Interview like an ace: Helpful tips

I hope everyone has been having some luck with their internship search!  In February, I applied to a ton of internships – through J-connect, corporate websites, and from some other internship databases.  Now, I’m beginning to hear back from companies, and have even done a few interviews already.  Last week, I had several phone interviews because I was unable to interview in person.  Although I generally don’t mind interviews, phone interviews tend to make me a bit nervous.  There are always awkward pauses and the interviewer can’t completely get a sense of who I am.  However, I think they went pretty well, and I was able to have some in-depth conversations about my interests and experiences.

For this blog entry, I wanted to compile a list of some of the most helpful interview tips I’ve read and heard.  Although applying for internships may seem daunting, the interview, whether in person or over the phone, seems to be the most important part of the process for many employers.

1.  Do your research!  You should know about the company, especially the company’s mission and core values.  Use some similar vocabulary during the interview to show that you’re actually interested in that particular position.  Oftentimes, we apply to so many similar internships that they all run together, but it’s important to show the interviewer that their company and their opportunities are a priority for you.

2. In addition to studying the “About Us” section of a company’s website, you should also take a look to see what the company has been up to lately.  Many corporate websites have a news and events section, or just Google the company.  Understanding the projects that they are currently working on will show the interviewer that you are already up to speed on the company’s work.

3.  Bring a few copies of your resume, your cover letter, recommendations, and any other documents that relate to the internship.  Even if the person interviewing you has already seen your resume, you should always bring an updated version.  I bought an official looking notepad/portfolio at the bookstore and always bring that along with copies of all of my internship documents.  If an interviewer mentions computers or graphic design, I can just pull out my graphic design portfolio instead of having to describe it.  Also, this will show the interviewer that you are prepared and organized.

4. Always get to the interview location early and be especially polite.  I usually try to get to the office about 20 minutes before the scheduled interview so I can sit down and collect my thoughts before the meeting.  Usually a secretary or assistant will greet you, so make sure to be polite and friendly to anyone you see in the office.  These could potentially be your coworkers, so it’s important to make a good impression.

5. During the interview, focus on being calm, cool, and collected.  Try not to speak too fast or too much, as this may make you seem flustered and nervous.  I always try to have an actual conversation with the interviewer, as opposed to a basic question and answer because it calms my nerves and makes the interview more natural.

6.  Prepare some questions beforehand.  An interviewer will always ask you if you have any other questions or comments after they are done, and I find they really appreciate a few questions.  Depending on the type of company and nature of the internship position, you can ask about what a typical day in that internship is like, what their favorite part of working for that company is, what type of corporate/office culture exists there, etc.  Generally, students have trouble coming up with questions to ask the interviewer, but you must have something that you’re curious about and the Interviewer will always be happy to answer these types of questions.

7. Be positive!  Even if you did not love a previous work experience, you should not bad-mouth that company or person.  After all, it was a learning experience.  Throughout the interview, make sure to speak positively and maintain eye contact with the interviewer.  You want to seem engaged, optimistic, and professional.

8.  Follow up with the interviewer.  The next day, always send a thank you note.  it can be a brief email thanking the interviewer for their time or a more elaborate hand-written note.  No matter what, you should always send a thank you.  The interviewer took time out of their day to meet with you.  Also, a follow-up note shows that you are really interested in the position and are waiting to hear back.

Of course, there are dozens of interview strategies, but I think this covers the most basic tips.  Essentially, you just want to seem professional and mature.  It needs to be obvious that you will fit in at the office, perform well, and actually benefit the group or company by interning there.  I hope everyone’s doing well with their internship search and starting to hear back about interviews and the next steps in the internship process!  Good Luck!!

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