Interviewing for an internship is often the first step into the professional world, a first glimpse at what embarking on a job search will have in store for you. There are people who are relaxed in interviews, and then there’s everyone else. If you’re relying on your natural brilliance or improvisational skills to land you the role, you’re pretty brave! Because the truth is, the key to a successful interview is preparation. Here are our 10 tips to help you prep.
Prepare your pitch
“Tell me about yourself”
It’s highly likely that, at the beginning of an interview, before starting a round of question and answer, the recruiter will ask you to present yourself. Be prepared! A brief summary of the main things that define you can be very effective. Prepare it at home before the interview by choosing a few impactful keywords about who you are and what you like.
You can try out a few versions of your presentation—they could range in length from 30 seconds to one minute for a telephone interview, or longer versions for an interview in person. Try practicing out loud, in front of a friend or your mirror, so that the words come naturally and sound good when it comes to the interview.
Research the company
This is a crucial step. If recruiters observe that you’ve devoted time to researching the company, they’ll see that you’re invested in the position and that the company interests you.
The details to research
- What is the size of the company: Small, international, with subsidiaries?
- Who runs the company?
- What is its main activity? And what team are you hoping to join?
- What makes the company unique in its sector?
Look up the people you’ll meet
Who will be interviewing you? Are they in HR? Will they be your supervisors? Do your homework, because not knowing can make pre-interview nerves worse. A little background information will prepare you for what you’re likely to encounter.
Once you’ve found out their names, do some research: Look into their professional backgrounds on LinkedIn. This might provide you with interesting information that will set you apart from other interviewees. For example, you may discover that your potential future boss has a similar degree or belongs to the same association as you. Are you afraid that they’ll realize you’ve been looking at their profile? Don’t worry, they’ll see that you’re invested in the process, and that’s a good thing!
The job: The company’s needs and expectations of you
What’s required of a future intern? A good understanding of the job’s requirements will allow you to showcase your skills that are relevant to the employer’s needs. If they’re seeking someone, it means they’re missing something. Figure out what you can offer to position yourself as someone who has what’s required. Take the time to thoroughly read through the job specification and read between the lines, and don’t hesitate to look online for more information about similar jobs or talk to people you know who have held similar positions.
The dress code
What to wear? Getting the dress code right can be a thorny issue. Do you go into overdrive, trying on 10 different outfits before leaving the house? It takes preparation to find the right outfit: What kind of company is it? A start-up or a multinational conglomerate? A bank or a design agency? And is the work artisanal, does it involve manual labor, or is it more of a desk job? For example, it’s good to know that professionals in contact with clients have to follow a more strict dress code than in other lines of work, because they’re representing the company.
Adapt yourself as much as possible to the industry and the position. When in doubt, keep your outfit elegant and neutral while staying true to yourself. The company knows you’re a student—that’s why you’re being considered. Take advantage of the first interview to observe the dress code of the teams around you and adjust accordingly for the second interview.
“If you’re on time, you’re already late”
This saying can be pretty relevant within some corporate cultures, where arriving right on time is seen as impolite. It’s always best to arrive early.
You should always apply this approach to interviews, because a late arrival is out of the question—that stupid mistake alone could eliminate you from consideration. Being late gives the impression that you’re not reliable, serious, or organized.
Be sure to plan your commute ahead of time, factoring in the possibility of delays en route. If you get there too early, you can always grab a coffee while you’re waiting.
And if nothing goes your way and you’re not able to make it on time, make sure to let people know you’re running late instead of saying nothing before you arrive.
What to bring
It won’t hurt to have your résumé with you. Above all, remember to bring whatever you’ll need to make notes during the interview. This will help you to remember important details and will show your dedication. You can also add a few key bits of information to your notebook ahead of the interview, such as the name of your interviewer or any questions you think you’d like to ask. This will help you to avoid memory lapses!
Prepare answers to standard questions
What questions will you answer during the interview? Some questions are inevitable, so it’s best to prepare for these.
The recruiter has three main concerns:
1. Are you able to respond to the company’s needs? Aim to demonstrate a good understanding of what the internship entails, what the team’s needs are, what skills are required, and that you can act on your own initiative.
2. Are you going to be motivated and invested in the internship? Show what motivates you, what could resonate with your interests, your area of study, and so on.
3. The practical details of your internship: Your availability, the length of the internship, the possibility of it leading to a full-time role, and so on.
It’s best to have responses ready for these points.
Prepare questions for the end of the interview
“Do you have any questions?”
There’s a 99% chance that the interview will end with this question. When this happens, you’ll be glad to have a few specific, relevant questions prepared. Of course, before coming out with them, be sure that you haven’t already heard the responses during the interview and that they aren’t written all over the company website. This will help you to avoid looking like you’ve not been paying attention.
To demonstrate maturity and dedication, ask for additional information and end the interview with an understanding of the next steps in the process.
Follow up with a thank you email
Don’t forget to send a thank you email after the interview. It’s a nice way to remind people of you and to set yourself apart from the other candidates. You can even create a reminder in your calendar before the interview—this will keep you from forgetting about this last step once the pressure of the interview is gone.
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Photograph by WTTJ
Translated by Kate Lindsmith