I was an intern once — six times actually, before I finally landed a full-time role. As a manager now, I’ve reviewed hundreds of applications and interviewed a few dozen people for their first (or sixth) internship. It’s always a pleasure to give someone great news and welcome them to the team––even better when, at the end of their internship, we can offer them their first full-time position.
Everyone’s gotta start somewhere, so if you’re about to enter the job market for the first time, here’s what’s going on in my head during our interview.
1. Do You Take Control of Everything You Can?
When you sent in your job application, was it perfect? Beyond spelling and hitting that right note between brevity and capturing the reader’s attention, how did you format your documents?
Merge your entire application—resume, cover letter, letters of recommendation, and any other supporting documents you might have––into a single PDF. Make sure your margins and bullets are consistent throughout. Give the file a professional name. Compress it if necessary. Confirm that any fonts, graphics, or formatting you used in your word processor look the same in PDF.
Don’t underestimate the value of streamlining and professionalizing your application. There are so many applicants who do.
2. Can you Show up for a Two-Way Conversation?
A great candidate walks into an interview knowing that we’re about to have a conversation, not an interrogation — or a monologue (please don’t mumble your way through a memorized ‘hire me’ speech).
When it’s an internship, most of the candidates don’t have much experience, so we’re looking for someone who is enthusiastic about who they are, what we can offer each other, and is curious to see if this is the right position for them.
3. Are You so Nervous It’s Hard to Get to Know You?
Everyone gets nervous; working successfully — in any role — is about how you channel your doubts and fears when you take on new challenges.
If you feel a little shaky in interviews, write down a few small talk prompts and run through them when you arrive, whether that’s with an administrative assistant, a hiring manager, or just the person who opened the door for you. Chit chat helps you shake off your commute, relax, and switch your brain into interview mode. Public transit, the weather, the ping-pong table next to the reception desk — it’s all good fodder for warming things up.
Your interviewer put their socks on this morning one at a time, just like you, and it’s likely that they’re a little nervous as well. It might well be that 10 minutes before you arrived, they spilled coffee while Googling ‘questions to ask in a job interview’ at their desk. They want to have a great interview just as much as you do. Make it easy for them by being enthusiastic and well-prepared. Do your research (and watch their eyes light up when you say “I’ve done some research on your competitors…”). You got this.
About the Author
MJ Litfin was an intern for many years, but is now content manager at Smallpdf.