Stand Out as an Applicant: Tips for Internship Interviews
Tips to ensure you’ll stand out amongst the crowd and get that internship.
May 22, 2016
No matter where you are in life, interviews are stressful. Whether you’ve been through hundreds or it’s your first interview experience, the preparation process is filled with anxiety.
Chances are, if you’re interviewing for an internship opportunity, you haven’t been through that many interviews in your lifetime. But, the more you prepare, the less anxious you’ll feel.
Lucky for you, the first step is getting an interview! Pat yourself on the back, because they were obviously impressed with your credentials enough to want to meet you regarding the position.
Now, the next step is planning and preparing for the interview. As an internship candidate, interviews may be slightly different than regular old job interviews.
Good news! Your interviewer knows that you’re less experienced – after all, that’s the point of an internship, right? That means that you have a little more leeway in terms of being nervous and internship interviews are often a little more forgiving.
Please don’t take this as “they know I’m inexperienced so I don’t need to prepare.” That mentality could not be further from the truth! In fact, the more you prepare, the more you’ll outshine the competition and become a front-runner for the position. Which means you’ll be that much closer to achieving your goal.
Follow these helpful tips to better prepare you for an internship interview:
Research the company, your interviewers and the job description and title before the interview.
You need to be aware of the position before entering your interview. It isn’t your interviewer’s job to make you aware of the job description – it’s your job to let them know why you’d be a great fit for the job description!
Make sure you know the company’s purpose, what it stands for and the goals it’s trying to accomplish. That way, you can speak to why you want to work for that particular company, if asked.
Also, knowing your interviewer’s job description is helpful for your questions.
Research lists of potential interview questions so that you can prepare your answers. These are meant for practice, not memorization.
There are endless resources online with potential internship interview questions – look as many up as possible, just in case!
Chances are you won’t prepare all of the right questions, but this exercise helps you think about the types of responses you’d like to give.
Ensure you have concrete examples of your prior experiences, since it’s often difficult to think of on the spot.
Be sure to customize your resume for each interview opportunity. Nothing screams “lazy” like a generic resume and cover letter!
Often times, job candidates think that potential employers won’t notice especially if you have built in sections to include the company’s name, but it’s much more obvious than you think.
Your first impression is so very important and, like it or not, one of the main factors is how you present yourself. Dress professionally – no matter how informal you think the interview is going to be.
A good rule of thumb is that it’s always better to overdress than underdress, so don’t worry if you seem more professional than the other candidates. Seriously, how could being “too professional” be a bad thing?
Prior to the interview, email your resume, cover letter and portfolio (if applicable) to your interviewer, the hiring manager and HR department. Ensure that you’re using a professional email address (email@example.com is not appropriate) and that you’ve saved the files with your last name in the title (for example, E. Smith Resume). Professionals receiving multiple emails with the same materials will appreciate that you’ve taken their convenience into account.
Bring extra copies of your resume, cover letter and references with you to the interview – one of each for each of your interviewers and a few extra copies, just in case. If applicable, bring any business cards or copies of your portfolio, too.
Also, ensure you have a pen and a notepad to take notes during the interview. It will show your interviewer that you find the information valuable and don’t want to risk forgetting anything.
It’s also polite, at the beginning of the interview, to ask your interviewer if they mind if you take notes. That way, everyone is on the same page with what you’re doing rather than wondering what you’re writing.
6. Information Organization
“I lost my contact information. Can I get it again?” or “Who am I interviewing with again?” DON’T be that guy!
Know who you’re interviewing with before, during and after the process including the interviewer’s name, job title and contact information.
Keep all of your information organized and accessible, so that you can rely on yourself for pertinent information.
You certainly don’t want to come across as scatterbrained or unorganized, which is exactly what will happen in these scenarios.
7. The Elevator Speech
In case you don’t know what that is, an elevator speech is prepared in case you suddenly find yourself in a situation – like, say, on the elevator with the president of the company – where you need to pitch yourself within a few short moments.
Prepare your elevator speech beforehand, which should detail who you are, what your goals are and why you are a great candidate for the internship. Having an elevator speech ready before your interview can make the difference between an awkward moment and a defining moment within your career.
8. Arrive Early
The 15 minute rule applies here. You don’t want to arrive too early and make the interviewer scramble to get ready or feel uncomfortable because of how long you need to wait. 15 minutes is the perfect amount of time to show that you’re prepared and punctual.
It’s often a good idea to arrive earlier – just don’t go into the building or office if you’re earlier than 15 minutes. Get a cup of coffee or review your notes nearby – you want to give yourself enough time in case the unbelievable happens (what if your car breaks down or the train is late?) or you can’t locate the building (assuming you’ve never been there before).
9. Give Thanks
No matter how informal the interview seems, always send a handwritten follow-up note thanking your interview for their time.
Handwriting the note personalizes the thank you and shows that you took time and effort, just as your interviewer did in order to speak with you.
This is so important that it should be repeated for clarity: always send a handwritten thank you note!
In the thank you note, detail why you’d love to become a part of the team and touch upon something you discussed within your interview.
There are a variety of ways to make these references and they can be as simple as “thank you for taking the time to explain the intern’s duties in further detail.”
Here’s another, more unique example:
In the question portion of her interview, a friend asked her interviewer if there was anything he would like to see on her resume, but didn’t. (By the way, that’s a great question to ask because it opens the interview up to discuss what they believe are your weaknesses and you’ll be able to address them directly.)
He jokingly responded that he noticed she went to a rival school and he would like to see the other school on her resume. As a result, she capitalized on the joke and composed her thank you note on stationary of the school he “wanted” to see on her resume.
He was completely amused and impressed that she had remembered their discussion and his joke. According to his secretary, that was what put her ahead of all other candidates, who were equally as impressive during their interviews.
Obviously, the note didn’t get her the job – her credentials did – however, he was able to picture a great working relationship since she made herself personable, giving her an advantage over the other potential candidates.
That’s just one story out of endless stories where personalization paid off. Every situation is different, but drawing some personal reference from each interview is possible. Clearly, personalizing a thank you note can take you from being a great job candidate to the job candidate.
You want the internship. You are the internship candidate. Remember that since it’s something you want, it’s your responsibility to follow-up.
An interviewer is never going to chase you; you should be the one doing the chasing! After all, they already have a job, you don’t.
Always wait at least one week after the interview has taken place and, if you still have not heard anything, follow-up with a call to inquire about their decision.