Winter is peak time for internship interviews, and as I work with students interested in a variety of positions, I focus on the importance of knowledge in the interview process.
Knowledge is Power
Interviewers are impressed when candidates are prepared. To give yourself the edge, take the time to arm yourself with knowledge of the industry, company and position for which you are applying.
You can learn about industries and position functions by using the Occupational Outlook Handbook and O*net Online. Industry guides published by The Vault and Wetfeet provide you with additional insight into the top companies in an industry.
Connecting with alumni is another way to get information about the organizational culture, and allows you to expand your network. By taking some time to learn about the opportunities and how they fit into your career goals, you’ll convey confidence during the interview.
Equally important is knowledge of your accomplishments and career goals. Take some time to consider why you want the internship and how it fits into your career goals. Are you trying to learn a new skill, get exposure to a new industry or job, or testing the waters in a company? Ask yourself how the internship will help you accomplish your goals.
Based on your knowledge of the industry and internship position, consider why an employer would want to hire you. Do you already have some directly related experience? Have you demonstrated leadership through other internships, volunteer work or campus involvement? Take inventory of your relevant experience and accomplishments.
Anticipate Common Interview Questions
It’s also important to anticipate the type of interview questions you should expect to be asked. Most interviewers will ask you questions about your academics and career goals such as, “Why did you choose this major?” or “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” You’ll also be asked behavioral questions that provide insight on how you perform in different work scenarios.
For example, an interviewer might ask a question such as, “Tell me about a time when you had to convince someone to use your ideas.” or “Describe a time when you had to make a decision and your supervisor wasn’t available.”
Tip: use the PAR approach to describe 1.) the problem, 2.) the actions you took and 3.) the results of your actions. This is an effective response technique, especially for answering those open-ended and behavioral interview questions.
Markell Steele is a career counselor who helps frustrated job seekers find career direction. She works with clients in her private practice, Futures in Motion, Inc. and on-campus as Counseling Manager, Graduate Student Services at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). In her role as career counselor, Markell guides her clients in discovering career options that integrate their interests, skills, and passions. She is also the author of Fast Track Your Career.