Imagine you’re sitting in a brightly lit conference room facing two or three interviewers as your internship interview is about to begin. After finishing up with some small talk, one of the interviewers looks you in the eyes and asks you a question. The interviewer asks: “why do you want to do this internship?”
They come right out of the gate with a really good question.
How would you respond? Have you thought about this question before?
This is a question I personally have asked countless times, and the responses have always varied widely.
First, realize that there isn’t a single best answer to this question. The reasoning behind your interest in an internship position will most certainly be different than other candidates.
All intern candidates (you included) are interested in some common things, such as:
- Real world experience
- Finding a company to start your career with
- Making your resume look better
These are all cookie-cutter answers though, and they won’t set you apart from the crowd.
It’s completely fine for you to mention all of these things (except the last one—don’t talk about making your resume look better).
The question now is…
How do you separate yourself from the crowd?
Let’s quickly dive into how you can do this.
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How To Prepare For This Interview Question
You want the good news or the bad news first?
Well, let’s start with the good news...
Your preparation for this internship interview question (“Why do you want this internship?”) is not difficult. It’s actually straightforward.
This should give you immediate relief and confidence.
Now for the bad news…
Okay, it’s not really bad news, but here it is. You’re going to have to carve out some distraction free time to properly prepare for this interview question.
Now for the simple three step process you’re going to use to come up with an awesome response to this interview question.
Step #1: It's Time To Be Selfish
Take out a piece of paper or open up MS Word on your computer. Now, create a list of all of the benefits you can personally receive from your time at an internship.
Don’t hold back. Be selfish here. Nobody is going to see this list except for you.
This isn’t an exercise you should try to finish as quickly as possible. Spend some quality time on this, and think deeply.
Step #2: It's Time To Be A Servant
On the same piece of paper (or computer file) as step #1, you’re now going to identify all of the benefits you can produce for your potential internship employer.
Again, don’t hold back. What value can you truly provide any employer who takes a chance on you?
Just as with step #1, spend some quality time on this. Don’t rush it.
Step #3: Analyze And Write Your Response
Now, read through your two lists.
Identify your strongest two to three points made for your personal benefits and the employer benefits.
These are going to be the foundation for your response.
Finally, write down (or type) a response to the question that takes all of these points into account.
Let’s go through an example of what this might look like. My lists will be trimmed down, you should expect to have much longer lists of ideas when you commit some time to this process.
List #1: Your Personal Benefits
- I have several friends who work for Company X, and it’d be cool to be able to socialize with my friends throughout the day or over lunch.
- My friends mentioned the great company culture at Company X.
- I’m really interested in Technology Z, and Company X is highly invested in this technology. This would allow me to work with a technology I’m truly passionate about.
List #2: Internship Employer Benefits
- I’m a hard-worker, so the employer won’t have to worry about me slacking.
- I pick-up new technologies quickly. This will mean less up-front time investment for me to get up-to-speed.
- I like to be involved with charitable causes, and I would be interested in joining any committees at Company X.
- I truly want to provide value to Company X. It must be a win-win experience.
List #3: A Possible Response
Here’s a response I put together real quickly using list #1 and list #2 above…
"I’ve thought a lot about this lately. I’m definitely interested in the most common benefits of an internship. The hands-on experience I’ll gain from working with a team on challenging problems as well as the possibility of turning my internship into a full-time position.
But, I also like how Company X is involved with [some cause]. Not many companies take a stance on this issue, and I’d really like to be associated with a company like this.
I’ve also read that you work on a lot of cutting-edge tech here, and I’m really interested in Technology Z. And because I pick-up new technologies quickly, I know I’d be able to step into my internship and make an impact.
And, that’s what I really want to do in an internship. I want to make an impact on my team and provide real value.
And finally, a selfish reason, I have a couple of friends who work here, and I like the idea of being able to easily go get lunch with them.”
Is this response perfect?
Nope. Yet, it demonstrates the objective here.
By following this exercise, you’ll be able to take your response to another level. You’ll do this by showing your personality and by showing that you’ve researched the company.
The Bottom Line
Even though I suggested that you write (or type) out a response to this question, don’t sound scripted when you answer this question during your interview.
Show your personality. Don’t be a robot.
This exercise was only meant to show you how to go deeper than the most common surface level responses most interns offer up to this question.
Now that you realize the benefits you can achieve personally from an internship, and you realize the benefits you can provide to your potential internship employer, you’ll be better prepared to answer this question.
Remember, there’s no right or wrong answer.
So, be honest, and be confident.
The best of luck with your interviews, I know you’ll do great!
Ryan has been heavily involved in the world of Information Technology and entrepreneurship since the early 2000s. From small business consulting to Fortune 500 IT leadership, Ryan has a wide array of tech industry knowledge. Ryan has his BBA and MBA from the University of Iowa. Connect with Ryan on Twitter or Instagram.