Top 10 Skills Employers Look for in an Intern

An internship is an opportunity to gain work experience in a specific industry and test the various theories and concepts learnt throughout the academic journey. It also drastically increases your chances of being offered a full-time job later on.

Despite what your major/degree or preferred industry is, employers are interested in specific attributes and competencies when looking for internship or entry level applicants. Your GPA isn’t the only factor that is considered, so whether you are looking for a summer internship, planning on developing your time management skills during your academic year as a student, or applying for your first job as a graduate, here are the top ten skills and personality traits employers look for:

1. Drive – Passion & Motivation

If you want to be successful at your job and enjoy working while moving up the career ladder, it is essential to be passionate about the work that you do. You may not know what your passion is yet, but you can be passionate about learning, a specific industry or a specific cause. Passion/drive intensifies focus toward excellence and enables creativity and innovation while creating job satisfaction & fulfilment. While employers are not expecting you to have all the answers, they are expecting you to be driven and energetically passionate about the mission they are offering you.

2. Emotional Intelligence 

Regardless of the industry, you will be interacting with colleagues, clients, managers as well as other stakeholders. Your ability to relate to others, demonstrate understanding and integrity and build strong business relationships is a key component to your success and the success of the organization. It’s essential to be the kind of person your colleagues would like to interact with every day. Therefore, employers seek individuals who can identify the different wants and needs of others and acknowledge the value of different perspectives/opinions.

3. Communication

Communication can occur in different modes, such as written and verbal. Employers are usually interested in your ability to write and speak professionally. You have the opportunity to showcase your written communication through your CV, cover letter, and your verbal skills through your thoughtful and considerate answers through the common interview questions. The ability to translate your thoughts and ideas and convey information effectively is a key in any type of field.

4. Adaptability

Whether you are looking to intern at a start-up or a well-established organization, you will need to adapt to the different tasks that might be assigned to you. As an intern, it is essential for you to be adaptive to different areas of work. While you may have a particular interest in a field, a willingness to try out and become familiar with the different areas in an organization is most definitely viewed as an important skill which can lead to increased exposure and opportunities within the company.

5. Innovation/Initiative

Employers are keen to find out what are the new ways an organization can improve. As an intern, you can come forth and share the different ideas and tips you have to offer. This step is always appreciated by employers as they get to see how interns are interested to show initiative for different work tasks. As an example, during your interview, you can highlight the different times where you have taken it upon yourself to showcase and contribute a positive change that had a great impact overall. Your potential employer will appreciate the opportunity of bringing in someone who has a sense of direction and initiative.

6. Critical thinking

Critical thinking indicates your ability to analyse and evaluate a certain situation or issue and form a consensus or judgement. The skill to think critically can be showcased through a willingness to explore, ask questions, and understand a problem from all different angles to come up with different creative solutions. This skill is something that many of your professors might have given importance to during your academic career, and it is highly valued by employers too.

7. Receptiveness

The ability to receive feedback positively is critical. This skill allows you to grow and improve with all the valuable suggestions you might receive from your employer. The positive action that you take up after receiving a feedback creates a great impression about you to your employer. While taking initiative is essential, so is the ability to receive feedback and to use it to your own advantage by looking at the bigger picture.

8. Technical Proficiency/ IT

You certainly won’t be an expert in every technological field but it is essential that you know your way around a computer and the basic software that is needed in everyday tasks at work. Technical proficiency is a skill that employers definitely look into.

9. Time management

During your academic career, you must have had deadlines for assignments that you had to meet, you therefore have already exhibited time management skills. But as an intern, you may not have someone to set deadlines for you. You will need to be well organized and plan beforehand all the work that needs to be done. You need to set your priorities and identify the deadline that needs to be met accordingly. Employers want to know if you are responsible enough to handle tasks and produce results for a particular project on time.

10. Collaboration/Team work

In any organization, team work is essential. You will likely be working with different team members at every level and your ability to fit in quickly and contribute will definitely be assessed by employers during the interview process. Make sure you have identified your own strengths and weakness so that you are clear on the contribution you can make. Similarly, be mindful of how you can bring out the best in your team.


Author:  Farheen Jeelani – Associate Consultant at MomentuM Coaching & Consulting

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