Internships are pivotal to accelerating one’s career goals. The professional experience and venerable skill sets garnered from a good internship set the ball rolling for a strong career trajectory. Therefore, defining a comprehensive strategy for acing internship interviews is a necessary exercise. For many students, an internship interview is their first introduction to a professional interview, putting in due effort to prepare, therefore, makes for a great investment.
We’ve got some effective tricks to help you successfully navigate your internship interview and bag your dream internship!
1. Research Well by Digging Deep
Before you deliberate on your internship interview strategy, you must thoroughly research the organization, the industry, and the internship profile that you’re vying for. The legwork you put in should enable you to grasp the common business challenges the company faces, and how you, as an intern, can fit into the larger picture and serve the interests of the company.
However, research is an art and there are several ways to go about it. You can visit career fairs, chat up former or current employees, scour the web to find useful information, read up industry-specific publications, etc.
i. Set up relevant Google Alerts
Google Alerts is a powerful tool which provides the latest content (news, articles, research publications) through mail alerts for the keywords or topics you have subscribed to. It’s possible to de-clutter your inbox by setting preferences for content type, geography, the frequency of updates, and so on. For instance, an alert informs you of your dream company’s plan of launching a new product in a specific geographic location. So, you could conduct competitive intelligence by researching competitors and making informed observations about the initiative. Using these snippets of information, you can initiate smart conversations during the interview, or answer a related interview question with more finesse.
ii. Trade or Industry Publications
Trade or business publications, either available online or at your college library, enhance the breadth and depth of your research. Such publications provide you with insights on the industry structure, key players, significant mergers & acquisitions, investment patterns, etc. For instance, publications like BI Intelligence, Harvard Business Review and The Economist cover powerful aspects of the economy, business, technology, organization structure, etc. You must also look up industry-specific niche publications to explore evolving trends, market structure, competitors. An advertising professional, for example, can surely look up AdWeek or Digiday or a marketer can keep herself abreast of events and publications by the American Marketing Association.
iii. Corporate Websites
Scouring the corporate website of the company can reveal financial indicators, information on their products, investors, organization structure, and philosophy. When you’re navigating the website, remember to check company blogs which are vital for learning about company philosophy and progress. Additionally, most companies with rigorous and well-structured internship programs offer interview prep guidance, testimonials by previous interns, and explicitly list their expectations from incoming interns. Poring over company’s whitepapers is helpful in understanding the products, business model, clients and projects in the pipeline. Similarly, carrying out a competitive analysis of the relevant industry is crucial. This lets you create a better offering to your potential employers; you can discuss what competitive advantage you bring to to the firm as an intern
iv. Career Service Centres
Career Service Centres of various colleges list out vital reading resources suitable to different industries so that students can get a better grip on the labor market projections, future opportunities and enhance their technical knowledge. For instance, Career Services at Princeton has curated an exhaustive repository of resources and professional associations, which serves as a crucial resource for assimilating industry-specific knowledge.
2. Leverage Social Media And Connections
Interviewing for an internship position is a social process, so why not use social media to your advantage? A lot of us, for instance, have followed social media pages of our dream companies to spot upcoming internship programs. And since social media propels extended networking, expanding your professional network becomes less intimidating. That is why LinkedIn has become the Mecca for professional networking.
LinkedIn holds great importance in career and recruitment resources such as advanced search filters, company pages, etc. and the huge networking pool it provides to users. Advanced search filters can narrow down your search to offer specific profiles, people, and information as per your preferences. Company pages often display recent updates, company overview, job openings and working culture to give you a better peek into the company before applying. If you’re smart and methodological about the entire process, LinkedIn can provide you with very unique insights.
i. Navigate Company LinkedIn Page and Professional Groups For Information
Companies have realized the hidden value in building their presence on LinkedIn, which is why most companies constantly update information, advertise their vacant job positions, and share interesting insights on their company culture. Through the company’s LinkedIn page, you can even gather information on the recent hires, latest media releases, initiatives and tap into the existing employee network as well.
The various industry related and professional LinkedIn groups provide indispensable content on issues which matter. For instance, groups specifically meant for Market Research professionals, or Supply Chain professionals curate industry content, conduct intelligent debates, invite opinions, etc. on a host of burning industry topics which can provide you with enough fodder for specific industry insights. These can serve as great conversation starters that provide recruiters a glimpse of your knowledge and commitment.
ii. Identify Vital Skills for Skilling Up
Start by analyzing various LinkedIn profiles, an exercise which enables you to define an exhaustive list of skills required of the interns in various industries and roles. To find out which certifications and clubs employers value, you can peruse the profiles of individuals with careers that align with your goals. Accordingly, you can conduct a skill-gap analysis and plug the gap by enrolling yourself in requisite certification programs, taking up relevant credit courses at college, or learning technical skills such as R, STATA if it’s a data analytics position you’re looking for. Adding weight to your resume through academic qualifications and extra-curricular improves your chances at scoring a coveted internship. You can also plan your future course of action in terms of future internships, certifications, education based on successful profiles.
iii. Conduct Informational Interviews With Previous Interns or Current Employees
Once you have identified previous interns from the company website’s internship testimonial section, you could look them up on LinkedIn to study their profiles and partake in informational conversation either through InMail or in person. However, if the names of the interns are not readily available, you can use LinkedIn’s advanced filters and adopt a top-down approach for identifying individuals of interest.
iv. Utilize Extensive Alumni Network
Tapping and maximising your extensive alumni network to extract valuable tips for resume and interview prep can prove to be an extremely beneficial exercise. There’s a level of natural camaraderie among individuals of the same alma mater, so make use of it. Conducting informational interviews or obtaining insider information pertaining to the company or industry becomes slightly less difficult if it’s someone from your alma mater who you’re talking to. These people have experienced the company culture, and perhaps even know the people who will be interviewing you, so ask them the right questions to prepare yourself well.
Glassdoor is yet another goldmine for seeking information pertaining to interview questions and reviews for specific companies. People who have either worked in specific companies in the past, or currently do, populate the website with their experience, company review, etc., and in a lot of cases also share the employment and salary trends. Additionally, people who have interviewed in those companies also share their interview experience, the questions asked for particular job roles, and tips to master the rounds. Know what you’re up against!
3. Clear Doubts, Ask Questions, Discuss Your Future
Interviews are a two-way street. You must ask questions and discuss your expectations for the internship. Don’t be shy in demonstrating your awareness, curiosity, and knowledge by asking relevant and smart questions of your interviewers.
Capitalizing on the research you conduct, you should have a list of relevant questions to ask at the end of the interview. In the most polite and tactful manner possible, indulge in questions pertaining to the scope of the internship in terms of skill enhancement and career prospects. Ask about the type of contributions made by previous interns, and what the interviewers expect from you, as per your qualifications. Go ahead and ask the interviewer to suggest skills and qualifications you could acquire to better prepare yourself for the ensuing internship. It’s not unusual for many prospective interns to ask for the performance metrics they’d be judged on beforehand.
You must also discuss your Learning Plan for the internship with the interviewers. Interviewers are well-aware of the important equation between an internship and the learning curve of the individual. That’s why a Learning Plan, which is essentially a document allowing you to develop and articulate your goals in terms of skill augmentation, personal growth, and knowledge enhancement, is so important. Bring it up, discuss your expectations and let the interviewers answer any apprehensions which you might have.
Crafting a stellar internship interview preparation strategy is akin to preparing a marketing plan; you’re selling yourself by highlighting your USPs after conducting extensive industry and organization research and often employing behavioral tricks to impress the hiring panel.