As summer internship applications begin drawing to a close (but not all of them—there’s still some time to apply!), you may have started thinking about the next stage of the application process: interviews. Interviews can seem daunting, and as we are also quickly surging into the job search season, we have compiled a list of tips to have you ready and confident for your next interview, whatever it might be for.
Before the interview…
Know your interviewers. There are different types of interviews, and the type you have determines how you should prepare for it. If you are interviewing with an internship program (something like Health Career Connection, for example), you may not know who your specific interviewer is beforehand. In the case of HCC, your first interview would be with one of many staff members of the organization. In that case, you should be very familiar with the program’s mission and goals before going into your interview. If you are interviewing with a company, on the other hand, or for a specific position, you want to know both the mission of the company as well as the ins and outs of the specific job or internship you are interviewing for. You want to show your interviewer that you have done your homework and really want to be a part of whatever program or position you have applied for. And, if you do know who will be interviewing you, find out a little bit about that person as well. Research them on LinkedIn or on the company’s website. Finally, find out what kind of interview you will be having: will a panel be interviewing you? Will you be in a group interview? Knowing this will help you understand what to expect and how to prepare.
Know your own mission and goals. Be prepared for the interviewer to ask you questions about your goals, and be prepared to make sure that the interviewer knows everything you want him or her to know about you, even if she doesn’t ask for it. Identify your strengths, the skills you have that are relevant to the position, and examples of things you have done or experience you have to illustrate that strength or skill. Also be prepared to answer the question: “What are your weaknesses?” This is a common interview question and many people are thrown by it. Showing that you are self aware and desirous of improving your weak areas is very important to employers. Make an outline before you go. What do you want your interviewer to know about you? You should have key messages that you want to make sure you deliver before the interview is over. For example, when I went into the interview that got me my current job, I knew that I wanted the interviewer to know about my prior research experience and skillset, my excitement to work with and in the community, and my larger career goals of promoting health equity for communities of color. Before you go to your interview, write down 3-5 critical messages you want your interviewer to take away from the interview. These might be the core things you’re passionate about or the strengths and skills you bring to the table.
Practice. As silly as it might seem, practicing being interviewed with friends or family can ease your anxiety and prepare you for the real thing. Have your practice interviewer come up with all kinds of possible interview questions and you will feel much more confident walking into your real interview, ready for anything they throw at you.
During the interview…
Ask questions. About one third of the people I interview for HCC do not ask me questions, even though we always ask them at the end if they have any questions for us. When you ask questions during an interview, not only does it show that you care about the program/position enough to think about it beforehand and do the research, but it also gives you the opportunity to gain the greatest possible understanding of the position. Remember that during an interview, YOU are the interviewer as well. You should have questions to enhance your understanding and experience and make sure the company or position aligns with your goals and desires. Show that you are invested and intrigued by this opportunity, and take control of your situation. Come prepared with questions and keep track of new questions that might arise during the interview. For some general advice on interview questions you could ask, check out this Forbes article. Some more specific to HCC questions that show me a person is invested include: What are some of the skills that interns walk away with at the end of the summer? What is a common day in the life of an HCC intern? What is something that you learned being part of this program? (Many of our staff members are HCC alumni).
Be professional. Basic professionalism can go a long way. This includes the way you dress, the way you interact with people, and the way you present yourself. Arrive early, dress nicely, be polite, and be confident. Look your interviewer in the eyes and maintain eye contact. Shake his or her hand when you meet and before you leave. If you are unsure about what to wear, here are some guidelines on the difference between business casual and professional dress.
Bring the appropriate documents. If your interviewer or program asks you to bring references and your resume, make sure you bring them. Pay close attention to what is asked of you and have them ready for when the interviewer asks to collect them. Even if you were not asked to bring anything, it’s generally a good idea to bring your resume to every interview, as many interviewers like to reference it while they ask you questions.
Listen carefully. It can be easy to let nerves get in the way of good listening, but try to be very conscious about listening and understanding exactly what the interviewer is asking. Answer in a thoughtful way that shows you understand the questions as well as the position you are interviewing for.
After the interview…
Follow up. Always thank your interviewer the day after he or she interviews you. You can do this through email or with a hand written card, but make sure that you do so fairly soon after the interview to remind the interviewer of who you are, why they should remember you, and that you are grateful for the interview and invested in the position.
For more tips on interviews and plenty of other job-search skills, check out our past webinar, “Improving Your Packaging: Resume, Cover Letter, and Resume Tips.”
Good luck and feel free to post below with any questions or comments.