When spring rolls around, it finally hits you that the hours you spent binge-watching The Office as “research” did not get you any closer to landing a summer internship. During that lost time, your friends were out interviewing, landing killer internships and are now happily gearing up for spring break in Cabo. Yeah, you procrastinated on the whole being responsible thing, but if you avoid some of these cringe-worthy interview mishaps you may be able to score an internship in the nick of time.
1. Have a Little Interviewing Swag
The interviewer doesn’t need to know they’re your last chance at avoiding a painful summer of making overpriced frappuccinos for snitchy preteens as the local barista. The moment you make an interview awkward with all your nervous antics you can go kiss your summer goodbye. Bree Moore, Director of HR Strategy and Services at the University of San Diego shared how she has faced interviewees who’ve been so nervous they would profusely sweat or even start to shake. Take a little time to practice in front of a mirror or with a friend if that will calm you down. Do anything you have to in order to avoid handing the HR rep a sweat-smudged resume because it’ll be in the trash the moment you leave the office.
2. But Don’t Go Crazy
Karen Briggs in the USD HR Department said, “The worst interviews I’ve seen have been when people are over-confident. It comes across as condescending and disrespectful. There is no way they can know all of the nuances about an organization, so a little humility goes a long way.” There’s a difference between confident and cocky. If you are going to land an internship, you better figure out that difference—fast. Sure, you may have taken a few classes on the subject, but you’re no expert. No company wants an intern with a know-it-all attitude. Dealing with that for a whole summer just sounds exhausting.
3. You Just Gotta Keep It Loose
Karen Oropeza, the Executive Assistant for the HR Department at USD said, “A lot of interview questions these days are the same—strengths, weakness, etc. When I ask questions like, ‘What do you like the least about the job description?’ or, ‘Why should we hire you?’ they are surprised and I generally get a candid answer.” Interviewers don’t want to hear the lame interview answers you memorized from a Google search. That freshman gen-ed acting class you took may come in handy, because being able to gracefully improv may be what lands you the internship.
4. Why Would You Use One-Liners? Ever?
Whether you’re in a bar or a boardroom, the quickest way to kill the mood is to use a cliché one-liner. Lines like “My biggest weakness is being too organized” will make your potential employer cringe. That summer internship is as good as gone if you can’t loosen up and come up with unique and honest answers to interview questions.
5. Helicopter Parents Are Everywhere
If an interview goes south, run home and hide the mom-goggles. If your mom straps those puppies on and then hears you didn’t get hired, all hell will break loose. Moore recalled when she worked in the HR department at Sea World, where she interviewed a lot of minors. If they didn’t get the job, parents would frequently call in a tizzy, demanding to know why their kid hadn’t been hired. Take the batteries out of their cell phone if you have to, because under no circumstances should you let your mom make a call.
6. You Called Nine Times?!
Sure, it’s nerve-racking to sit by the phone waiting to hear back about an interview. Pick at your split ends, inhale some Cheeze-Its and make a list of potential stripper names; just don’t start harassing your interviewer asking for a status update. Christian Flynn, Human Resources Assistant at USD said, “Don’t keep following up with an application. Maybe call once to make sure we received all your documents but past that don’t keep calling us.” Don’t force them to start screening your calls. Sit tight and don’t change from an enthusiastic applicant to obsessive stalker.
7. Oh Sh*t
Both Flynn and Moore said, “I’ve had people curse in an interview.” If you’re comfortable enough to use that language in an interview, what are you like normally? It’s disconcerting. Don’t act like you’re at a football game, catcalling at women, throwing back beers with your buddies. This interview could be your last shot at securing an elusive summer internship, so don’t screw it up by being unprofessional…duh.
8. Don’t Share Every Thought
Interviews are just pageants without all the glitter. You’re letting someone openly judge you, heck yes that can get awkward. Don’t let your awkwardness bring on an unfortunate case of diarrhea of the mouth if an awkward silence comes up. Moore said, “A lot of people have problems with silence. I take notes during an interview so naturally there are pauses and some people feel the need to fill those.” Your interviewer really doesn’t need to know about your latex allergy or sexy yoga teacher, so keep a lid on it.
9. Resumes Aren’t Art Projects
Flynn told a story about how a gentleman had included a picture of a robot in their resume. He was an engineer and had built this robot so he wanted to include it, but no way was it appropriate for a resume. Employers don’t want a six-page, self-obsessed ode to your own accomplishment. People are narcissists, they couldn’t really care less as long as you’re qualified and personable, so keep the resume brief and get to the point.
10. Houston, We Avoided A Problem
Yay, you did it! You landed an internship before summer started and confetti is practically falling from the ceiling. But when summer comes around and you waltz into your new internship, don’t set yourself on cruise control. David Keszei, a professor in the USD Business School said, “Students many times do not realize that an internship is not only an opportunity to experience a company, its business and culture, but also an incredible opportunity to professionally network and build contacts within an industry.” Use your new internship as more than something to add to your family’s brag-y Christmas card. Use it to weasel your way into a real “adult” job so you don’t wind up as an over-qualified, bitter barista after graduation.