Interviewing for an Internship? 3 Moves to Avoid


For college students or recent grads applying for internships, the sea of interview rules often appears murky. However, whether meeting with a recruiter, hiring manager or human resources professional, and whether meeting face to face, by Skype or phone, there are three things you clearly must NOT do.

1. Wear jeans and a wrinkled shirt. While it may sound absurd, the fact is, many candidates do arrive to the interview dressed inappropriately. It may be an infraction as minor as unkempt shoes or a more serious error such as showing up in ripped jeans and tattered t-shirt.

If a recruiter has beckoned you, you may feel more relaxed than you would if it were the hiring decision maker. You may falsely sense that you and he are on the same level, and that he doesn’t command the same respect as a hiring decision maker. As such, you dress casually, as if you were running an errand to the grocery store for bread and milk. You unknowingly treat this interview as a casual conversation leading to the “real interview.”

Wrong. Recruiters are hired by the corporate decision makers and are granted many hiring and interviewing powers. This means if prompted, they will easily wield the hatchet on your candidacy. If you present yourself sloppily and disrespectfully, then they quickly lose interest in you and will not pass your name along.  As such, present your best self whether you are interviewing with a recruiter, HR representative or directly with the hiring decision maker.

Moreover, dress properly, whether interviewing face to face, via Skype or phone. Ensure your hair, nails, shoes and everything in between are coiffed. This includes dressing one notch up from the company’s standard dress code. Even if the corporate culture is highly casual, you should not don jeans and tennis shoes. Instead, press your shirt, your pants and/or skirt and ensure you are wearing shoes that are shiny and clean. While tattoos may be the office norm, the interview isn’t the time to showcase your fresh ink. Facial hair and makeup, haircuts and hairstyles should be conservative, and instead, your words and presentation should take center stage, exhibiting your differentiating value.

2. Leave your enthusiasm at home. While an interview is a serious meeting, try not to take yourself so seriously that you forget to smile. As well, if you have conducted your research, you know enough about the company to speak enthusiastically about their product or service. If you are naturally a subdued personality, then practice your lines ahead of the meeting to come across more energetically.

Find the phrases that feel normal to you; figure out what it is about the company culture, the product, the service, the history and/or the future of the enterprise with which you will be interviewing that you find appealing. Create and practice a line or two around that that will sound natural and energizing, and not feigned. Be prepared, knowledgeable and enthusiastic when you walk into the interview door.

3. Fail to research the company. You may think an internship is not a real job, so you decide that just showing up is enough. However, an internship is quite real and could have reverberating effects on your career. As well, like with other credible jobs, many internships pay, and some of the most coveted roles pay very well. As reported in Glassdoor’s recent report, 25 Highest Paying Companies for Interns, #1 on the list of companies compensating highly for interns pays interns an average monthly base pay of $7,012. It is important to note that these jobs are competitive and the hiring decision makers are seeking out the best, new talent—one more reason to be on your toes in the job interview.

Moreover, some internships later convert to full time jobs. And all interviews potentially lead to rich referral sources for future jobs at other companies.

Especially in today’s highly competitive job climate, you do not want to be pegged as uninterested among a sea of highly prepared candidates. Instead, prior to the interview, thoroughly review the company’s website; take a look at their profile as well as what employees are sharing at Glassdoor. After that, dig even deeper, performing a Google search about the company; e.g., keywords, “company name” + “growth” to see where the company has been successful in regard to revenue, profit and products. Use that information to talk intelligently about your future organization during the interview conversation.

Prepare to impress with the power of well-researched words.