So You're Looking For A Summer Internship: The Interview

Welcome back to my summer internship series, part three of four! We’ve put ourselves out there as amazing candidates, we’re networking like nobody’s business, and now our hard work has come to the scariest step of the process: the interview(s). Eek!

Before you start stressing, don’t forget to congratulate yourself. You’ve been hand-selected out of a sea of applicants to talk about everything you’ve been bragging about on your resumes, cover letters, and portfolios to an actual human at the company you’re applying to. This is big! Let’s keep the momentum going and prepare for a killer interview. 

woman on laptop studying Photo by JESHOOTS.COM from Unsplash

1. Do your research. This is an obvious one, but I make it my first priority. Your interviewer will almost certainly ask you about your interest in their company and you want to be ready to praise the company like it’s, well, your job (manifestation at its finest)! Look out for things on the company’s website like its philosophy or brand manifesto, its history, featured work/projects, and/or any sustainability or social justice initiatives that may be in place. Some of your research might seem trivial, but you never know when the circumstances might call for it! Side note: there is such a thing as too much research. A good rule of thumb is to make sure the information you gather is information you can repeat in your own words. Anything you’re repeatedly forgetting is probably too irrelevant to the internship you’re interviewing for.

2. Connect your insights to your experience. Once you jot down which aspects of the company you’re most inspired by, connect them to your academic or professional experiences. Interviewers love concrete examples, so get specific! I’m talking group projects, essays, daily assignments from an old boss or supervisor—anything that relates to your passion for the industry and company at hand.

3. Use the STAR method. When talking about those concrete examples, I like following the below framework to keep my thoughts in line! 

Situation: Set the scene of your scenario.

Task: Describe the specifics of what was required from you, including challenges you may have faced.

Action: Elaborate on your specific action. What did you do and how did you do it?

Result: What happened? Explain benefits or accomplishments. 

Here’s an example: At my previous job, a coworker quit days before the deadline of an important project. I was asked to assume full responsibility for the project, but only had a few days to learn about and complete the project. I created a task force and delegated assignments to my fellow coworkers, and we all completed the project with a day to spare. The client loved our end result and asked us to do more work for them!

4. Prepare answers to general interview questions. Interviewers tend to ask different versions of the same questions, so some general prep work will go a long way! Below are some examples of questions I like to make sure I have answers to.

Tell me about yourself.

Why do you want this position?

Give me an example of a time you had to make an unpopular decision. How did you communicate it? What happened?

Tell me about a time when the path forward wasn’t clear and you had to figure it out.

Give me an example of a time when you went above and beyond the call of duty.

What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?

Tell me about a time you demonstrated leadership skills. 

Tell me about a time when you messed up. What did you do?

What motivates you?

What should I know about you that’s not on your resume?

Do you have any questions for me?

5. Prepare questions to ask the interviewer! When your interviewer asks if you have any questions, the answer is always yes! Below are some of my go-to examples. 

What is one piece of advice would you give to someone who is about to start in this role?

Will I get the chance to shadow an employee or get a mentor when I start?

How does the company respond to taking risks? And failure?

What’s your favorite aspect of day-to-day work life?

What’s your favorite workplace tradition?

What are the next steps in the interview process?

6. Look the part… even over Zoom! Throwing on a blazer over a nice top will never hurt. Pair with your coziest pajama bottoms and you’re set! 

And lastly, to reiterate a main theme of this series, confidence is key! Show your interviewer why you’re worth their time and, more importantly, worth a spot on their team. Like I’ve said before, I’m in this scary process with you—I have a second interview tomorrow and I’ll definitely be referencing the resources mentioned above to prep! 

Good luck, future interns—we’re in the home stretch!