The Ultimate Guide to Killing it at an Interview

Hunter Samuelson, Staff Writer

It’s that time of year — internship interview season. Your resume is killer, but that isn’t enough. Now, it’s time to prepare for the moment that will make or break your shot for the job: the interview.

Text less, talk more

As millennials, our digital social skills may be harming our overall ability to communicate. No offense, but we’re not as conversational as previous generations, and if we don’t start practicing face-to-face communication more often, we’re sacrificing our employment opportunities. The key trait employers look for in today’s college students is effective communication skills, and you want to be able to display these skills in your interview.

To enhance your communication skills, start using your phone less in social situations.  Instead of scrolling through Instagram as you’re waiting for class to start, strike up a conversation with your classmate or professor. Slowly weaning yourself from your smartphone will make you an effective communicator, and therefore a better employee.

Research yourself

During the interview, it is likely that the employer will have your resume in hand so that they can ask you questions about what it was like working at a specific job listed. Make sure that you can easily recall or describe memories and experiences from the jobs listed on your resume.

Before the interview, take some time to look back at your work experience and think about what you did, why you did it and how the job crafted you into a better person. When it comes to job interviews, you are the most important person to research. You can’t sell yourself unless you know yourself well enough to talk about your work experience in detail.

Show, don’t tell

Instead of simply saying how skilled you are, show the employer pieces of your work. What counts as a work sample? Basically anything you created that reflects the skills your field requires. If you want to be a trainer, bring in a diet plan or a workout program you created. If you want to be a teacher, bring in a lesson plan with creative activities and exercises. If you don’t have work samples, don’t fret. You can make them!

Many students think that work samples only count if they were assigned by a professor or boss, but that isn’t the case. You can write an article, draw a sketch, design a website or record a video. As long as they illustrate your talent in a professional way, you can present them as work samples. Just make sure you don’t include too many samples so you don’t overwhelm the employer. Work samples are a fantastic touch and they will make you stand out from other applicants, but they should only act as a supplement to the interview.

Sell yourself

Although many students are uncomfortable with the idea of selling themselves for fear of coming across as arrogant, there is nothing vain about it.

“Employers advertise positions and hire because they have a need—they have a project that needs completing; a problem that needs solving,” Saskia Clay-Rooks, interim executive director of University Career Services, said. “By clearly articulating what you know and what you can do based on your previous experiences, you are helping the employer determine that you are the right intern for the job.”

Additionally, to ensure that you are employer-focused rather than self-centered, Rooks advises that you do your homework. “Review the position description as well as the company website,” Clay-Rooks said.  “Then, only share the aspects of your education, extracurricular involvement and work history that are most relevant to the position and demonstrate how you can support the mission of the organization.”

The importance of researching the company before your interview cannot be emphasized enough. Doing research shows the employer that you are engaged in the company’s mission, and you are not just interested in getting a paid job.

It’s all about body language

Confidence makes people glow. By using body language to project a more confident image, you will appear successful, relaxed and comfortable around adults — all essential qualities an intern needs to impress an employer. You need to realize how important eye contact is. Looking an employer in the eye shows that you are honest, sincere, and conversational.

Numerous studies have shown that people who make higher levels of eye contact with others are perceived as being more qualified, skilled, competent and valuable.

Additionally, eye contact is a sign that you are comfortable around someone. When the employer sees that you are making eye contact, they will know that you are comfortable around them, which helps them feel more comfortable around you. Using hand gestures also helps convey thoughts and emotions, which makes you easier to read.

According to Forbes magazine, gesturing as you talk helps improve your speech, and helps you use fewer filler words such as “uhm,” “uh” and “like.” Above all, sit still. As unnoticeable as it seems, fidgeting, picking at your nails, twirling your hair or doing some sort of nonverbal nervous behavior can rob you of your credibility.

Talk about it now

Time constraints, housing conflicts and financial concerns — the stuff we are too afraid to bring up at the interview.

“You have the most negotiating power at the time of the receiving offer,” Clay- Rooks said. Don’t be that person who waits until they’ve been hired to ask for allowances. Employers understand that you’re paying college tuition, you need money to live and that you may need time off to spend with your family. “Although more difficult as an intern as opposed to a full-time hire, it could be worth it to inquire about the possibility of a modified work schedule, company assistance or a stipend to help offset the cost of housing and travel expenses,” Clay-Rooks said. Dealing with these issues up front will show that you are honest, straightforward and thoughtful. It will help the employer feel comfortable about hiring you.

Wisdom begins with wonder

Employers are not taking time out of their day just to have a one-sided conversation with you. Before the interview, you need to prepare questions of your own to show your interest in the position. Questions such as “How do you measure intern success?,” “Who will I be working with?” and “What are the next steps of the interview process?” all work well in an interview. Do not ask the interviewer questions you should already know by a little bit of research. Questions like “Who are your clients?” and “What is the company’s objective?” will ruin your interview. Also, avoid questions like, “How much help will I get?” and “Can I work at another job part time?” Employers want to hire someone who is independent, self-reliant and 100 percent devoted to the company. They won’t want to take someone who will burn out by juggling too many jobs.

Questions “communicate your interest in the position, showcase your critical thinking skills and determine if the opportunity would be a good fit for you if offered,” Clay-Rooks said. However, keep in mind that good questions are subjective and personal, whereas bad questions are obvious questions that you could have found by doing necessary research.