Have you ever thought of interviews from the POV of the interviewer? While interviewing via Skype a prospective intern from the University of Arizona, Burns Entertainment operations manager Janell Santiago heard a party song. “I finally said something because it was so distracting, and he said he was hoping I couldn’t hear it.” She cut the interview short. In the past, Santiago has had people interview in rooms that were a mess, or while dressed in pajamas. “I am fairly easygoing and want students to feel comfortable,” Santiago said. “Some people equate that with being too comfortable and the level of professionalism goes out the door.” Yikes.
Ready to rock that internship interview? You’ll want to avoid these mistakes.
Read over your documents
Impressions start before the interview. Students often overlook small details when applying for an internship. You need to double-check company requirements during the application process. For instance, according to Santiago, Burns Entertainment requires a cover letter, which students often ignore. In fact, she said that when they do receive cover letters, they are addressed to a different company entirely. “There is never an excuse for this, even though some students try,” she said.
The name of a resume file or cover letter matters. Avoid general file names. Instead, include your name in the title. “It can be frustrating to receive a resume file that’s named Resume Final 2, especially since we get a lot of resumes each day,” Shannen Olan, community manager for Dormify, said. “It’s a tiny detail that doesn’t go unnoticed.”
Customize the application materials, said Sid Holt, chief executive of American Society of Magazine Editors. “That goes for letters of recommendation too,” Holt said. “Generic letters tell me the recommendation can’t be relied on.”
Don’t overlook company background
Research the company before you go to the interview. Jennifer Neef, associate director of the Career Center of the University of Illinois, suggests starting with the company website. After that, Neef said students shouldn’t undervalue personal connections they have with the company. Talk to past interns and graduates now working for the company through LinkedIn. “It is not enough to just know the company,” Neef said. “You must be able to articulate that to the employers.”
Know the company’s mission, values, history, departments and products or services, said Andrea White, assistant director of student services at Indiana University. She recommends staying up to date through news and press releases on the company’s social media pages like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
And what if you didn’t do your research? According to Santiago, her biggest issue is when interviewees give excuses for not knowing what they have applied for. Interviewers can spot lies in the same way your sixth sense tells your roommate has stolen your last slice of pizza.
Finally, Olan she finds it impressive when an intern has an idea or concept they think the company should work into their strategy. Hey, your ultimate goal revolves around contributing to the company. Why not go that extra mile and show your enthusiasm?
Don’t say too little
Not only does body language and professionalism matter during an interview, but the interactions are just as important. Interviews are a two-way evaluation and assessment, Neef said. Olan agreed that asking questions during the interview is super important. “When someone doesn’t have any questions to ask us it can come off as though they aren’t interested in hearing more about the position,” she said.
White suggests asking these five questions: What do you hope a person in this role will have accomplished in a year from now? What are the first projects I would take on when getting this role? What are some challenges to success in this role? How do you see me contributing to the overall goals of the company? Can you tell me more about the culture and community of the company?
A common mistake? Not fully answering questions or giving short responses, Olan said. Think about it—if you were the interviewer and your interviewee gave you half-baked answers, would you hire them? “Responses to my questions can be indicative of their personality, meaning how well they handle criticism, workloads and pressures,” Santiago said. “I feel like I have to pull teeth to find out more.”
To avoid this mistake, students should anticipate questions, Neef said. For instance, as she said, you could engage in mock interviews with friends is a good way to practice.
According to White, you should read the job posting and look for the skills and requirements listed when it comes to anticipating questions. She also suggests having answers prepared for at least these five questions: tell me about yourself, what are your biggest strengths, what do you believe will be your biggest challenge to success, why are you interested in this organization specifically and tell me about a time you had to work with a team.
With these in mind, go forth and conquer that interview. You got this.
Looking for more tips on landing your dream internship?
“Pro tip: List only the most impressive and relevant points in reverse chronological order, including the location and the time period you worked there. While looking at a stack of resumes, your potential employer’s short attention span needs a reason to keep reading. If you’re applying for a marketing position, don’t bother including high school goalie, but make sure to list last year’s business internship. Don’t forget to write out a job description and acquired skills for each position to show how your previous experience will translate at the job you’re about to land.”
“The employer wants to make sure that you’re not there just for a paycheck, so don’t answer, ‘Because I need a job.’ They’re looking for someone who can grow as a person and an employee. Tell them things you like about the company and how your strengths align with the job, like the company dynamics or the ability to grow with the opportunities they have. This will make you a better candidate than the competition.”