Ace Your Internship Interviews

Interview success starts with your pre-interview preparations, but how you perform during the interview is obviously important, too. Interviews can be nerve-wracking even when you are well prepared.

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Make a great impression during your internship interviews by keeping the following points in mind:

  • Don’t make a major interview boo-boo. According to CareerBuilder, six of the most common interview mistakes are:
    • Answering a Phone Call – Don’t even take your phone with you into your interview. Leave it in the car.
    • Wearing the Wrong Attire – Please, nothing short, tight, or leopard print. Yes, I’ve seen it done.
    • Appearing Disinterested – If you don’t even look like you want to be at the interview, why would your interviewer think you want to come to work?
    • Appearing Arrogant – There is a fine line between promoting the skills you bring to an organization and having a big head.
    • Dissing Your Previous Job – If you say bad things about your previous employer, your interviewer knows what you’re going to do to them if they upset you on the job.
    • Talking While Chewing Gum – Why would you be chewing gum at an interview?!
  • Be nice to EVERYONE. From the minute you step onto the premises, you are being evaluated. The way you treat everyone from the custodian in the hallway to your interviewer is being watched. How you treat people says a lot about you. Make sure it says good things.
  • Present yourself with confidence. Shake hands confidently. Smile. Maintain good posture. Nonverbal communication can often speak louder than actual words, so be aware of how you carry yourself.
  • Don’t talk too much, but really answer the questions. Most interview questions can’t easily be answered with “yes” or “no,” but it doesn’t stop some people. Other people take it to opposite extreme and talk WAY too much. I once sat in on an interview where the interviewee took about 15 minutes to answer a question. Yes, my fellow interviewers and I were all watching the clock. It is important to provide details in your answers to interviewer’s questions, but keep your responses concise.
  • Remember to ask questions. The last question you will probably be asked in the interview is “Do you have questions for us?” The answer is yes, you do have questions. Have a few questions ready to go before the interview. A good question to add to your list is asking about the decision timeline. This helps you determine when it is appropriate to follow up with the organization.

As for how to answer the most common interview questions, check out this great infographic: Most Asked Interview Questions and How to Answer Them.

You can find additional interviewing advice on my Pinterest board, Interview Tips & Tricks.

QUESTION: Have you ever made a major interview boo-boo?

Photo Source

How to Prepare for Internship Interviews

So, where are you in the process of applying for a summer internship? Here on the UW-Whitewater Internship Blog, we have:

Next up are interviews!

Prepare for Internship Interview

When you think about interviews, I would like you to think of them in three parts:

  1. Before the Interview
  2. The Interview Itself
  3. After the Interview

Here are three things to accomplish BEFORE your internship interviews:

  • Do Your Homework: Yes, I just told you to do homework for your interview. Don’t worry, though. It’s not too difficult. First, learn as much as possible about the organization you are interviewing with. Spend time on their website, take notes, and come away with a good understanding of what the organization does and what they stand for. Second, learn a little bit about your interviewer and/or your potential supervisor. Don’t stalk people, but take a look at their LinkedIn profiles so you have a sense of what they do with the organization and what their background is. Finally, spend some quality time thinking about who you are. What are your strengths? What relevant skills do you possess? What stories can you tell to describe ways you have worked in a team, showed leadership skills, handled conflict, etc.?
  • Understand What Constitutes “Appropriate” Interview Attire: Nice clothes aren’t always the same as appropriate interview clothes. You might have a skirt that is great for going to dinner with friends, but it’s too short for an interview. You might have a cartoon tie that is fun for holidays, but it’s not a good look in the office. Get started by browsing two of my Pinterest boards: What to Wear – Women and What to Wear – Men.
  • PRACTICE: Interviewing is a skill, one that we don’t practice very often. If you have never interviewed for a job before, if it has been awhile since your last interview, if you’re nervous, or if you just want to make sure you are as prepared as you possibly can be, set up a mock interview with a career advisor. We will ask you common interview questions and give you feedback. Then, keep practicing after the mock interview to incorporate the feedback into your responses. Whatever you do, don’t let THE interview be your practice interview.

Preparing for your interview will help you make a good first impression with the employer. You’ll be ready to answer tough interview questions. And you’ll look great.

Question: What is the scariest thing about an interview?

Internship Applications: What Do You Need?

After you find an internship that interests you and after you have polished up your resume, it’s time to actually apply for a position. But how exactly do you do that? It’s a question I’ve received a lot lately, so I decided it was a good topic to cover on the ol’ blog.

Apply for Internship

As you move towards the professional world, formal application forms will become few and far between. Will you ever have to fill out an application again? Maybe. Some large corporations might have an online application to complete. In some industries, you might still see paper and pencil forms. But for the most part, you will be submitting your own materials to apply for internships.

So what will you be asked for when applying for an internship? Here are a few possibilities:

  1. A Resume – I wrote about internship resumes last week. Resumes take the place of formal application forms for professional and pre-professional positions. When you think about it, your resume contains most of the information requested by an application form. However, a good resume is targeted for the specific opportunity and can give an employer a better sense of what you are capable of accomplishing.
  2. A Cover Letter – Some employers may formally ask you to submit a cover letter (aka letter of application or letter of interest) when applying for an internship. If you are asked to submit such a letter, then you need to do so. But what if you aren’t asked to submit a cover letter? You are always welcome to do so anyways. A cover letter allows you to go into more detail about how you are qualified for the position, and cover letters have been a traditional piece of the application process. The key with a cover letter is to make it well-written and appropriately focused. It’s about the employer, not about you. Virginia Tech Career Services gives a good overview of the cover letter writing process. I also encourage you to seek guidance from a career advisor as you begin writing a cover letter for the first time.
  3. Writing Samples – If you are applying for an internship that involves a lot of writing – internships in Journalism and Public Relations come to mind – you might be asked to submit writing samples. Employers want to see your skills first hand. Boston College’s Career Center provides some good answers to common writing sample questions. Ask A Manager also covered it on her blog: What kind of writing sample do employers want to see?
  4. A Portfolio – Again, the request to see a portfolio will depend on the field you are seeking an internship in. You will commonly see them requested in creative fields, like Graphic Design, where an actual “product” is an important indicator of your skills. However, students in writing-heavy fields might also be asked to submit portfolios of their work. Portfolios can be used by students in a variety of fields. A link to an electronic portfolio can be an appropriate addition to any resume. Here’s a great post from YouTern on the topic: 5 Easy Steps to Build a “Recruiter-Ready” Online Portfolio.

This covers the standard elements of an internship application. In some cases, it might be as simple as sending in your resume. In others, you might be submitting some real work examples to further demonstrate your qualifications. Just be sure to give the employer everything that they are asking for. A complete application is the only acceptable application there is.

Have you seen any other materials requested for an internship application?

How to Target Your Resume for Internship Applications

Writing a resume is easy. Writing a perfectly targeted resume that sends you to the head of the pack is a little more challenging.

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When preparing to apply for internships, you could put together a basic resume and probably get some interviews using it. On the other hand, you can spend a little more time tailoring your resume to internship opportunities and stand out as an above average intern candidate. Here are a few ideas on how to target your resume for internships:

  • Include relevant coursework. If you haven’t had any relevant experience yet, I would encourage you to include information on the relevant courses you have completed. The most common way to do this is to list relevant courses in your Education section. Alternatively, you can create a stand-alone Relevant Coursework section and provide more detail. If creating a Relevant Coursework section, be very selective with the courses you list and only list a few. Focus on classes that included a relevant, large project. For example, I know of Advertising and Marketing courses in which students put together campaigns for real clients. List the name of the course and include a couple of bullet points describing your work on the project and outlining the results.
  • Don’t mistake a paycheck for experience. I see many students gaining relevant experience through opportunities that are NOT paid jobs. From providing social media marketing support for philanthropic projects to holding leadership positions with organizations, “experience” comes in all shapes and sizes. When you title your experience section “Work Experience,” you are making it all about paid jobs. Instead, call your section “Experience,” or create two sections: “Relevant Experience” and “Other Experience” (“Other” being for unrelated jobs you’ve held). When you think about it from a pure experience perspective, you might be bringing more to the table than originally thought.
  • Keep your resume to one page. One issue always up for debate is the acceptable length of a resume. While more than a page is accepted in certain circles, it is very hard to make the case for a multi-page resume for a college student with no internship experience. Ultimately, this is what targeting your resume is all about – understanding how to boil down your experiences to the most necessary details. If you are having difficulty doing this, meet with an objective party like a career advisor. One of us will tell you what your resume can do without.

Need more help preparing your resume for internship applications? Check out these posts from the past:

What is one way you have targeted your resume for internship opportunities?

How to Find an Internship

The first step to getting that all important internship is finding it. So this is where we will start your semester-long journey towards internship success.

First of all, finding an internship is not much different from finding any other job. This is one of the reasons I believe all students should seek out an internship opportunity. It’s perfect practice as you approach the BIG job search when graduation looms.

There are a variety of ways to find out about an internship opportunity. Here are the most common:

  • Internship Postings. Check out online internship/job boards for openly advertised internship opportunities. There are a seemingly endless number of websites out there. Some are exclusively for internships, like Internships.com. Others are resources you can use now for internships and use in the future for post-grad jobs, such as Hawk Jobs. Stick to quality search sites – Check with a career advisor if you are questioning a source. Also keep in mind that this is the most popular way to search for internships. The higher volume of viewers means more applicants for the opportunities and more competition for you. Read my previous post on effectively searching internship postings.
  • Employer Sourcing. Know of a company or organization that you would LOVE to intern for? Check them out directly. Once you identify an organization, see if they have internship opportunities posted on their website. If they don’t, reach out by phone or email. Read more about the complete employer sourcing process, from finding organizations to making contact.
  • Networking. Have you ever heard that it’s all about who you know? Well, it’s true. Next to searching postings and connecting directly with specific employers, networking has proven to be an effective strategy for UW-Whitewater students seeking internships. You already have connections through family and friends, and it’s never too late to build new ones. I’ve written about networking A LOT, but this networking post is a good overview of using it as a strategy in your search.
  • Create Your Own. Did you know that it is sometimes possible to create your own internship? This is a very proactive approach. But if you can make it happen, there is the potential to have one of the best internship experiences possible. Interested? Read all about the process of creating an internship.

Curious how other UW-Whitewater students found their internships? Read the stories of interns who have been featured in our Intern Spotlight (aka Intern of the Month Program).

Have you started searching for internship opportunities? What strategies are working for you?

Photo from I Has A Hotdog