There’s one minute on the clock as you nervously shake your leg, wiggling in your blazer while randomly shuffling the assortment of pens in front of you as you wait for the clock to strike 9:30am sharp. Your mouth feels dry and the room feels like it’s closing in on you as you stare eagerly, and painfully at the clock.
It doesn’t matter if it’s on the phone, in person, or a video call – the feeling of time stopping and everything slipping out of your control seems to never change no matter how many interviews you go through. It feels like you’ve forgotten how to breathe, and you’ve just been thrown into the sea as the weight of the ocean crushes you with each second.
But coming from someone who has faced distress, rejection, and oh too many moments of awkward silences, there’s a thing or two I have learned when it comes to acing that internship or job interview that only practice can teach.
Now, as a college junior jumping into her second to last spring semester with a new crushing weight of finding summer housing for my upcoming internship, I’m glad that the pressure has now switched from getting an internship, to how to excel at it.
Whether you’re about to be a new college grad, or a lucky college freshman who bagged their first internship interview, here are some of my top tips for acing that interview like a pro:
Do your research. And if you think you’ve done enough – do some more.
It can be easy to feel like googling “Microsoft sales internship interview questions” and scrolling through Glassdoor is enough; which is what I did and guess who didn’t get the job. It can also feel safe just sitting around and scrolling aimlessly on a company’s website and hope that your brain will capture just enough info that it’ll be of some use when the time comes.
But the most important thing you should do when you research is to find what drove you to apply in the first place. What is it about this company that makes you want to work for them? What is your passion and how can you bring it to the workplace? What do you offer that is reflected in them?
It’s always better to focus more about why you want to say something, versus predicting and planning what you are about to say.
Stop, ask, and think.
Have you ever answered a question so fast that by the time you finish, you don’t remember a single thing you said? It’s stomach-turning and completely leaves you feeling blown away by your own ability to BS something when you feel under pressure. You don’t want to say more because you don’t really know what you said to begin with, but you also don’t want to stop because now you’re hyperaware and too scared to stop.
But here’s the thing: you can just stop.
Stop, and ask, “Did I/am I making sense?” Admit that you probably came off as sporadic and unclear, and take a moment to think. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the time limit of a 30 minute calendar slot, but there’s truth and realness to someone wanting to pause before answering a question, and really think through what they want to say.
I’m not talking about going into a call and referring to your interviewer as a “bro.” I’m talking about introducing yourself and talking about what you love about your school, cracking jokes if that makes you feel more comfortable, or even mentioning how you love to hang out with your dog!
I say this because nothing leaves a bigger and better impression than authenticity, and coming off as someone not afraid to show their personality and passions, while drawing others in to do the same. Also nine times out of ten, if you can get even a spark of relatability about common interests, loving your pets, or maybe even coming from the same college town – then that interview isn’t an interview anymore, but a conversation.
Remember who you were when you walked into the interview.
Something people often don’t talk about when it comes to internship/job searches is that feeling that follows once you walk out the door, or when you close your laptop when the interview ends. You sit there, running through what just happened in your head, picking apart everything that felt right, or wrong, over and over again while hoping everything looked better from the other side.
You overthink – you could think you aced it but still overthink. But something that has helped me in the past few years of feeling like I’m just chucking my resume out into a void is remembering who I was to begin with, and thinking about what I know now after ending that interview call.
“It’s always better to focus more about why you want to say something, versus predicting and planning what you are about to say. “
I know now that people think it’s funny when I talk about going to college ten minutes from home, and sometimes seeing my dad driving through campus to embarrass me. I know now that when I’m doing interviews where I submit pre-recorded answers to a company, to always list the three topics I want to hit to not go longer than my time limit.
But more than anything, I know to trust myself and let go. Let go of the concerns that used to keep me up all night hours before a big interview. Let go and approach a rejection email as a sign for improvement and more knowledge for the future. Let go and know that getting that initial interview is a feat of itself, and to be proud no matter the outcome.
So good luck to every person about to dive into the ocean. It’s scary at first, but trust me, over time you’ll learn to love to swim.