The final stage of the application process has arrived and you are now anxiously jittering in your seat, maybe even sweating through your button-up, waiting for the interviewer to enter the room. It doesn’t have to be this way; let’s rewind a little and review what we know about interviews and how to make a lasting first impression.
Types of interviews
#1 Recorded Interviews: More companies are using recorded interviews as a preliminary assessment to shortlist their candidates. This interview involves pre-recorded questions that applicants are required to answer through video recording under a time limit. While the lack of an actual interviewer seems less intimidating, keep in mind that this means no one is around to ask follow-up questions and you should elaborate on answers as much as you can to give the reviewers a holistic image of yourself. Don’t forget to let your personality shine through! Remind yourself that you are not just talking to a screen, and that an actual human will be assessing your recorded answers after.
#2 Online Interviews: Often used to overcome geographical barriers, online interviews are conducted in real-time through video conferencing platforms. While this sounds like the best of both worlds since you have an actual person to talk to and you can do so from the comfort of your own home, keep in mind that you should still remain professional and be aware of your non-verbal cues. Try to keep the interview flowing like a conversation—this is often a good sign!
#3 In-person Interviews: Ah, the most feared interview. Firms typically reserve in-person interviews for final stage applicants, meeting with the candidates face-to-face in a physical location. Setting your nerves aside, in-person interviews are a great way to not only sell yourself but also get to know the company culture better. Without needing to worry about what your Zoom background looks like or whether you’re being interrupted by poor internet connection, this is a ripe opportunity to show up and showcase your very best self!
Remember how we talked about doing your research in Internship Insider #1 Take the initiative to do further research on the company you will be interviewing with at this stage.
Go beyond what is laid out on their website and dig into the news. How have they been performing lately? What can you learn from a specific deal or structural change they have enacted? What would you do differently if you were a part of the company?
As you do your research, anticipate questions that might surface during the actual interview and test if you have enough information to give a satisfactory reply.
Now, this is only applicable to the first two types of interviews, but be aware of your video background before you begin a recorded or online interview. Find somewhere that is neat and appealing; you can’t go wrong with a blank wall.
Don’t leave your laundry or unwashed dishes in sight as attentive interviewers might pick up on those. If you have a clean background but happen to have less-than-appropriate posters on the walls, that might be something to temporarily take down as well.
No matter which interview you are going through, your body language will be visible to the recruiter, so stay alert! Find a comfortable chair to sit in and make sure it is adjusted to a height where you don’t have to slouch or hunch your back. Sitting straight radiates preparedness and confidence.
Use your hands to help accentuate key points, but do so moderately. If you’re interviewing online, keep your hands in front of you instead of in your lap, where you might come off as shy and timid.
If you’re interviewing in person and are particularly jittery when you’re nervous, try to suppress these signs of nervousness the best you can. Don’t bounce your legs under the table even when you think the recruiters can’t see them. Keep your composure, imagine you are simply talking to a friend, and it will be over in an hour, tops.
My favourite tip? Hold a pen. No, not just for show, but to take notes. Even in cases of the recorded interview where the moment of you taking notes will not be recorded, it doesn’t do any harm to keep a pen in between your fingers when you are explaining your answer. Think of it as a subtle hint to the interviewer that you have been writing things down and being attentive. Although there is no research conducted on whether this tip earns you bonus points during interviews, I have never stopped using it, and hey, I got an internship this summer, didn’t I?
Frequently asked questions (and how to answer them)
Instead of giving you a ten-page breakdown on how to tackle all the common interview questions, I recommend checking out this LinkedIn guide that covers all the essentials to get your engine running. I will, however, leave you with a few more tips when it comes to answering interview questions in general.
#1 The STAR technique
The STAR technique should be your go-to structure of answering questions that would require you to explain a situation, such as “Tell me about a time when you demonstrated leadership skills.”
By equipping the STAR technique, you are guaranteed to touch on all the pivotal points of your situation and deliver a holistic answer that will have your interviewers nodding their heads (however subtly).
#2 Be honest
Overselling yourself is a common tactic that candidates employ to appear more attractive and competitive to interviewers, but it is a practice best done in moderation. There is nothing wrong with embellishing some of your skills here and there, but don’t over-brag to the point where you won’t be able to answer when the recruiter asks a follow-up question.
Stay true to your abilities and know that the skills you currently possess have brought you this far into the application stage, so they are enough.
#3 Tie it back
Interviews are like prompted story-telling where you are showcasing bits of yourself and your life, and it is easy to get carried away when you are the centre of attention. No matter what question you are answering, remember to tie it back to the internship in some way, even if it’s by saying “…and I believe these skills I have learned in my previous job are transferrable to this internship.”
#4 Above all, show an eagerness to learn
There always exists a possibility where you are the one-in-a-billion candidate who knows everything there is to know about the internship and company you are applying for. Still, it is important to demonstrate that you are keen to learn; after all, that is what an internship is for!
Avoid coming across as arrogant and subtly remind the recruiters (through your answers) that you are seeking personal development, trying to sharpen the skills you already have, or looking to learn new abilities altogether.
Internships want to help you learn, but you have to first be clear of what it is you would like to achieve by the end of it!
#5 If you don’t know, admit it
This is a scenario that most of us do not want to think about. What if the recruiter brings up a technical question that you do not know how to answer? Should you ring the bells and cry for mercy? Run through the streets and plead for help?
Alright, there is no need for the dramatics. The simple solution is to admit that you do not know the answer, but don’t just stop there. Proceed to make assumptions based on the information you have, and illustrate to the recruiters how you would go about answering the question.
In one of my previous interviews, I was asked to list the pros and cons of active and passive investment. Frankly, I have never stumbled upon the terms “active investment” and “passive investment”, and I admitted this to the recruiter. I then proceeded to explain what I think they mean, and under that assumption, listed the benefits and downsides of each.
No one has all the answers all the time, and that is just human.
#6 Have good questions for them
It is common practice for recruiters to ask “Do you have any questions for us?” before concluding the interview. Saying you don’t have any is taking the easy way out. Like we previously discussed, this is your prime chance to learn more about the company culture and understand what you’re setting yourself up for if you are accepted.
Come prepared with simple questions. You could ask the interviewer what they enjoy most about their current position, what success looks like within the company, what opportunities for growth the company provides for its employees, or even about the likelihood of converting your internship into a graduate offer.
Whatever it is, this small question tells the recruiter whether you are a curious candidate, and that is perhaps the best quality you can have.
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