As graduation starts to loom closer and closer or you start to think about potential careers you may want, it’s overwhelming to know where to start. I find it helpful to break the process up into their own individual boxes. Interviews are often the most intimidating part of the process, and not without good cause. Entering uncharted territory, particularly territory where the sole purpose is to put you on the spot to talk about yourself, is a terrifying prospect. Here’s a few tips to help appease your fear and get you started with the entire interview process.
Pre Interview Stage
Research the company. An all too important first step that frequently gets forgotten. It’s easy to get caught up in the particulars of your resume and cover letter, but those come later. How are you supposed to know if you even want to work for the company if you don’t spend your time researching it? Once you have an understanding of the company and its background, it’ll be much easier to start the more hands-on portion of preparing for the interview.
Write a cover letter. It’s not as intimidating as it sounds, I promise. Just write, edit, then edit some more. I know when I’m tasked with writing about myself it’s as if everything I know about myself suddenly flies out the window. I promise, you really do know yourself better than anyone; once you start writing it’ll come to you. It’s not all about you though! Remember, the company is looking to see how YOU can benefit THEM. Don’t forget about all that research about the company you already did — be sure to utilize the skills you highlight to cater to the needs and values of the company. I know, I know, how can you figure that out? It’s all about practice. Once you know what to look for, it gets a whole lot easier. Let’s use Atlantic Publishing as an example. Something that stood out to me when I first visited the website was their logo.
The tagline “We have a book for that,” says a lot about the company, more than you might initially think. To me, that logo and tagline indicate that the company is dedicated to providing thorough and entertaining information to their customers, and that customer satisfaction is a high priority.
Perfect your resume. Don’t be afraid if none of your previous experience directly relates to the position you’re applying for. With any new position, but especially with internships, the employer is aware that there will be a learning curve. Use that to your advantage: highlight any leadership experience or creative initiatives you might have under your belt that can be catered to what your job responsibilities would be as an intern. On my resume, I have included my own personal blog, projects I have done with my classes, and leadership positions on campus, along with my job (a job that’s in fast food service I might add, not directly applicable to an internship at Atlantic Publishing – it’s all about the skills you learn). Remember that when it comes to resumes, quantity may be more impressive at first glance, but the quality of your experiences and the skills you learned from them are far more important.
Look up potential interview questions and write an elevator speech. While not exactly the same thing, the tasks are relatable and it’s easy enough to prepare simultaneously. No idea what an elevator speech is or what questions could possibly be asked in an interview? It’s ok if you don’t. I didn’t have a clear understanding until about 2 months ago. Google will be your best friend during this process (I found the website, The Muse, particularly helpful). You need to be able to tell the interviewer the most important things about you in 30 seconds or less: What do you study? What are your career aspirations? Why do you want this position specifically? Why should this company want you? Feel free to write down the elevator speech and answers to potential interview questions to help organize your brain, in fact I encourage it. Rehearse them, but be careful; you don’t want it to sound as if it’s being recited from memory during the interview. Instead you want to aim for knowing the essentials of what you want to say and practicing it until you feel comfortable. It helps to practice on family members too (and believe me, they’ll want you to do them proud in the interview)!
I would argue that the most important step here is to just breathe. Take 20 seconds before walking into the interview room to calm your nerves and prepare yourself mentally. The last thing you want to do is get so nervous you can’t remember the answers to the simplest questions, or you forget to ask any of the questions you’ve prepared. I always say that if I’m well dressed and prepared, I can fake it until I make it. And hey, it seemed to work at least once!
This brings me to my next point: what to bring with you to the interview:
- Be dressed in business professional clothing. For young women, that means a blazer and a dress or a blouse, skirt/pants, and a blazer. Don’t feel pressured to wear heels if you don’t feel comfortable walking in them; flats are more than acceptable and that way you won’t be worried about falling on your face (a frequent worry of mine, if I’m being honest with you all). For young men, wear a suit with either a tie or a bow tie and dress shoes. If you don’t have a full suit, slacks or khakis and a dress shirt will suffice, especially for a position as an intern or an entry level position. Don’t be afraid to Google for inspiration!
- A pad or portfolio of some sort containing copies of your resume, cover letter, and any additional material requested by the company. Don’t forget about the questions and research you’ve prepared as well! I would also suggest bringing a notebook and pens. You never know what information you may want to write down or forms you may need to fill out. Even if you don’t use it, the interviewer will be impressed that you came prepared.
During the interview, don’t forget to bring up the research you found out about the company! When I researched Atlantic Publishing before my interview, I found this blog and read quite a few posts and was able to bring it up in the interview. Not only did I show dedication to the company and an eye for detail, but I was able to showcase my own skills and passions by bringing it back to my personal blog and love for reading.
After the Interview
Before you do anything else, CELEBRATE! You did it! You survived the interview, and it’s out of your hands now. Go grab a coffee, make some brownies, or convince your friends to try that new restaurant you’ve been dying to go to. There are steps you can (and should take) after an interview to follow up, but nothing the day of. Take the day to be proud of yourself!
For more tips on how to follow up after an interview, check out Rebekah’s post or purchase our book ,The Young Adult’s Survival Guide to Interviews: Finding the Job and Nailing the Interview, here. Good luck finding an internship or a job! We’d love to hear about your successes, especially if you found any of our advice helpful!