It is perfectly normal to feel anxious about the prospect of an interview. We all do - whatever our career stage.
However, the unfortunate truth is that overly nervous and underprepared interview candidates sabotage their own success. Investing some time before your internship interview will not only mean that you're better prepared on the day, but will also make you feel more confident - creating a virtuous circle that will help you breeze through interview day.
Read on to make the interview experience exponentially less nerve wracking, and more rewarding for you.
Failing to Prepare is Preparing to Fail...
Acing the interview starts long before shaking hands with your interviewer. Take time beforehand to research the business. This could be as simple as some desk time reading the website, looking at the LinkedIn profiles of current employees, reviewing the trade press, and following the business and notable employees on Twitter. Depending on the internship, your research may be further reaching - but the effort will pay off on interview day.
Spend some time thinking about likely questions you will be asked - but also importantly the questions you want to ask the interviewer. Asking relevant questions shows your interest and personal motivation. Get as much information as you can in advance - such as the format of the interview, which may give some insight into the questions that might arise for you.
And finally, check, check and double check the details - don't risk being late, getting lost or forgetting who you should be asking for on interview day! You can be sure, it will be interview day your phone battery dies, the signal fails or some other act of God intervenes to stop you simply googling the details. Go old school and have a piece of paper with the details noted down!
Preparation done, get a good nights sleep, and do whatever you need to do to manage nerves in a sensible way - you know the drill: relaxing and a book before bed is good, wild night forgetting all your troubles at the pub, not so.
On The Day
Have a copy of your CV or application form printed out, and a notepad and pen in your bag. Give yourself enough time to arrive at the interview venue and settle in. One there, re-read your CV and note down any questions you want to ask in your notepad. Keeping productively active will help you set the nerves aside.
You might also have a prepared comment or question for the - always awkward - moments walking to the interview room, or in the lift with your interviewer. You can simply remark on the office building, ask a pertinent question such as which parts of the business are located here, or even mention the weather - starting to build rapport before the interview even begins will serve you well.
Once you're underway, think about your body language - make eye contact, adopt and open posture, mirroring the interviewer. Have prepared answers for the most common questions. Make your own list of the 10 most likely for the specific business and role, but many questions are common across different sectors, such as 'Why exactly would you be interested in this position?', 'What are your strengths and weaknesses', and 'Where do you see yourself in 5 and 10 years time?'.
Finally, if you don't understand the question, say so! Your interviewer wants you to succeed, so should explain anything you need help with.
Dealing With Unexpected Questions
Intern interviews are notorious for featuring odd questions, to test the reaction of interviewees when forced to think to their feet. Whilst this might feel like interviewers simply being provocative, or enjoying an 'in-joke', it is not that simple. Interviewing for an intern is tricky, as there is very little in the way of work based experience to assess - interviewers therefore are looking for the natural potential, values and drive of the candidates they see.
This means that questions that seem odd on the face of it might well be probing something important for the role - an unexpected test of logic (Google are said to ask candidates to estimate how many barbers there are operating in Delhi, for example), will be there for a reason, and questions like, 'What animal would you be' can reveal something about your thought process and values.
If you are asked a tricky question, the most important thing is to keep your nerve. One of the things the interviewer will be assessing is the ability of candidates to keep calm under pressure, assess their options, make a sensible response and explain their reasoning - whether you are being asked what song you might sing on American Idol, or how many cars BMW sell on an annual basis.
After The Event
Make some immediate notes - what questions were you asked, what answers were you happy with and what were you not so pleased about? You can refer to these for future interviews - so even if the last thing you want to do after the interview is reflect on it, I promise, it is time well invested.
After the day, follow up with the business and more personally with the interviewer if you are comfortable doing so, this could be a thank you email or letter, a contact through LinkedIn or even Twitter depending on the individual and business in question.
If you don't hear back in the timescales agreed, call politely and ask for an update - and even if you are turned down, consider asking for feedback. It is all a learning experience, and internship interviews for many are the best (indeed, only) practise available before starting interviews for permanent graduate positions.
Interviewing well, for most, is a learned skill. Practise and preparation make an enormous difference, both in improving your execution in interview, and also in improving your confidence and presentation. By learning to make the most of the experience early on in your career, you are setting yourself up for a long term success that is well worth the investment now.