Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Internship Interview: It's All About Preparation

By Julie Clark Robinson

If you've landed an interview for a college internship you're halfway there. There's still some work to be done to ensure that you are fully prepared to ace the face-to-face test. For starters, it bears repeating that you should dress appropriately for a business meeting and arrive in plenty of time for your meeting. Your cell phone should be out of mind, and hopefully, out of your pocket for the time being. Bring along a resume to leave behind as a reminder of who you are and what you can offer. There are just a few other things to brush up on before the big day:

1. Know who you are talking to. In order to show genuine interest in the work opportunity, you should have a good idea what the company's business is. Polish up on the corporate history and know who the competition is. Even if none of this material makes its way into the conversation, you will feel more prepared as you enter the room and that will serve you well.

2. Be a good listener. Although the purpose of the interview is to show the kind of person you are and what you are capable of, let the interviewer take the lead and be ready to respond when called upon. Questions will come your way and it's perfectly fine to pause to collect your thoughts before you speak. Once you start, make sure that you stay on track and completely answer the question.

3. Since you probably don't have much work experience yet, the interviewer will ask questions that indirectly speak to what your capabilities are. Finding out about some of the choices you've made as a college student is a good way to do so. Be ready to answer questions such as "Tell me about one of your term papers and explain why you chose the topic." Don't be afraid to discuss a shortcoming about yourself that you've discovered along the way, especially if it gives you an opportunity to share what you learned in the process.

4. Have an example ready to share. If there is a completed project or piece of writing that you are proud of, it's a good idea to refer to it when speaking and bring it out to look at. If not, that's okay, too. Instead, tell a story of a group dynamic that you are involved with or discuss results of a marketing focus group that you participated in as part of your response to a question.

A thank-you note soon after the interview is over is a must. It can be via email if your original correspondence with the interviewer was done that way. A hand-written or typed letter via snail mail can't go wrong either. You want to express your gratitude for the time spent and ask to be considered for the internship. The more you get out there and go through this process, the more confident you'll be.

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