How to answer the questions on internship application forms

Last updated: 22 Jun 2023, 13:24

Filling in an application

Motivational and competency questions are common in online application forms for internships, graduate schemes and work experience placements. Application forms usually involve uploading personal details, a CV and a cover letter. Some applications require you to fill in a form detailing your education and your work experience. In addition, some organisations will ask you to fill in in-depth question about your skills and your reasons for applying. You may also be asked to complete ability and psychometric tests as part of your application or as a second stage before an interview.

Answering motivational questions on an internship application

The first questions on an application form are likely to be about your motivation for applying to the internship or the company. Make sure to show that you are genuinely interested in the role and employer.

This requires you to properly research the employer and the roles to be able to back up your reasons with facts about the organisation. You need to be able to explain how you think the role fits into your career ambitions. Connect your responses to specific aspects of the role and the employer such as the work you’ll be doing or the company’s products or values.

Answering competency questions on an internship application

Competency questions require you to give real-life examples of when you’ve demonstrated a particular skill or achieved something. Some examples of competency questions include:

  • Give an example of a time when you made an improvement
  • Give an example of when you delivered outstanding customer service
  • Give an example of a time when you increased profits
  • Give an example of a time you worked as part of a team.

While these questions may seem intimidating, recruiters understand that applicants for internships are usually young and do not have much experience to draw upon. They are looking for you to make good use of the experience you do have, even if it’s from college, an extracurricular activity or a different aspect of your life.

If the application system allows you to view all of the questions before you start answering, take some time to decide which example you’ll use for each question. Try to use a different example for each question.

If you are stuck on a question and cannot come up with an example, think more broadly. For example, if you are asked for a time when you went out of your way to help a customer and you haven’t worked a customer service or hospitality job you may struggle to think of a relevant example. However, a customer could be anyone who relied on you for a service. If you’ve volunteered as an usher for a performance, helped mentor younger students or worked on sets for a university show, you have experience you can draw on to answer these questions.

Similarly, questions about ‘increasing profits’ can be answered by referring to charitable fundraising activities, young enterprise groups, events run by student organisations and performing arts groups. Profit increases don’t have to be a result of increasing revenues, they can come from decreasing costs.

Use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) approach to structure your answers. Outline the s ituation and t ask, then describe your a ction and the r esults. Your answers should focus on what you did personally and not what the team did as a whole. Wherever you can, add numbers such as revenue to back up your examples.

Internship application question sample answer

An internship application may ask you a question along the lines of:

What do you consider to be your most significant achievement outside of your academic results? Describe why you feel this achievement is significant and any obstacles you had to overcome.

Let’s say your most significant achievement was significantly increasing ticket sales to a charity ball. When writing about overcoming obstacles to increase ticket sales, you might say:

‘... some members of the ball committee were sceptical about hiring a well-known singer rather than using the local tribute band that had performed the previous year due to costs. I surveyed 60 students who had attended the previous ball, 80% said the entertainment was disappointing with 75% indicating that they would be willing to pay more for better quality. Using this data, I made the case for hiring the singer and increasing ticket prices €5 to cover the extra costs’

In this response, you have identified the hesitancy of your fellow committee members as an obstacle and then focused on the action you took to help argue your case, with helpful figures to back you up.

What to do when filling in internship applications

  • Double check the information in each required field to make sure that it is correct. Ensure that your contact details are up to date
  • Read the questions carefully. If a question has several parts, answer all of it
  • Write all your answers in MS Word first or use a spell checker to make sure that your spelling and grammar are correct
  • Save a copy of your application form. You may need to refer to it if you land an interview

gradireland editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the gradireland content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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