How to Prepare for Your Interview (and Score that Internship!)
February 20, 2017
Now that you’ve met your potential employer at the Career Fair (*cough* after reading my Rock Your College Career Fair guide*cough*), you might just have an interview set up for the position! Interviews are equal parts terrifying and exciting – the idea of having this career opportunity rely solely on the way you carry yourself through an hour of questioning is not something to take lightheartedly, but the potential to score your dream job makes it totally worth it.
I don’t know about you, but to me the worst feeling in the world is being unprepared! Lack of preparation can cause me to feel super stressed and nervous, causing me to never perform to my best ability, whether it is in an exam, a dance performance, or an interview. So much depends on an interview, and I have found that preparing both physically and mentally for my interviews has been essential in taking some of the nerves away, and leaving me with the best version of myself to present to my interviewer. Here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way that will hopefully help you prepare to be the best interview-ee in the game!
1. Know what you are applying for. (Do your research pt. 1)
Look at an interview like you are taking a test; would you ever show up to a history exam without reading up? No? Me either. Interviews are exactly the same – employers expect you to have a certain level of knowledge about the company and what you are applying for.
In preparing for your interview, make sure that you know the basics about the company, and what you like the most about them (this question will for sure pop up in some form or another!). Go onto their website, read their mission statement, and familiarize yourself with the goals that the company presents. Also, make sure that you utilize any information that is given to you! For one of my interviews, the recruiter I was in contact with actually sent me two PowerPoint slides of information on the company. I read up on this information and made sure I was familiar with it, and it was super helpful! Not only did I learn more about the company, but I was also able to answer any questions the interviewer had on the depth of my knowledge of the company’s history.
Pro tip: Go onto their company website and look at the blog/”news” section – 9/10 times you’ll be able to find something really cool and interesting to talk about, and having this kind of background knowledge will help you come across as invested and interested in the company you are interviewing for.
Additionally, make sure that you know exactly what position you are applying for! If you are applying for a Front-end Development coding intern position, you should have at least a basic knowledge of exactly what a front-end developer does. Google the position you are interviewing for and try to grasp the basic duties that come with it – not only will you be able to field any questions that come your way, but you will also be able to ask some intelligent questions of your own!
2. Do a [little] bit of sleuthing! (Do your research pt. 2)
Sometimes it eases the mind a little bit to know exactly what you’re working with, and interviews are no exception. If you don’t have any friends or family members that are familiar with the position you are applying for, Glassdoor is a website that allows you to search any company and sift through reviews on company interviews. People often give their honest opinions of the interviewing process, and going in with this kind of information can help tremendously. If Glassdoor says that the interviewers are normally tough, you are now equipped with the knowledge that you have to give yourself a little pep talk before you walk into the room. I love Glassdoor for this, but you also must remember to take these reviews with a grain of salt – not everyone’s experience will be the same (it all depends on level of preparation, background, skill level, etc.). If you read a bad review, don’t get discouraged!
Even though a light level of sleuthing is okay, if you have your interviewer’s information, do not look up/friend him/her on social media! Interacting with them through social media (even LinkedIn!) is a big no-no, and chances are that if you initiate a social media relationship before they even meet you they will form a negative impression. It’ll seem like you were stalking them, and beyond being unprofessional, that’s downright creepy.
3. Practice Answering Interview Questions (for technical interviews, that means brushing up on your skills!)
Google “Hardest Interview Questions” or “Interview Questions for Interns”, and try to see if you can think of good answers off the top of your head. If you can’t answer the question/don’t answer in a manner you are happy with, write down what you would like to say, or a couple of key points you’d like to touch on if that question ever popped up. You can bring this sheet of paper with you to your interview so that while you’re sitting in the waiting room before you get called in, you can review questions instead of letting yourself become an anxious and stressed-out mess (I only mention this because it has happened to me before. 0/10 would NOT recommend!!) Chances are that the questions you wrote down will pop up at one point or another, and when the interviewer thinks he/she is stumping you you’ll be able to pull out a stellar answer!If you are interviewing for an engineering/computer science/science position, make sure you know your basics! Lots of technical interviews will require you to show off in one form or another, whether it is through writing pseudo-code or drawing a stress-strain curve. Because the tasks you will be completing if you get the internship will require these skills, it’s important that your interviewer knows you possess them. Now, I’m not saying that you have to practice doing thermodynamics problems if you’re interviewing for a chemist position, but you should know the difference between an acid and a base.
This is probably the most intimidating part of the prep process, but it is by far the most rewarding. There is no better feeling than knowing you aced an interview question, or seeing that you’ve impressed your interviewer. It’s the biggest confidence boost ever; why wouldn’t you ensure that happens?
4. Plan your transportation route ahead of time. (+ plan to leave early!)
If you know me at all, you know I have a tendency to get a little lost. I always end up making the wrong turn or putting in the wrong address. In some cases, this isn’t a problem at all – when I’m not in a rush or anything, I’ll just pull over and figure out exactly what went wrong. However, this is an interview, and being late is not acceptable!
As a result, I like to leave at least an hour and fifteen minutes before I am required to be at the interview, and I pre-program the address into Google maps. That way, I know exactly how to get there, and in the event that I do get lost, I have ample buffer time to make sure that my mistakes don’t make me tardy. If you arrive early, that’s no big deal at all; you can stop by a Dunkin’ or a Starbucks for some quick prep time before you go in. Being early is so much better than being late – it reduces stress, and even gives you extra time to collect your thoughts.
Pro tip: Try to arrive to your interview 15 minutes before your scheduled arrival – that way, you can get through the whole check-in process and start your interview right on time! Plus, it shows the interviewer that you’re punctual and really do care about the job, two things that are super important to employers.
5. Try on your interview outfit a day or two before your big day.
Even though interviews are conducted to evaluate your people skills and your competency for a position, first impressions are still important. One way to ensure that you’re putting your best foot forward is to put together a cute and professional interview outfit! Nothing says polished and professional like a good pair of slacks, a blazer, a nice blouse, and some pumps. I absolutely love getting dressed up for a professional event – I jump on every chance I get!
The night before your interview, make sure to lay out all of your clothes and ensure that they are wrinkle and spot free – you don’t want to be up early in the morning, get to the interview, and realize that your shirt has a coffee stain on it! I also suggest trying on your outfit and walking around in it to get a feel for what your day will be like tomorrow. That way, if your pencil skirt has a tendency to ride up or your “perfect” interview blouse suddenly grew or shrink a size or two, you won’t be surprised on your big day and launched into panic mode. Figuring these things out a night or two before ensures that you have ample time to deal with any problems you may encounter and put together the best look possible!
Interviews are so exciting, and I hope that after you follow some of these tips you’ll be able to walk into that interview 100% yourself and ready to take on the world. Good luck!