6 Questions to Ask Your Interns in an Exit Interview


It’s just about that time of the year again, it happens at the end of every summer—your hard-working summer interns are getting ready to pack up and head back to school, look for another internship, or else maybe even start applying for full-time jobs.

Their workload and internship tasks may be winding down, but these last few weeks are crucial for your company to take action and conduct an exit interview.


The Importance of Asking Exit Interview Questions at the End of Internships

Exit interviews are a great resource to help reveal insights that you wouldn’t be able to uncover otherwise.

There are many different types of exit interviews. You can conduct a face-to-face exit interview if you have a little more time on your hands and are still doing in person internships. If not, or if like many companies you're now managing remote internships, you can offer an exit interview form or template that your intern can fill out on their own time. Both of these options will collect valuable feedback for your company.

PRO TIP: Offer an incentive to get internship surveys completed in a timely manner - for example, an Amazon gift card for completing and submitting by a set date, or a drawing for a larger value prize to every survey received by a set date.

Regardless of which method you choose, to make the most of the exit interview, it's critical to ask these internship feedback questions.


6 Exit Interview Questions to Ask at the End of an Internship


1. How would you describe our company culture?

This is a great way to learn a little bit more about your company culture from the inside. It can be difficult to get an accurate depiction of culture without asking others. Interns are an especially great resource to use because they have a fresh set of eyes and likely don't have the same biases that long-term employees have.

This will also set you up with the ability to identify trends within your company. Asking the same questions on a regular, ongoing basis lets you diagnose and analyze certain trends and look at differences and similarities among answers from intern to intern (or season to season). For example, your interns can help you identify how effective your mentoring programs and/or different opportunities for cross-departmental engagement are. Don’t forget to keep track of the answers to this question from previous exit interviews so that you can track responses over time. This may sound obvious, but it's often tempting to just look at one response set vs the last and informally compare the two. Keeping the actual data allows you to see a bigger picture, and turns a subjective analysis into a data-based one.

The answers that your interns give will also allow you to identify any concerns with the company culture that may need to be addressed. Uncovering these potential issues, and being able to address them before they turn into a serious problem, will help your company prevent losing any discouraged employees that are going unnoticed.


2. If you could make a change to your internship, what would it be?

Many times, just changing the wording of a question can make all the difference - especially in an exit interview, and especially with interns who are likely hoping to land another internship with you, or even a full time job after graduation.

This question will give you valuable feedback on changes that you might have to make to your internship program, or  even spur new ideas to improve on it. Remember that interns are a fantastic resource because of their fresh outlook and sharp minds - the same goes for feedback on their actual internship. You may just get some great ideas to implement next time.


3.  What, if anything, would you change about the company as a whole?

This is a great question to ask because after working with a company for an extended period of time, it’s easy to overlook problem areas. Interns, on the other hand, have only been there for a few months, and a fresh set of eyes on your company might surface problems that otherwise are more difficult to identify.

This question also shifts the tone from any complaints that they may have, to a suggestion. This helps interns feel more at ease answering the question, and it also gives you actionable insights so that you can further examine and/or fix whatever issues your intern may have identified. 

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4. How did the job match your expectations?

According to a recent study, 6 in 10 American workers say they’ve found that their job was different from what they expected, stating they felt misled during the interview and job description process. This often causes employees to be disengaged and unmotivated at work - not to mention frustrated. This is even more critical with your interns because they're there for a such a short period of time, so there isn't as much room for acclimation and adjustments. They want to hit the ground running and can only do so if their expectations are met as it relates to their intern tasks and responsibilities.

Asking this question helps you see if you need to make changes to your internship job description to make sure you're accurately defining the position. You can even have your intern read the job description after the internship is over so they can give you feedback on whether or not they feel it's accurate, what they would change, or maybe what isn't necessarily true.

Interns can also provide details on tasks they ended up doing, or advice for what they wanted to do but didn't get the opportunity to. This will ensure that you recruit strong interns for next summer who have a good understanding of their role at the company and can, therefore, give back to you as much as you’re giving to them.


5. What do you believe the next step is in your career, and how can we can help you get there?

This is a great question to ask at the end of the internship because it gives you insight into what your interns' professional aspirations are. With this information, you’re able to get an idea of what they want to do as their next step in the working world.

60% of the time, interns are hired directly into full-time jobs with their employers. If you're working with college interns who may still have a few semesters of school left, identify ways to keep in touch with them and let them know if job openings come up that they might be interested in. Just because you can't hire them right away, doesn't mean you can't in the future.

Asking about career goals allows you to see if your company would be a viable fit for the intern as much as they could be for you, based on what they want to do. If it seems they want to go on and do something else, or they just weren't the best fit for your company, this question will still give you the ability to help them connect with companies that are a better fit.

PRO TIP: This is also a great question to ask at the BEGINNING of the internship, so you can provide the best intern experience possible.


6. Did you feel that the housing/stipend provided was adequate for your internship?

If your interns relocated for the program, or were provided a stipend or reimbursement for their internship costs, ask them about it. Depending on what was provided there are different ways to ask this question but in general you want to get feedback on whether the housing was good, bad, or other (taking into account things like location, amenities, etc.). If no housing was provided but some sort of stipend or reimbursement was, then ask if it was sufficient to cover their costs, for example. You want to be fairly specific here - asking "did you feel your reimbursement was enough" is too broad and likely to result in a lot of negative responses. After all, who doesn't want more money? If you clearly ask them to evaluate the monetary compensation compared to a reasonable expectation (ie covering their costs for a laptop or internet in remote internships) then you'll get much better feedback.


Other Considerations for Intern Exit Interviews

Obviously, there are plenty of other questions to ask interns about their experience in internships, but these are a few to help you get started.

It is important to keep exit interview questions for interns direct, straightforward and easy to answer and understand—especially if your intern is doing the interview remotely through a form, you want to make sure you aren't asking questions that could be confusing or ask a 2-part question in one which then, you may not get the answer you're looking for.

A solid exit interview with your summer intern will hopefully not only give you valuable insight into your company, but it will also help interns to leave with good feelings about their experience.

As you can see, it’s extremely important to make time for a proper goodbye. Whether in person or through an online internship survey questionnaire, these questions can be crucial to improving your own internship program and company, while creating better experiences for future interns.

Human Resources Today