The opportunity to do an internship moves you to the front of the queue for a graduate scheme at your chosen employer, but (in addition to needing to impress while you’re with the employer) you normally have one final hurdle. The end of internship interview looms. Here are my top four tips for success.
1. Really know about the employer
You’ll have displayed your research into the employer in order to get the internship in the first place. But don’t rest on your laurels and assume that your prior research will suffice. You’ll need to know much more about the organisation after you have spent several weeks working there. Warwick alumnus Jake Schogger puts this really well in his City Career Series handbook:
“Having spent a number of weeks immersed in a firm’s culture, meeting many employees and engaging in real work, your reasons for wanting to work at the firm will have to be more personal, more substantive and less reliant on graduate recruitment marketing materials.”
I couldn’t agree more. Ponder this and try to think of concrete examples of what you liked. Did you actually enjoy yourself? Not everybody does. Sometimes an internship can show you what you don’t want to do, as well as give you a great opportunity. It may be that you felt that neither the work, nor the people inspired and enthused you. If that’s the case be honest with yourself about whether you’d accept a job offer. Go through the interview, it’ll be good practice but be prepared to turn down any offer you don’t want!
If you genuinely loved everything – great. But get ready to be specific about what was so good! What really differentiated the firm from its competitors in such a positive way?
2. Keep up your knowledge of what is going on in the news
Some internships are really “full on” and you might have felt that the job was all consuming. That’s no excuse for not keeping up with the news. Very often when I ask students what the key news story of the day is – they don’t know. This isn’t good enough when it comes to interview season. Your interviewers may well want to know if you are “switched on”. Get into the habit of picking up the day’s news when you’re eating breakfast, when you’re sitting on a bus or a train, or even when you’re in the shower. Use Radio 4s The Today Programme , newspaper feeds – The Guardian is free. Or what about Finimize and City AM? This isn’t an exhaustive list of useful sources but rather a starting point!
Try to identify some relevant news stories and don’t get distracted. Today brings the news that for the first time there will be a female Dr Who. As a feminist I welcome that wholeheartedly, but probably wouldn’t talk about it at interview. A further trawl tells me that there is infighting in the cabinet, probably a good idea to avoid politics in interviews for jobs not related to politics! I’d leave that story too. But what about “Government awards £6.6bn worth of contracts for HS2”? Now that looks like something for an internship interview!
3. Demonstrate your integrity
Do not criticise anyone you have met during your internship. It will not make you look better. Similarly do not compare one internship with another and make unfavourable comments about working for a competitor. It won’t cut any ice and those interviewing you will just wonder what you are likely to say about them and their firm.
Be careful how you talk about transactions you have handled, absolutely do not speak about what you did in another internship. Employers need to see that you understand the need for confidentiality.
4. Be pleasant
If you read my last blog you’ll have seen my advice to smile. Keep smiling. On an interview after an internship you might even want to show a bit of your personality. Judge things carefully but it can be in order to crack a joke, don’t be afraid to be a bit self-deprecating and show you can laugh at yourself (that isn’t the same as showing weakness). It can be a great way to show that you really do fit in.
More information about Jake Schogger’s City Career Series books can be found on his website which also features some useful articles and resources.