If the thought of interviewing makes you feel awkward, anxious, or addled (the three A’s), then there might not be much of a difference between you and me—or anyone really. As a business major, you may say these skills are drilled into the academic curriculum, in which case you’re right—but getting comfortable takes practice and like many of the skills you’ve acquired, reading it from a book would never be enough.
This summer I have the opportunity to return as an intern at a large public accounting firm where dozens of other accounting majors with high GPAs like mine apply every year. The interview process consisted of an on-campus interview and then a call-back for an interview at the office with two different people in management (or above) positions. I remember walking into the career development center at school with my new suit and a padfolio with about 10 copies of my resume, and being extremely nervous. I wasn’t the president of five clubs, nor did I create groundbreaking technology. I saw myself as an average candidate with one extra-curricular that I dedicated my time to, along with my part-time job. I had doubts and questioned whether that was enough. I made small talk with the interviewer to distract myself, after which he immediately jumped into the expected question, “So tell me about yourself.” I started to give my elevator pitch, which I had down crisp, and ended awkwardly because of how robotic and rehearsed it had sounded. The interviewer put me at ease by commenting on my responses with his own personal experiences and the interview quickly started to feel like more of a conversation. If I had walked in there with that mindset to begin with, I would have been even more confident in my responses and it would have been way less of a stressful time!
Learning has been the key component to my internship experience so far. I had to do some learning about the firm even before applying. I had to learn my interviewing weaknesses to know what to work on when called in to interview. And I have since been learning to leverage the opportunity to be in a position where all questions are expected and invited.
Interning has taught me that there is no way I will become an auditor in just eight short weeks. What this short amount of time is really designed for is to pick up small nuggets of knowledge that will give insight on what my career could look like, pick up technical skills required of my position, and network – because you quickly learn how excited (most) of the full-time employees are to answer your questions. I once had a mentor tell me that I won’t ever again have the opportunity for people to be so eager to answer my questions—so ask those questions while you’re an intern! I do want to add that internship programs and workplace cultures may vary, but internship opportunities exist for the purpose of growth and it’s your responsibility to hold yourself to the goals you’d like to accomplish in your short eight weeks.
You can get over your awkwardness by knowing your pitch so well that you can relay your message like an actual human and not a robot! You’ve probably heard it enough, but this requires practice. The person on the single page resume is YOU and who knows you better? Moving past the awkwardness allows you to sell yourself so that an interviewer can see why you stand out above the dozens of other candidates with similar credentials. Believe in your ability to differentiate yourself with the interview.
Anxiety is the extreme version of nervousness, which you’ll never quite get over, but learning to manage these nerves is immediately reflected in how much more confidently you’ll interview. This makes all the difference because of the quality of your responses. The more comfortable you are, the easier it will be for you to gauge other important things like whether or not this is an internship opportunity for you.
Feeling addled or confused may come from not being sure about whether this is an opportunity for which you’re qualified. Remember that the worse thing that a recruiter can say is ‘no’. Take those instances as a learning experience for the next opportunity. One or multiple rejections shouldn’t stop you from putting yourself in that pool of similar candidates—chances are the firm where you’re a better fit will notice you as a standout.
Interviewing for an internship is a two-way process where the employer filters through potential amongst candidates and candidates filter through potential employers for the chance at a learning experience. The sooner you see the interview process as this two-way street, the easier it will be to walk in confidently knowing your worth as a candidate. More than anything, an internship is an empowering experience where you get to practice a bit of what you’ve spent long, hard hours on at school. At whichever point you’re at in your academic career, it’s important to think about what comes next. If you’re fortunate enough to have an internship by the time you graduate, you’re that much more prepared for when your focus switches to full-time job hunting. In the meantime, take advantage of the many eight-week programs catered just for you by putting yourself out there. You won’t be disappointed when your constant improvement lands you that dream internship.