How To Prepare For An Interview: 5 Tips To Land That Summer Internship

The days are getting longer and we’re just now rounding the corner away from the worst winter has had to bring. Spring is not so far off, which means it’s time to start planning for summer. Winter’s usual hardships have felt harder to bear this year because of the pandemic, which makes summer planning even sweeter than usual.

If you are in your late teens or twenties, arranging your summer months around trips to the beach or family vacations is usually complicated by the acquisition of a summer job or internship. If you’re thinking about applying for an internship, this article will give you a good head start with some tips on how to figure out which internships to apply for and how to land the one you most desire.

Are Internships A Good Idea?

Before you start the process of researching summer internships, you should consider whether or not doing an internship is a good idea for you. According to U.S. News & World Report, internships provide students with some great opportunities including the possibility of:

  • Learning more about your field or industry
  • Gaining valuable work experience which can teach you necessary skills for an entry-level job
  • Determining if the career path you’re on is the right path for you
  • Building on your skills and talents
  • Getting your foot in the door at a desirable company
  • Gaining new contacts and expanding your network
  • Building your available references list
  • Learning what it’s like to work for companies of different sizes

These are all great reasons to apply for an internship, and if you haven’t yet participated in one, you may gain a lot from the experience. Over half of students graduate from college these days having participated in at least one internship. Many young people do a few more internships after graduating, before landing their first job, so getting your feet wet early on in the process could be beneficial. More and more, companies are expecting recruits to have experienced the real world of work and gained some initial guidance and knowledge of the workforce before they land their first job after college.

What Should I Expect From An Internship?

The best summer internships will teach you important skills that you’ll carry with you throughout your career. CNBC published an article recently recommending you find an internship with the following features:

  • One that allows you to do rather than watch
  • One that lets you build and test leadership ability
  • One that shows you industries or careers with which you are not yet familiar

These are all great suggestions and perhaps will help you frame what questions you want to ask should you be granted an interview for a summer internship. Asking questions that help you unveil what exactly you’ll be doing as an intern will give you a better sense of how much there is to gain from a given internship experience. Think about framing questions in advance that touch on the three key areas listed above.

Tips To Land Your First Internship

Here are our tips for how to prepare to land your first internship:

Tip 1: Research The Companies You’re Interested In

Before you even apply for the internships you feel appeal to you, do your research on the companies who are advertising. Take notes which you’ll use later when you prepare for an interview with them. The more you know about the company brand, culture, and products and services, the better prepared you’ll be when you fill out the application, practice for an interview, and talk with people at the company.

Go to the company website, read any articles you find with recent news about the company, and research them on sites like Glassdoor to see what current employees say about working there.

What all this research also allows you to do is determine whether or not the company is the right place for you. As you parse through the different materials try to picture yourself there and question whether what you’re reading describes the kind of place where you feel your efforts will be put to good use. It might be worthwhile to compile a list of qualities you’re looking for in an employer and use that list as you do your research to weigh off the pluses and minuses of each opportunity.

Tip 2: Hone Your Message

Start with your resume. It may be useful, depending on your level of experience, to tailor your resume to each internship position. It doesn’t hurt to highlight what strengths you have that each job description has focused on. There are some great resume services out there that can help you, and oftentimes college career centers offer assistance with resumes and cover letters as well. Check out your school’s career services website and see if these resources are available and if so, take advantage of them. Also, it’s always a good idea to get a second set of eyes on your paperwork before you send it in (application, resume, and cover letter), to give a spot check for any punctuation errors, typos, etc.

The same applies to the cover letter. As much as you can show that you are singularly interested in their particular job, the more they will pay attention to your application. Fine-tune your cover letter to each individual application to be sure you’re hitting all the right points that they care about and that pertain to their business. It’s worth it to take some time crafting a unique and compelling cover letter that makes you stand out from the crowd. One good bit of advice is if you’re bored reading your own cover letter, your potential employer certainly will be too. You never know what interesting tidbit you provide that might catch a recruiter’s eye.

Once you have nailed your resume and cover letter, you should create an elevator pitch for yourself. An elevator pitch is how you would answer, in the most concise way possible, the question ‘What do you do?’ It can be as simple as, ‘I’m a Senior at Beloit College studying Computer Science and I hope to get a job as a software engineer when I graduate.’ The benefit to having these few lines practiced and ready to go is twofold. You can start to shape for yourself who you are and what you want out of employment, and you will come across to anyone you meet as having your act together. This kind of preparation will ensure you make a good first impression when applying for jobs, and also just out in the world in general.

Tip 3: Mine Any Connections

Talk with people in your social circles about the internships you’re interested in – you never know where there might be opportunities for an introduction. Look through your contacts on LinkedIn and other social media platforms to see if there are any connections you have who may have ties to the companies to which you’re applying. Think about aunts, uncles, cousins, and neighbors and where they work. Taking the time to go through your contacts to see if any connections arise is time well spent. Having someone put in a good word for you can be the difference between getting called for an interview or not.

Tip 4: Set Up Informational Interviews

If you do find connections who work for the companies you’re interested in, see if you can set up informational interviews with those individuals. This will be a great way to learn more about these places where you might eventually serve as an intern and help you mine information that you can use if you do get an interview. Plus, if you make a good impression, they may put in a good word for you should you end up applying.

Tip 5: Here’s How To Prepare For An Interview

Select your clothes in advance. Pick out the perfect outfit for your interview, make sure it is clean, ironed and you’ve done a dry run to be sure there are no missing buttons, broken zippers, or unforeseen issues. This applies to shoes too. Make sure your shoes are clean and ready to go. As CEO Robin Richards says, ‘Always overdress. It’s that simple. If you walk in and it’s casual, someone might tell you that, but you should say, ‘I wasn’t sure, but I wanted to be respectful,’ and that will set the tone for who you are before you even sit down.’ He goes on to describe interviewing candidates who looked like they hadn’t showered or were dressed inappropriately, and ‘they were out before they even opened their mouths,’ he says. So bottom line: clothing matters, be prepared.

Study the notes you’ve taken about the company with whom you’re interviewing and memorize important facts about the company.

Research the people who will be interviewing you. Go to their LinkedIn profiles and learn where they’re from, where they went to school, and where they worked before so you can be prepared when you meet them to show you took the time to learn about them in advance. This applies to informational interviews as well – always put in the effort to have a good sense of the person with whom you’ll be speaking.

Spend some time thinking about how best to convey you’re the perfect candidate for the job. Take the time to run through what skills you have that you can bring to the job and what your soft skills are, such as being a good listener, or being able to multitask. Taking the time to think these things through in advance will give you a clear head when you enter into the interview conversation and allow you to lay out who you are and what you can bring to the job in the most palatable way possible.


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