How To Explain Internship Experience In An Interview

Man in black long sleeved shirt sitting across from another man on a table: How to explain internship experience in an interview
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Internships have proven to be one of the best ways to gain work experience early. Entry-level job seekers stand to gain a great deal if they’ve gotten an internship at some point. Some internships are set for undergraduates and others for graduates, but the defining factor is the benefit of the training. The best part is, your CV gets a boost, and when you apply for a job, you have actual work experience to share. Communicating your internship experience is an entirely different ballgame. There are various steps on how to explain your internship experience in an interview that you need to follow.

If you do have the experience and can’t tell the interviewer the best way possible, you might lose an opportunity. Now, we certainly don’t want that to happen. In this article, you will get to see the steps you should follow. If you have your foot at the door and are preparing for an interview already, this would be very helpful. You could also be a job seeker looking to get ahead and know what you’d need when that mail comes saying your application has earned you an interview. Whichever is the case, here is what the article will be covering:

  • Possible Interview questions to expect
  • Steps on how to explain your internship experience in an interview
  • Landmines to avoid at an Interview
  • What If I have never Interned before?
  • Conclusion

Possible Interview questions to expect

You have successfully earned an interview at that company—no caps to your brilliant application. The interviewer would likely ask questions, and it will be a boost to know them beforehand. You have a better chance for those possible questions and how best to respond to them. 

Interview question 1: Tell us about Yourself

The top interview question in the books has to be this one. They might say, “tell me something that is not on your resume” or “Walk me through your resume.” It’s all pointing to the same thing. 

What do you say here? Do you mention that you have a dog? The number of friends you have? Or possibly you do not even know what you can say about yourself. 

MIT Media Lab’s Manager of Graduate Student Professional Development, Lily Zhang, provides a three-step structure: Past, Present, and Future. The Past would cover your education, your previous experiences; the present would look at your current role, a significant accomplishment; and the future would point to what you plan to do and why you are interested in the position you are interviewing for. Either of the three may come first in your response. All you need is to give a small summary of how you can add value to the company.

Interview question 2: What Made You Apply to the Company?

The expectation is that you do thorough research on the company you want to work for. You could even reach out to their staff on LinkedIn and ask questions about the company culture. You could also choose to browse the internet for everything you can find about the company. Research would make your answer to this question perfect. 

You don’t need to go over everything you have learned about the company; that would sound rehearsed. All that is required here stands out for you about the company and how it aligns with your career aspirations and values.

Interview question 3: Any Strengths? Weaknesses?

The question on your strengths is the best place to mention your most stellar skills. You carefully describe each, along with past successes you have had thanks to them. Do not miss the opportunity to point out how those strengths are relevant to your interviewing role. 

The part about weaknesses can be tricky. Imagine telling the interviewer that you get angry quickly; I’m sure you are not getting the job. You need to identify a thing or two (best to keep it very few) that aren’t too relevant to the role and speak positively on them. Doing this would make you appear like someone passionate about self-development.

Interview question 4: How did you deal with challenges at your previous job?

Now, this is an exciting part of the interview. Here, you will have to explain your internship experience. You might end up telling stories that are irrelevant or omit essential details if you do not know how to respond to the question appropriately. That is why we have dedicated the following section to provide you with steps on how to explain your internship experience in an interview. 

Whatever experience you would mention must have some form of relevance to the role you are applying to. It might just be skills like teamwork that stand out from the previous position. As long as it can be helpful to in the role you are applying to, you must know how to communicate it properly.

Steps on how to explain your internship experience in an interview

You have successfully landed yourself an audience with the interviewer, thanks to your application. Now, as expected, questions have been asked about past work experience. For you, what you have is internship experience. Internships are peculiar, and the same applies to how you walk an interviewer through your expertise.

Why you chose that internship

Internships are not something that gets forced on you. So, you would have to explain why you chose that internship. Again, with everything you mention in the interview, the relevance to your career goals and the job you are applying for should top the list. 

If you interned in a finance role and apply for an engineering role, you cannot start telling the interviewer you wanted to learn to prepare financial statements. Instead, you could mention that you did the internship to learn project financing because it is relevant to engineering.

What you did and how relevant it is to your career

You printed papers, took coffee to your supervisor daily, and downloaded movies with the company’s Wi-Fi. You should not mention these and similar activities at the interview. The activities you need to note are those that point to your career goals and appear valuable to the role you are interviewing for. 

It would be best if you wrote a small list of these activities while preparing. They would be easier to remember when you are discussing them at the interview. Therefore, you would only mention the most important ones this way. You must adequately connect these activities to your career. 

The quality of each activity is more important than the quantity. You can’t mention everything you did; the interviewer might just cut you midway. Stick to the most relevant activities first and discuss them before those with less relevance. 

Your big takeaways from the experience

Those accomplishments while interning cannot go to waste. You earned bragging rights, and there is no use being humble about them at the interview. You raised sales by 15%, part of the team that launched a product that had thousands of downloads in a week, optimized or automated specific office processes that raised workplace productivity? Do not keep those to yourself; let’s hear it. 

Again, it is best if you have written these out before the interview. You would have had time to think these experiences through and know how best to say them. 

Try to avoid cliche words. Interviewers hear them all the time, and your responses would sound less authentic. If you do have to use them, keep them very minimal.

The relevance of the experience to the role you are applying for

If it is not relevant to the role you are applying to, it is best not to talk about it. The interviewer is interested in knowing how that experience is essential to the role they plan to recruit you for. You have to be convincing; the interviewer has seen countless applicants and can easily tell what is not authentic. While you are trying to make an impression, it is best to keep it simple.

How is your experience as a marketing intern at a delivery company relevant in an accounting role at a Big four firm? That is precisely what the interviewer wants to hear. Leave out any excess details that would bore the interviewer. There are tons of applications that might be getting reviewed, so if you get yourself an interview, don’t blow it by using flowery and unnecessary terms. Keep it short and straight to the point. 

Landmines to avoid at an Interview

Hand Gestures

Avoid playing with your hands. It makes you appear nervous, and that is certainly not what you want. Keep your hands in place. Gesticulating should be kept minimal if you can’t do without it, but it is best not to do it at all.

Telling Jokes

You are not the main act at a stand-up comedy show, so your ability to tell jokes is unnecessary. Something they said is funny in the interview? A smile would do. Please do not burst into laughter as you would at lunch with your friends.

Repeating your CV

The interviewer has seen your CV already, and that contributed to your being at the interview in the first place. The interview is to know more about you, not to hear what is in your CV all over. It does highlight who you are, but your interviewer requires more than those highlights.

Posture

You do not sit the way you would if you were watching a movie in your living room or slouching at your room desk. You have to sit up and ensure you are looking directly at the interviewer. Do not stare. That is not a good idea. Put your legs together and your arms at your side, but most of all, make sure you are comfortable.

How to explain your internship experience in an interview: In case you’ve never Interned before

A lot of undergraduates have no experience. What do you do if this is you? Do you tell the interviewer you have no experience? If you get a question about internship experience and you don’t have it, the action to take is to reference an experience you have had similar to an internship.

Internship-like experiences can be freelancing, volunteering at a community centre, competitions, group projects, and campus activities. The important thing is not the task itself but the work ethic and skills that it offers you. It could be how you led a team that organized outreach to schools in your community to educate them on the impact of climate change. 

Ensure you mention that you have not had any formal internship before discussing your internship-like experiences.

Conclusion

Internships remain one of the best ways to kickstart your career. Knowing how to explain your activities at an internship to an interviewer would undoubtedly give you an edge over others getting interviewed. Following the steps on how to explain your internship experience in an interview will leave a good impression of you as the interviewer, and you are on your way to landing your dream role. Interviewers could also change how they approach the questions but do not fret. As long as you can calmly recall your experiences and explain them well, you’re good to go.

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