Happy Monday! This is officially the last post in my internship series, and conveniently it’s also typically the last step in the internship application process. Yep, it’s the interview!
To be completely honest, interviews are the part of the application process that I always feel least confident about. While you can edit written materials to your heart’s content, you can’t edit words once they’ve come out of your mouth. As a result, I always end up ruminating on what I could’ve done better and feeling less-than-fully-satisfied at how the interview itself went. Despite this, I’ve been told that I interview well, so my lack of confidence is likely due in part to the fact that I’m typically way harsher on myself than I should be.
Tip #1: Dress the part (aka business professional)
Unless the dress code is specifically stated, assume that you’re expected to wear business professional for an interview. Yes, this means a blazer and pants/a skirt/a dress. It’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed, so business professional is always a safe bet. While I’d love to say that people don’t judge other people based on their appearance, that almost always happens during the internship application process – if you appear messy, the assumption will be made that you are messy, even if you’re not.
If you’re doing a phone interview, you get to skip this part. Yay for interviewing in sweatpants!
Tip #2: Think of it as a normal conversation
I saw someone post about this on LinkedIn, and it’s so spot-on. You may not have a ton of “interview experience,” but chances are you’ve got almost 20 years of “conversation experience.” Essentially, an interview is just a slightly more formal conversation. Your résumé showed your accomplishments and your cover letter showed your passions – your interview is the time to show YOU. Many interviews are designed to get a good sense of your personality, so make sure you show it. These interviewers are likely going to be people you’re going to work with, so not only are they looking for a qualified candidate, but they’re also looking for someone they’ll want to work with. Being yourself and showing that you’ve got a good personality backing up those qualifications goes a long way.
Tip #3: Practice your answers, but not too much
It’s good to have a general grasp on how you’ll answer questions like “why do you want to work here?” and other common interview questions, but there’s such a thing as too much practice. If you basically have a script that you rattle off for these answers, your answer may sound automatic and forced rather than showing off your genuine personality. Going back to tip #2, it’s a conversation – having talking points is good; having an exact script, not so good.
Tip #4: It’s ok to give yourself time to think
Have you ever gotten a question during an interview that’s so far out of left field that you have no clue how to respond to it? I know that I have. In moments like that, the natural tendency is to dive straight into an answer, even if you’re making it up along the way. I’m here to point out that that’s not actually necessary. When you’re caught off guard and need a moment to gather your thoughts, say just that: “that’s an excellent question, can I have a moment to think about that?” Unless you’re in a strictly timed interview, your interviewer isn’t likely to have a problem with that – if anything, it shows that you’re good at thinking through a problem instead of jumping in too quickly. Use those few moments to draw up a general outline of your answer in your head. This way you have a good sense of direction before you reply instead of having to find your direction while you’re already talking.
Tip #5: Have (good) questions prepared
At the end of the interview, there’s a 95% chance that your interviewer will ask, “do you have any questions for me?” The answer to that question should always be yes; you should always prepare a question or two before your interview. Don’t ask questions that you can find the answer to on the website; ask either qualitative questions (like “how would you describe your experience at this company?”) or questions that show you’ve done your research (like “I noticed the company prioritizes this value; can you explain how the company does that?) Those types of questions show the interviewer that you’re genuinely interested in what the organization does and already thinking of how you’ll fit in with the company.
Tip #6: Send a thank-you note
Always, always, always send a thank-you note after an interview. It can be short and sweet, but make sure you acknowledge that they took time out of their workday to talk to you. It also doesn’t hurt to bring up something specific you talking about during the interview or ask another question that popped into your mind afterwards – this will help the interviewer remember you. For more thank-you note tips, check out this post.
Also, if you’re like me and ponder over things you wish you mentioned in an interview, the thank-you note is an excellent place to throw those comments in.
Best of luck to any of my gals applying to internships right now! I hope this series gave you a few new helpful tips to add to your arsenal.