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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Changing Jobs

7 Exit Interview Questions for Interns and How to Answer Them

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An internship offers a fantastic learning opportunity; it can help you better understand the industry you’re pursuing, develop new skills, connect with other professionals, and lay the foundation for a successful, fulfilling career. It can also create a constructive dialogue between you and the company you interned for—that's why it's crucial to make the most of the exit interview questions for interns.

The exit interview is your opportunity to share insights about your internship and experience, as well as make a good impression that could lead to a later job offer—especially when you’re well prepared. So, what exactly might you be asked, and just as importantly, how should you answer these questions in a way that helps your career? Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about it.

What is an exit interview for an internship—and why is it important?

Before we jump into exit interview questions and answers for interns, let’s quickly cover what an exit interview for an internship is.

“An internship exit interview is an opportunity for employers to gather feedback from those who are completing a company’s internship program,” says Amanda Augustine, certified professional career coach, resume writer, and career expert for interview-coaching service TopInterview.

During the exit interview, “the company will likely be looking for suggestions on how to improve the program and make it more attractive to future interns,” says Peter Rahbar, employment attorney, workplace issues expert, and founder of The Rahbar Group.

Clearly, exit interviews are important for a company, as they can get the insight they need to improve their internship program and attract top tier talent. But exit interviews aren’t just important for the company; they’re also important for the intern.

Why? “Although the main stated purpose of an exit interview is to help the company improve their program for future interns, it is also an important opportunity for a further evaluation of the intern’s communication skills, analysis, professionalism, and enthusiasm for the company,” says Rahbar—which, in certain situations, could lead to a future job offer.

Exit interviews also offer interns the opportunity to network and build stronger relationships with the company—which, again, can help lead to a future job offer.

“Interns who participate in in-person or virtual exit interviews have another chance to build rapport with representatives of the company,” says Augustine. “Remember, every conversation is an opportunity to network. Interns should use these conversations to not only provide constructive feedback, but to also advance their professional goals.”

Finally, preparing for an exit interview gives interns an opportunity to reflect on their experience—and that reflection can lead to deeper insights into their skills and career choices.

“Participating in an internship exit interview offers the student a chance to reflect on their internship experience, including what they learned during the program, what skills they developed, and what professional skills they should continue building upon,” says Augustine.

“The exit-interview process may also help the student decide if they should remain on their original career path or explore other options.”

Exit interview questions for interns and sample answers

While every exit interview will be different, there are certain questions you’re likely to encounter. So what are those good exit interview questions for interns—and how should you answer them?

1. Can you tell us what you thought about your internship?

If there’s one question that’s virtually guaranteed to come up in an exit interview, it’s a general question on what you thought (and how you felt) about your internship.

“You should have a prepared answer ready for this question—as it will almost certainly be asked,” says Rahbar. “If you are interested in working at the company in the future, you should focus on specific substantive aspects of the program that you enjoyed, or thought were useful. Be sure to provide examples of what you learned and what was most helpful and enjoyable about your experience.”

Example answer: “My internship has been an extremely positive experience. I really enjoyed the opportunity to work on the marketing copy for the new product launch. I also really appreciated how much one-on-one support and mentorship I received from my manager; they taught me a lot about copywriting and how to be more persuasive in my copy—and those insights have made me a better writer.”

2. How would you describe our company culture?

Another question that’s likely to come up has to do with company culture. “Employers often ask this question because they want a fresh perspective from someone who’s recently joined the company—versus employees who’ve been with the company for many years—and experienced its culture firsthand,” says Augustine.

“When answering this question, be sure to share the parts of the company culture that you liked the most, while also offering feedback on any areas of the culture that you believe could be improved upon.”

Example answer: “I like how the company was transparent about its goals for the quarter. I also really enjoyed how welcoming and friendly my coworkers have been throughout my internship. However, it would have been helpful if I had received more communication on how my work tied back to those goals.”

3. Did you feel supported during your internship?

Companies will also want to know if, as an intern, you felt supported throughout your internship experience—including whether the company (and the leaders that work there) gave you the training and resources you needed to succeed.

Example answer: “I felt very supported by my direct manager; our weekly meetings were helpful in understanding the expectations for my position and feedback on my performance. I do, however, wish that interns had more exposure to senior leadership; I think it would have been helpful in understanding the company’s ‘big picture’ and how the interns can help the company reach its goals.”

4. If you could change anything about your internship, what would it be—and why?

One of the main reasons for an exit interview is to get insights into the internship program—including potential areas for improvement. “This question helps employers determine if there are any underlying issues within their internship program that should be addressed,” says Augustine. “When responding, it’s best to offer suggestions that the employer can act upon.”

Example answer: “I think that the internship program would be stronger if there were more opportunities for interns to connect with and learn from team members across the organization. As interns, we’re still figuring out what we want to do in our careers—and getting to experience different roles and departments would be extremely helpful in narrowing our focus.”

5. What is the most valuable thing you learned during your internship program?

During an internship, you’re invested in your own learning and professional growth. But the company is invested in your learning and growth as well. And, as such, they’ll want to hear about it during the exit interview—which is why you’ll likely get some variation of this question.

Example answer: “I learned a lot during this internship, but one of the most valuable things I learned was how to be a more effective speaker. Prior to this internship, I didn’t have any experience with public speaking. But speaking during our weekly team internship meeting really helped me let go of nervousness and hone my skills as a professional speaker—which will serve me well in whatever direction I decide to take my career.”

6. What can we as a company do to make the internship program better for future interns?

Companies want to attract top students to their internship program. In order to do that, it’s important for them to understand how the program is supporting interns—and if there’s anything they can do to make it a better and more promising experience. The best way to get insights on how to improve their internship program for future interns? Asking their current interns.

Example answer: “I really enjoyed my internship experience. But one area I thought could be improved was the onboarding process. I felt like there were a lot of processes I had to figure out as I worked—but having training on established company processes and procedures before getting to work would have been helpful.”

7. Would you recommend this internship program to other students? Why or why not?

Again, companies want their internship program to attract top talent. So, one of the questions they may ask is whether you would recommend the program to other students.

Example answer: “I really enjoyed my internship. I learned a lot about content creation and how to connect with customers on social media, which is helpful as I pursue a career in social media marketing. I would absolutely recommend this internship program to any student that asked.”

Nervous? Use these tips on your exit interview

Are you gearing up for an internship exit interview—and feeling nervous about the questions? Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Prepare in advance

“My main tip for interns is to be prepared and thoughtful for your exit interview,” says Rahbar. Prior to your exit interview, take stock of your internship experience. What did you enjoy? What did you feel could be improved? What are you taking from the experience? That’s all helpful feedback for the company—and will help you answer exit interview questions for interns in a more thorough and thoughtful way.

As you prepare, make sure to also put some thought into what you would like to gain from the exit interview experience.

“Go into this conversation with a goal in mind,” says Augustine. “Would you like to request a recommendation for your LinkedIn profile? Are you interested in working for the company in the future? Are you hoping for some feedback on your performance during the internship program? Be prepared to incorporate your request into the overall conversation.”

Don’t be afraid to give constructive criticism

Many interns, in the hopes of making a good impression, only share positive feedback during their exit interview. But if you had a negative experience, it’s important to share those insights with the company as well.

“Ideally, you will be sharing positive feedback in a clear, concise manner. However, it is also ok to share negative information about substantive aspects of your internship,” says Rahbar.

Now, keep in mind that it’s not appropriate to share negative feedback about every aspect you didn’t like about the internship—particularly the more surface-level issues (like not enjoying the food at events or wishing they had more coffee options in the kitchen).

If there was a serious element of your internship that you thought could use improvement—for example, if you felt you didn’t get enough instruction from your manager or you observed discrimination and/or favoritism—it’s important to speak up. And “if you do, be thoughtful and constructive, with suggestions on how to improve the negative aspect you are describing,” says Rahbar.

Let the company know if you want to work for them

Many people choose an internship because they want to eventually work at the company they’re interning for. And, if that’s the way you feel after your internship, your exit interview is a great place to let the company know you’re interested.

“If a student truly enjoyed working for the company, performed well during their internship, and would love the opportunity to apply for a full-time position in the future, they should make their intentions clear,” says Augustine. “Even if this conversation doesn’t lead to a full-time job offer, it could help the student obtain new networking introductions, job-search resources, or other job leads in the future.”