|  January 7, 2014

What companies look for in their summer interns

Since we’re now in the new year, people are starting to think about the summer and how they’re going to nail down the perfect internship.  I think the key to preparing to go through this process, is knowing what companies look for in their summer interns.

In hopes that it will help you as you go through the process I wanted to share the qualities I’ve looked for when interviewing and hiring  potential summer interns in the past.  I do feel this is consistant across many companies and industries and I believe that knowing what qualities are important will help you prepare for your summer internship interviews.

what companies look for in their summer interns

Work ethic/eagerness/”hunger”

This is something companies are probably looking for in all of their hires (interns or not) but in the absence of a really built out skill set, this quality becomes even more important when recruiting interns.  Since you probably haven’t had the opportunity to build up tons of experience (that’s why you’re looking to intern, right!) your eagerness and work ethic become your main assets.

“Hunger” is not something that can be taught.  When I think about what hunger really means, it really is the opposite of lazy or entitled.  Superstar interns are eager and hungry for any task thrown their way.  This quality is something companies love to see.

You can show that you have this quality by coming across as very passionate in the interview process.  You can also show your hard-working attitude as you are going through the process too by answering emails promptly, always showing up 15 minutes early to any interview, and always being prepared and well researched.


This is a tougher one. While flexibility is great, I always liked to interview potential interns who had some idea of what they wanted to do and why.  There is a certain level of research required to know why you want to spend time learning in a specific team or department and doing that research shows diligence.

Even if you are flexible in how you’d like to spend your time this summer and what you’d like to learn, go into your interview with a point of view.  If you’re interested in multiple groups or areas, be able to speak to why each of them are interesting to you in their own way.

Skills (to some degree) & Knowledge

Since you are interviewing for an internship, it’s not going to be expected that you already have all the skills needed to do the job.  The great part about internships is that companies will be willing to train you on these key skills.  However, there may be some basic skills that are expected and preferred.  Being able to navigate around Microsoft Office is one example of a skill that companies might already want to see in place.

When I say knowledge, what I mean is that it’s important that you have knowledge of the industry and company and come in well-researched.  While not having certain skills is definitely forgivable and won’t get in your way of getting the job, this part really isn’t.  Anyone with a computer is capable of learning about the company they are interviewing with, so don’t skip this step!  


This is a big one.  Companies are looking for a certain level of poise and maturity in their interns.  Being mature and professional in the interview process will imply that you will be mature and professional once in the intern program.  Basic professional etiquette like showing up on time, dressing according to the dress code, and adapting a more formal communication style in the office are definitely expected and valued.  If you’re going to be in the professional environment of that office, you’ll be held to a similar standard as full time employees.

Those 4 qualities combined, make a great intern for a company… and it goes without saying that any great candidate is also (you guessed it) prepared.  Being prepared for the interview is a given.

Be sure to also check out our post on how to organize your internship search so it doesn’t get too unwieldy or disorganized. Once you have some offers on the table (yay, congrats!) definitely check out this article as well about how to choose the best summer internship and what to consider.

Stay tuned and leave a comment if there are any other internship search topics you’d like to hear about in the future!

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