity. Thoughtful questions show that you’ve done your research and are excited to forge ahead.
Next, they’re testing your critical-thinking skills. A prime candidate thinks beyond the information presented and tries to understand the implications of the role. Finally, they’re just getting to know you. Some teams benefit from having bullish trailblazers, while others want methodical thinkers. The types of questions you ask can reveal a lot to an interviewer. They may already have a preferred personality type in mind, so this is your chance to fit that mold—or to prove that they need to break it.
While we’ve heard it said that an interview is a two-way street, here’s the truth: The interview is mostly about you. The company likely received hundreds of applications. Now, they’ve trimmed it down to the best 3–6 options, and you’re one of them. They want to hire the best of the best, so most of the time, you’ll be the one answering the questions.
All this being said: This is your future. If the company likes you and wants to bring you on board as a full-time employee, you’ll want to make sure you like them in return. This is your final chance to convince them that you’re a good fit—and to find out if this job is the right fit for you.
To kick things off, here are 13 great baseline internship interview questions to ask. These are sure to provide you with vital information while making a memorable impression.
1) Can you describe the company/department culture?
The environment you’ll be working in can be just as important as the job itself. Do they have a strict dress code? Do they prioritize work-life balance? If employee satisfaction is a priority, odds are greater that you’ll want to stick around.
2) What’s the biggest opportunity/challenge for the company right now?
This question shows that you’re interested in the bigger picture—and you can tie their answer to your role. If you have skills or ideas that can help address their challenges, be sure to mention them.
3) What would you like to see me accomplish in the first 30 days? By the end of the summer?
It’s important to understand the key priorities and deliverables for the role—and how your future supervisor will measure your success. If you’re doing a long-term internship, ask about what they’d like to see six months down the line.
4) Can you tell me what a typical day looks like?
You might be working at a pioneering tech company or a wildly impactful nonprofit—but if you’re doing coffee runs all day long or staring at the same spreadsheet, that won’t matter a heck of a lot. Perhaps the role is ever-changing, or maybe you have a lot of meetings and PowerPoint in your future. Either way, it’s best to find out now.
5) What qualities are most important in order to excel in this role?
By now you know what it takes to get the job; this question lets you find out what it takes to be stellar. An additional bonus: The interviewer’s response can tip you off regarding how to grow your own skill set going forward.
6) What will the onboarding and training process look like?
You want to understand how quickly you’re expected to go from being a new hire to fully operational. Be sure to ask who will serve as your mentor(s) to help familiarize yourself with the office and the internship itself.
7) How will this role best serve [your specific function]?
This is a good question to ask an interviewer who works with, but not on, your future team. It shows that you care about prioritizing the objectives of the entire company over just your own.
8) What’s your favorite part about working here?
Striking a personal connection with the interviewer is always a good idea—and hearing about their favorite parts of the job will end the interview on an upbeat note.
9) Can you describe your/the supervisor’s leadership style?
You’re trying to understand your manager’s working style—and how that will directly or indirectly impact your own. Know what works for you, and determine whether this manager fits the bill.
10) What do you think are the most challenging parts of this role?
It’s important to take the good with the not-so-good in any role. This question shows that you’re not afraid to tackle a challenge—and it gives you a heads up regarding future issues.
11) For successful interns, what does the progression path from intern to full-time employee look like?
This shows that you’re in this for the long term—and it will help you determine if you have a future with this company. Many internships lead to full-time jobs, and if that’s your goal, it’s great to show your interest early on. A word of warning: This is not the same as asking when you will be hired. Employers want to know that you’re interested in working hard to earn a full-time role. Jumping straight to being hired puts the cart way before the horse.
12) Are there any concerns you have about me, my resume, or my experience?
This question is indispensable for wrapping up an interview. You’re basically asking for blunt feedback—so be prepared to get it. This is a great opportunity to address any concerns head-on while appearing confident, cool, and collected.
13) Is there anything I haven’t addressed?
You’re making sure nothing is left unsaid, and that the interviewer has everything they need to make a decision. This is the perfect question to finish with if you still have time.
These 13 questions are a great jumping-off point, but an interview can go in many (often unexpected) directions. If you prepare just five questions, three of them could be answered during the interview, and the other two could end up being irrelevant. It’s important to be able to form your own questions, based on your research and the interview itself.
Below, we’ll explore the different types of questions to ask to make a great final impression and get the information you need.
1) Ask about the company.
Executives think big, and so should you. Think about the company before you think about your role. Learn about what’s important to them, where they’ve been, and where they’re going.
Where does <company> see itself five years from now?
Your goal is to figure out if this is a place where you’ll be happy in the long run—and to determine how you can contribute to that bigger picture. Then, it’s time to get into the specifics of what you’ll be doing.
2) Ask about the role.
Take the opportunity to learn more about what you’ll be doing as an intern—beyond the job description and what the hiring manager has told you. Gather details to paint as clear a picture as possible of the responsibilities and expectations.
What are the day-to-day responsibilities of this role?
Once you’re comfortable with the details of the role, you’ll want to know more about the people with whom you’ll be working. Specifically:
3) Ask about the manager.
A great manager can open doors and create opportunities for you. A bad manager can close windows and sow dissatisfaction. At a minimum, you want to make sure you’ll like this person.
Can you describe my supervisor’s/your leadership style?
You’re checking to see if you’re compatible with this person’s style and preferences. You’ll also want to make sure other people like this person. You should also:
4) Ask about the team.
Maybe it will just be you and your supervisor, or maybe it will be a 20-person department. You could be sitting next to your teammates, or you could be across the country from one another.
Who would I be interacting with regularly?
As a bonus, this can help you understand how your role partners with other departments, in case you want to explore other opportunities within the company in the future. Just don’t come across as too eager to explore other roles; it can make you seem uninterested in the current role. With the basics out of the way, it’s time to:
5) Ask questions to figure out if this is the internship you want.
Seriously. You’ll be spending a large amount of time and energy doing this job, so you need to make sure this is the right place for you. Ask questions that will help you know exactly what you’re getting into. After all, you might not want to be the intern who just does coffee runs.
What does success look like in this role?
Money is important. Experience is important. And your satisfaction is important. Disregarding your own happiness is a critical mistake, and one that can be avoided by asking the right questions from the start.
6) Ask about challenges.
Every business faces challenges, and you’ll perform better if you know them in advance. Interviewers won’t shy away from asking hard questions, and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask them.
What challenges do your product/sales/operations teams face?
Pay close attention to what challenges you will be expected to solve. You want them to be exciting, but not insurmountable. Finally:
7) Ask questions that focus on the future.
If your intent is to turn an internship into full-time employment, or turn a first job into a career path, then make sure there is an actual path forward.
What is the typical career path for this role?
Even a temp job can be a great experience—but you want to know what you’re getting into. And, as we mentioned before: This is not the same as asking when you’ll be hired as a full-time employee or when you’ll be promoted. Don’t ask this.
Other to-avoid questions include asking about salary, benefits, and vacation. Save all of these until you have an actual offer.
So, how does one go about crafting specific questions? While the details of a role may vary, the process of identifying the right questions is the same. Here’s a simple four-step process to prepare questions to ask your interviewer:
1) Research the company.
Start by learning as much as you can from publicly available information. The company website typically includes their mission, objectives, and key information about their products and services. Social media, such as LinkedIn and Twitter, can help paint a more complete picture.
Just be aware that there could be stark differences between how a company views itself vs. how others view it. You might want to look into any public financial information—are they on the rise, or is it a sinking ship? Be sure to take notes in a format that can be easily referenced during the interview.
2) Review LinkedIn profiles.
It’s perfectly fine to ask for a list of interviewers prior to an interview. Try to get their names, titles, and departments, and then spend look them up on LinkedIn. You can learn where they went to school, what other jobs they’ve held, and when they joined the company. Then, you can tailor your questions to each interviewer. Did they graduate from your college? Ask about their time there. Did they recently change roles within the company? Ask about the transition process and why they made the move. Knowing more about each interviewer helps build rapport, and it shows that you took the time to do your research.
3) Think about the nature and implications of the role.
Turns out, there’s a lot of great information available in the original internship or job description. Does the role state that you’ll be working in a group or flying solo? Does it sound like this will be a more creative role or a more analytical one? The more time you spend breaking down the job description piece by piece, the more you’ll find that there’s a lot of half-baked information just waiting to be expanded upon. And trust us: The interviewer will love to see that you’re really digging in.
4) Write at least 10 questions per interviewer.
Listen: There’s no way you’ll get through all your questions. That’s not the point. The point is to be prepared no matter how the interview unfolds. In fact, chances are that many of your prepared questions will be answered before you even get to ask them.
That’s why you need at least 10 questions. This gives you a safe buffer to ensure that you aren’t asking something that has already been addressed (big no-no!) and that you aren’t left tongue-tied when it’s your turn to speak. Spend time memorizing your questions and practicing them in advance. You can even write them down and take them to the interview—just in case.
Whether this is your first interview or your 50th, following these tips will show an interviewer that you’re as professional and prepared as they come. Above all else, remember to expect the unexpected and formulate your own questions in advance. That way, you’ll stand out no matter what.