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An Internship Story: The Interview

When it comes to landing an internship, the process is not always a walk in the park. Between knowing what you want to intern in, sailing through the interview, and mastering your first day (and the many days to follow), things can get a bit overwhelming. Therefore, we’ve developed a series to guide you through the journey of an internship and help you each step of the way.

Yesterday we shared pointers on the application process (read more here). If you got a call for an interview, then recruiters are pretty much impressed with your application! But there is still one more leg to this journey, so in order to get an offer, you must nail the interview. The following guidelines will help you do just that.

Before The Interview

Research

This adds on to the research you conducted during the application. Research the history of the corporation or company you aim to intern with. Nothing too meticulous is necessary, but a basic knowledge of the company’s clients, major achievements, or maybe even employees (like writers for the company, photographers, or business partners). Know the answer to the question, ‘Why do you want to intern with us?’. Because “I need money” or “experience” is not the right answer.

Potential Interview Questions

People get asked all sorts of questions during interviews. While some questions might seem a bit absurd, all the interviewers are trying to do is get to know you. The real you. They read about you through your cover letter and resume, but now they want to know about the personality that accompanies your incredible skills. Expect to speak about yourself—typically the first thing you will do. A good way to stay on track is to start with the present moment, talk about what you did before this interview and close with why you are there today.

Example:

“I am currently a student at ________ where I am studying _______. 

Prior to that I was doing______ OR lived at______ where I __________.

I am very interested in working with__________ OR learning about _____________, which is why I applied for the _______ position.”

Some other questions you might be asked include:

“What are some of your strengths/weaknesses?”

“Tell us about a situation in which you had to resolve a problem?”

“How do you deal with stressful situations?”

“What do you expect to gain from this internship?”

Prepare answers to these questions ahead of time, so that you aren’t caught off-guard and thrown off your game.

Interview Structure

While most interviews are conducted in an office setting, there are other ways for the interview to occur. With remote jobs on the rise, don’t be surprised if an interviewer asks for a Skype interview or even a phone interview.  

Skype and phone interviews are much easier to cruise through. Just make sure you are in a quiet setting where you won’t be disrupted. An empty house or library study room are good options. With both interview settings, you’ll be able to keep a cheat sheet on standby for key points you might wish to discuss. Remember to remain just as professional as you would be in a traditional interview. For a Skype interview, make sure (at least) your upper half is presentable. It’s best to keep a simple background behind you—a white wall with a landscape portrait or clock is neutral enough without looking too plain. It’s also best to set up a Skype account with a professional name, catlover346xoxo should remain as the friends and family account.

Body Language

Along with the actual words you are saying, the execution is equally important. Try practicing in front of a mirror, or maybe have a friend record you during a mock interview then play your performance back. Keep a lookout for body language. There should be no slouching or crossing arms or legs. Instead hands should be folded and placed onto your lap or on the table in front of you if there is one. Legs should be planted firmly on the ground or tucked one behind the other. Make sure to maintain eye contact while speaking and remember to throw your gum out before you get to the interview!

Attire

It should be a given that regardless of where you are interviewing, your outfit should be clean, ironed, and professional. While most places understand that students do not have a closet filled with suits and office wear, they still expect you to be presentable. Places like H&M, Loft, JCPenny, and Kohls, to name a few, will have plenty of affordable pieces for you to mix and match your way through an interview and potentially the internship. Pro-tip? Invest in staple items (black pants, navy pants, pencil skirt, white blouse, black blouse, dress shoes) and add in cardigans or accessories from your current collection.

Prepare your outfit the night before, just in case anything needs ironing or adjusting… you don’t want to be worrying about it the day of your interview.

Day Of The Interview

Make sure to set your alarm to give you plenty of time to get ready in the morning. Wake up relaxed, enjoy a cup of coffee, tea, or juice with a light yet balanced breakfast. Don’t leave your house without eating, otherwise you won’t be able to focus during the interview.

Play some upbeat tunes as you brush your teeth! Your spirits need to be high and your confidence in place. Keep your hair and make-up simple and professional. A ponytail or a high bun will work best.

Bring along a copy of your resume and cover letter, as well as a pen and small notepad, just in case.

Give yourself an extra fifteen minutes for travel time. It’s better to arrive ten minutes early than five minutes late. Use the restroom if you have to and look at yourself through the mirror to make sure all your buttons are buttoned and everything is right where it needs to be. Tell yourself that you got this, and now you’re ready for the interview!

Enter the room with a smile. You only have one chance at a first impression, and a smile is the best way to start. Shake hands with your interviewer and remember to make eye contact as you do. Sit down when told to be seated and be prepared to convince them that you are the one for the job.

After The Interview

Most of the time, applicants can sense whether the interview went well or not. If the interviewer gives you a timeline for when you should expect an answer, make sure you don’t forget it. Once the interview is complete, shake the interviewer’s hand once more and don’t forget to thank them for their time, regardless of how you think the interview went.

Once you return home, send the interviewer a brief email thanking them for their consideration. If you are still interested in the internship, reiterate this in the email. The email is not intended to add anything to the interview, but if you have the urge to mention something you forgot during the interview, it is not recommended that you do so. The sole purpose of this email is to showcase your professionalism and assure the interviewers that you are still interested in joining their team after meeting them.

Then comes the wait. If the timeline the interviewers gave you passed and you have yet to hear a response, feel free to nudge them and inquire as to whether they have reached a decision or not. If you were not given a timeline, two weeks is an appropriate time to wait for a response.

If all goes well, then a follow-up email or call will let you know that you have landed the interview of your dreams!

But before your first-day jitters kick-in, don’t worry! We got you covered. Next week, we’ll show you how to slay your first day on the job!

Rama Majzoub

New School

Rama is Editor in Chief and Campus Correspondent at The New School. She is on track to graduate with a master's in psychology in spring of 2018.
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