Recently I have been working directly with a number of students on how to prepare for an internship interview. The interview may be by phone or in-person; but basically preparing for either type of interview is quite similar so we can discuss both all in one sitting. Students who have done a lot of interviewing in the past are generally not as stressed about the process; but for students who tend to be more introverted or who have not done too many actual interviews, interviewing can be quite a scary experience.
I like to begin preparing students for interviewing by offering a few simple tips that I believe will help them. This often includes helping them change their perspective of the entire interviewing process. What often helps students in preparing is letting them know that they will also be interviewing the company as much as the company will be interviewing them. If they plan and prepare themselves as best they can for the actual interview, the determining factor often comes down to the interviewer’s impression and how well the interviewer feels that the student will make a good fit for the company. Oftentimes if the company doesn’t feel like the student is a good fit for the organization, the student may also find that the culture of the organization is not the right one for them.
Taking Control of the Interview:
My basic advice for students in preparing for an interview is to both begin and end the interview strong. Taking control as you walk in and out of the interview can increase a student’s chance of getting hired enormously. For example, as you enter the room be sure to give a firm handshake, maintain direct eye contact, smile, and say something like, “it’s very nice to meet you and I’d like to thank you for taking the time to meet with me to discuss my candidacy for the summer internship position currently open at Google”. On the other hand, as your are leaving you will maintain the same firm handshake, direct eye contact, smile, and say something like, “I have thoroughly enjoyed discussing the internship position with you and I know my knowledge, skills, and previous academic and work experiences would make me an excellent candidate for the job.”
Establishing Confidence Prior to Your Interview:
Once you feel confident in your non-verbal skills, it’s time to take a look at how you can prepare answers to interview questions in the most direct and professional manner. To do this you will be begin by writing down your knowledge, skills, relevant college coursework, relevant experience, and personal attributes along with why you are the best person for the internship. I always recommend that students write down a list of things that they want the employer to know about them and then find a way to incorporate this information in their answers to whatever the interviewer decides to ask in the interview.
What Do You Want the Interviewer to Know About You?
As a student preparing for an interview, you will not know exactly what questions the interviewer will be asking. Even so, there are a number of questions you can prepare for that would be very similar to other questions that might be asked. In preparing, be mindful of what you want the interview to know about you. For example, “I am a very self-motivated individual and enjoy taking the initiative whether in a classroom or work setting. I pride myself in having a strong work ethic in combination with my excellent communication and interpersonal skills, which have proven invaluable in my courses and previous internship and work experiences. In my Introduction to Business course at my college last year, I led a group of 5 team members in researching and planning a presentation to a board of executives visiting the class. My summer internship last year gave me the chance to take theory and put it into practice. I not only led the company’s social media campaign but was asked to sit in with the VP of the company and present my views on student recruitment and what my thoughts were on the overall commitment the organization made in the local community. I was also a member of my high school basketball team for four years and captain senior year. At my college I play intramural sports along with committing two hours per week to doing community service in the local community where I live. My ability to work well in a team and individually has contributed greatly to my success.”
The Importance of Thank You Notes:
Once you’ve successfully completed the interviewing process, be sure to send a thank you note within 24 hours to every person that interviewed you. In the note you might re-iterate your interest in the internship and mention a few key things that you discussed that you real find exciting. Your knowledge and skills may be very similar to other students applying, so a well thought out thank you note could end up being the last thing that ends up getting you hired. Last but not least, the best piece of advice I can give is – practice, practice, practice. You may practice with a career counselor at your college or with a family member of friend. It’s important to practice out loud so even if you’re practicing on your own, be sure to answer the questions out loud to help better prepare you in voicing your responses at the actual interview.