Companies seek interns for a number of reasons: to increase their work efficiency, add fresh perspective to the mix, and potentially grow their employee base in a cost-effective manner. Internship experiences are highly sought after, and the number of college seniors and graduate students seeking internships is on the rise. Since most students applying for an internship have little to no work experience, it’s their personal characteristics that make an applicant stand out from the crowd. Businesses look for such ideal qualities as enthusiasm, willingness to dive right in, and an entrepreneurial mindset. It is impossible to know exactly what an employer is looking for, but below you will find a few ideas about what makes a good intern.

Take Initiative | Be Confident

When you get hired, hit the floor running and do not stop. Executives look for determined individuals who work hard and dive head first into projects. Along with the willingness to go above and beyond, be what everyone calls a “go-getter.” Even during the interview process, take initiative, respond quickly, and confirm details professionally. Being ambitious and organized will show off your potential leadership skills, assert your confidence, and make your “value” rise.

Remember, employers need to see that you are a reliable asset that adds value to their company’s top and bottom lines.

Adaptability | Be Coachable

You should strive to be a chameleon in the workplace by changing your “color” to match the voice, goals and environment of the company. Being able to take on a variety of projects makes you indispensable and will increase your marketability. Another ideal quality of an intern is to be coachable, which means you can be molded, taught and take criticism. Today’s fast-paced work environments do not allow for long learning curves, forcing management to be brutally honest. Do not let this shatter your ego! Pick up on corrections and make changes.

You can do it, be the chameleon!

Curiosity | Be Inquisitive

Aristotle, Socrates, and Darwin were all revolutionary minds – perfect examples of the importance of inquiry and critical thinking. Being curious and asking questions is what increases one’s knowledge base and capacity to problem solve. This is an invaluable skill and intern quality that needs to be developed. And it’s not just about  asking lots of questions – it’s about asking the right questions. As an intern, be inquisitive and exhibit your passion to learn, your ability to evaluate a situation, and your potential to find solutions without relying on someone else.

Attitude | Be Positive

Are you one of those people who always sees the glass as half full instead of half empty? If so, that characteristic is a keeper. For those of you who tend to be more pessimistic, make a concerted effort to smile more and put a little pep in your step. As you carve your way through interviews, a first impression could make or break you. A positive attitude is recognized during the initial handshake and noticed immediately by managers and executives. They see this quality as indication of your ability to manage stress and allow for open communication in the workplace.

Attitude is everything! Be confident. Be professional. Be optimistic!

Autonomy | Be Independent

Autonomy is another ideal quality of an intern, because a mentor can trust you – with minimal supervision – to complete projects, thereby giving them more time to take care of pressing business. If you are independent, you will ask for help if needed, so your employer will worry less and you will find a way to contribute without being told explicitly what to do. In other words, you do not need someone to hold your hand the whole way. Independence will increase your value to the company, so trust yourself, go with your gut, and take control.


The qualities mentioned above are what makes a good intern, though this is just a partial list of characteristics. While running through the interview process, keep these qualities in mind and remember to highlight the best aspects of your personality. Each interviewer will be looking for something different, so know your strengths, and play to them. Be passionate and go for gold!