Another spring semester is flying by. And now that we have reached Spring Break, we know the semester is nearing its end. Summer is just around the corner (keep that happy thought in mind despite the snow on the ground).
For the past three summers, I have sought out four UW-Whitewater students to write about their summer internship experiences. As many students’ summer internship searches come to their (hopefully successful) conclusions, it’s time to find a new group of summer intern bloggers.
Are you a UW-Whitewater student with an internship lined up for Summer 2013? Are you interested in sharing your experience with your fellow students? Will you be able to write three posts over the course of the summer, one each for June, July, and August? If your answers are Yes, Yes, and Yes, email me, Laura Morrow Jacobs, at MorrowL@uww.edu. Include the following information:
- Your Name, Major, and Year in School
- Internship Information: Position and Employer
- Answer to the following question: Why are you interested in writing about your internship experience this summer?
Read the past three summers’ worth of “Confessions of a Summer Intern” posts here.
I teach Career Information in Arts & Communication (ACINDP 399) at UW-Whitewater. Last semester, I hosted an Employer Panel during the final week of class. During this Q&A session, one student asked the employers how many thank you notes they receive after interviews. Without hesitation, one employer said, “Not enough.”
Good career advice always includes the importance of following up after interviews. Unfortunately, people either don’t follow up at all or follow up inappropriately. As you move through the internship interview process, keep the following post-interview tips in mind:
- Send a thank you note immediately after every interview. There is no better way to follow up after an interview than the thank you note. While email is becoming more acceptable, nothing beats a nice hand-written note. However you choose to send your thank you, make sure you do so within 24 hours. During one of my hiring committee experiences, the last thank you card the committee received after the interviews was from the first person to interview. Not good. Here are five more post-interview thank you note mistakes to avoid.
- Keep the timeline in mind when planning any direct follow up. If you are contemplating a phone call to follow up, make sure it isn’t too soon. How do you know when it is acceptable to call? From the interview itself. Ideally, your interviewer will let you know when to expect to hear back. If they don’t tell you, make this one of your questions at the end of the interview. If they tell you to expect to hear something NEXT Friday, don’t call them anytime before that date. If you haven’t heard anything by that time, then you can contact them. I recently heard that a good expectation is to hear back from an employer within a week to 10 days. So if you didn’t get timeline information during your interview, use this as a guideline.
- Don’t be a pest. There is a fine line between appropriate interview follow-up and being an annoyance. Send your thank you note. Contact them if you don’t hear back within the stated timeline. Then just chill out. While it can be frustrating to not hear back or to wait, it’s just a reality of the hiring process. If you keep calling and emailing and LinkedIn messaging and… You will drive the employer nuts and drive yourself right out of contention.
Anxiety during the post-interview waiting process is to be expected. Follow up appropriately and keep your peace of mind knowing you did the “right” thing. Relax and hope for good news!
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.
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?
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!
When you think about interviews, I would like you to think of them in three parts:
- Before the Interview
- The Interview Itself
- 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?
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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?