The rush for coveted summer internships is on. I've been sensing some interview angst on Twitter lately, so I thought I'd try to give you a sense of what to expect and how you can best prepare for your internship interview.
I've interviewed dozens of interns and taught college students competing for internships, so this advice represents the cumulative knowledge I've gained on the subject by being an active participant in the process.
Here's my best advice for interns:
1. Customize your résumé for each interview:
Change your résumé's objective and wording to conform with the job description. Don't make up stuff or lie, just tailor your words accordingly.
2. Save your résumé with your full name in the title before sending it to the company.
Don't send a document that says, “Résumé.” That's only helpful for finding it on your computer, not to the person who's receiving 10 résumés per week.
3. In addition to e-mailing your résumé to the appropriate person, mail your résumé with a cover letter to the hiring manager.
An e-mailed résumé is easy to ignore. A beautifully written letter with a real signature on nice paper is hard to throw away. It's important that you send the letter and résumé to the person who's involved in the hiring process.
4. Always mail your cover letter and résumé to the HR department of the company as well.
Be sure to have someone you trust proofread both the résumé and cover letter.
5. After you've sent your résumé, wait at least a week before calling or e-mailing the company.
Don't ask whether they've received it; do ask about the timeframe for potential interviews. Be ready with your elevator speech (see below).
6. Prepare an elevator speech.
An elevator speech is a short statement that encompasses who you are and what your goals are for this internship. Be ready to give this little speech on a moment's notice.
7. For goodness sake, do not drink the night before, or pull an all-nighter, or smoke on your way to the interview.
This is essential. You don’t want to smell like booze or smoke in the interview. You also want to be on your game.
8. Arrive 15 minutes early for the interview and make sure you know the names of the people you're meeting with.
Basically, leave early and do some research in advance.
9. Dress up. This is non-negotiable. Even if you are the only one wearing a suit, that's OK.
Polished nails and shoes are a must. Spend money on a go-to classy interview suit.
10. Grooming goes a long way. Guys, you should file and de-funk your fingernails.
Ladies, a coat of clear polish is best. Style your hair. Guys, a fresh haircut and shave are in order. Hold the cologne and perfume.
11. Carry a simple portfolio with pen, paper, extra résumés, simple business cards, and a sample of your portfolio.
Gals, leave your handbag in the car.
12. Smile, act confident, and be sure to ask questions.
Come prepared with a notebook to take notes, and have a few questions pre-written in case you forget to write anything down.
13. Try to balance talking about yourself, while taking great care not to brag.
It's funny how a group of people will perceive the candidate after the interview. Some will love the confidence, some will be slightly turned off by slight arrogance.
14. Focus on your accomplishments.
Do not just read your résumé to your interviewer.
15. Share what you learned from past internships or jobs.
Focus on how you overcame challenges and never, ever, say bad things about your former employer. It makes you look bad.
16. One question to be sure to ask: How is the internship supervised?
Will you have one boss or many? The answer to this question may help you prioritize internships. Having this information may be crucial to knowing how much guidance you'll get and, consequently, how much you'll learn.
17. Write down the names of your interviewers and send them each a handwritten thank-you note.
I suggest dropping the notes in the mail the same day as the interview; that way they arrive shortly after your interview. Sometimes decisions are made very quickly, so don't skip this one.
18. Only call to follow up after a week has passed.
If they love you, they'll call you back, but sometimes people have to talk to a number of other managers or HR folks before making the call.
19. Send a courtesy e-mail to the hiring manager to let them know if you've accepted another internship.
Do this regardless of the timeline.
20. When you receive an offer, feel free to ask questions about the pay level or other benefits.
Asking too soon in the process might make you appear as though your priorities are misplaced. Internships are about learning and gaining experience, not earning a ton of money, per se. It's nice to be paid, but the internship should be about furthering your career goals and filling gaps in your résumé. Here are some finishing touches that leave a great impression and show your commitment to being hired by a reputable company:
- Friend the company on Facebook, and follow it on Twitter. Find the company's page on LinkedIn, and follow it, too.
- Forward a link to your online portfolio, a website you've created, or your LinkedIn page with a short note thanking the interviewer for their time.
- Clean up your online profiles. No pictures of yourself in a hoochy-mama skin-tight dress, no drinking photos, no photos sitting on someone's lap. Be sure to make your profile as private as possible.
I'm a firm believer that internships are the reason people get offered full-time jobs after college. Do you have any burning questions that you need to ask?
This post originally appeared on the blog, Public Relations Princess.