Commonly Asked Questions

Before your interview, it is helpful to consider what questions your interviewer may ask. Use the following example questions as a way to brainstorm ideas and prepare your answers. Click each question to review tips on how to best respond during an interview. For additional resources, please visit the Internship and Career Center.

  • Tell us about yourself.
  • - Develop a one minute overview that summarizes where you are in your educational career, and discusses your experiences, expertise, knowledge, and skills.

    - Emphasize a pattern of interests, skills, and accomplishments. Focus your response around a certain theme related to your major interests and skills.

    - This is a brief overview of your professional background, not your entire life story.

    - Do not mention hobbies, extracurricular activities, family, etc.

  • What are your strengths?
  • - Look at the internship posting and pick strengths that relate to what the employer is seeking.

    - Each strength you choose needs to have a strong example of what you did and why it was valuable to your previous employer.

    - A good way to frame your strengths without sounding like you are bragging is to frame them in terms of what other people have told you.
    For example: “At my last personal review, my manager told me that my written work is among the best in the company.”

    - Try to avoid the typical skills that most people will say they possess. These include things like “hard worker,” “determined,” “driven,” etc.
    Think in terms of knowledge-based skills – things you have gained from education and experience (i.e., computer skills, languages, training); transferable skills – portable skills you take from job to job (i.e., communication and people skills, analytic problem solving, etc.); and personal traits (i.e., dependable, flexible, etc.).

    - Think about your biggest accomplishments in the different positions you have worked in. What skills helped you to achieve them?

  • What are your weaknesses?
  • - Do not reveal a flaw that would hinder your ability to excel in the job.

    - Example: Saying that you “have trouble getting up in the morning and getting to work on time” would send a major red flag to the interviewer.

    - Pick a weakness that does not directly relate to the skills asked for in the job description.

    - Pick a weakness that is relatively minor and fixable.
    For example: “I get nervous speaking in front of large groups” is something that can be improved with practice. “I am very shy and often have trouble speaking up in meetings” suggests a personal trait that would be very hard to change.

    - Mention the weakness briefly, then address what you have done or are doing to improve.
    For example: “I would say that public speaking is an area that I could work on. I’ll be the first one to present at a team meeting, but I get nervous when speaking in front of large groups. However, I’ve been taking a public speaking course in order to improve, and on the most recent presentation, I received one of the top grades in the class and my professor said she noted a huge improvement in my performance.”

    - Try not to pick a standard answer that the interviewer has heard before, i.e. “I’m a perfectionist” or “I work too hard”.

  • Why do you want to work for our organization? 
  • - Your answer needs to indicate that you have really thought about where you want to work and have done your research into the organization.

    - Come up with 2-3 reasons for why you want to work for the organization.

    - Read the organization’s mission statement and/or "about" page and mention why you agree with them or why this information makes you passionate about an internship here.

    - Think of reasons this job is a good match for your skills, strengths, experience, and background. What can you bring to the organization?

  • Why should we hire you?
  • - Highlight the top 3 or 4 best reasons to hire you.

    - Make sure that you back them up with concrete examples instead of giving a laundry list of skills.

    - Think in terms of the skills you can offer and the value you can add.

    - Do a skill-matching exercise to compare the skills the organization needs with what you can offer.

    - Do not reiterate everything on your resume – keep it to 1-2 minutes and focus on your most compelling points.

    - Think of what makes you unique compared to other applicants.

  • What to do if you are given a question you did not prepare for or know how to answer: 
  • - Take your time – acknowledge that the question was asked and that you’re thinking about it by saying something like “Hmm…that’s a great question. Let me think about that.” This gives you enough time to work through your first thought and keeps you from using filler words to avoid awkward silences.

    - It is okay to detail your thought process out loud. Sometimes interviewers are trying to get a sense of how you work through problems.

    - Try redirecting the question. For example, if you are asked about a skill that you do not have try to relate it to a similar skill you have experience with.

    - If you are asked something that you simply do not know, such as about a definition or concept, no amount of stalling will be able to help you.

    - Do not say that you “don’t know” – instead, provide a more positive answer, in which you say you are not familiar with the concept, but are a quick learner, have been learning more about that subject, etc.

    - You could also detail the process of how you would handle not knowing something in the workplace, and the steps you would take to find the answer on your own

  • Other commonly asked interview questions:
  • - Tell me about a time you had to deal with a problem at work and the steps you took to solve it.

    - What is your biggest professional accomplishment?

    - How does this internship fit in with the career path you envision for yourself?

    - Tell me about a time you made a mistake.

    - Give an example of a time that you went above and beyond the requirements for a project.

    - How do you handle pressure?