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Online internship interview mistakes to avoid

Interview Mistakes

Special post contribution by our Head of Internship Placements, Lara.
I’ve lost count of how many candidates and employers I have spoken to after an interview. I know a lot about what should be done, and equally as much about what should not be done..

Hi! My name is Lara. I started out as an intern, and now my job is to connect other interns with companies and global internship opportunities. I’d say having been on both sides of the fence has given me a pretty unique vantage point in terms of what candidates want and what companies look for.

I thought it might be helpful to put together a couple examples of frequently occurring mistakes that can easily be avoided. These things aren’t unheard of nor are they revolutionary, but still seem to happen on a regular basis, thus resulting in the interviewer pulling an ol’ Simon Cowell, “It’s a no from me”.

Without further ado, here are some hard no-nos for internship interviews.

1. Don’t turn up to a virtual interview with your camera off

Whether we like working remotely or not (I’ll be the first to admit it’s not my cup of tea), it seems like we are going to be heavily reliant on video conferencing and virtual meeting tools for the foreseeable future. If you wouldn’t show up to an in-person interview with a room divider attached to you and ask to have it ‘confession box’-style, please don’t do it for an online interview. The camera stays on. 

Why is it important to have your camera on? The greater part of communication is non-verbal. Having your camera turned on not only portrays confidence and professionalism, but it reminds us that, in a time where human contact is completely disrupted, we are still able to connect.

It’s also worth noting that auditory recognition memory is inferior to visual recognition memory. In English, people are more likely to remember what they see rather than what they hear.

Alternative – if you are having technical difficulties with your camera, let the interviewer know ahead of time. However, try your best to prepare beforehand to make sure you have the necessary facilities. The only time you should have your video turned off is if your employer requests an audio interview.

2. Don’t ask “what is expected of me?”

A fair question, but one that can cause the interview to instantly go south if not asked tactfully. There are so many other ways this can be rephrased to benefit the interviewee, for example, “what kinds of skills are required of me in order to be truly successful in this role?”, or, “what could a typical day in this role look like?”

The first alternative demonstrates a willingness to work hard towards a goal, and the second shows curiosity. Both questions will give you a good indication of the nature of the role you are being interviewed for without you sounding unenthusiastic.

What’s wrong with asking “what is expected of me”? Other than coming across unprepared and passive, the question does nothing to show that you are willing to work hard. It does the opposite.

3. Don’t assume your interviewer can read your mind

There was a scenario where a candidate was typing on his laptop throughout the interview and had not told the interviewer why. It came out later that the candidate was taking notes, but without knowing this, the interviewer presumed the candidate was doing something else. By hardly looking up at the interviewer or asking follow-up questions, the impression was that the candidate was completely disinterested and preoccupied. Based on this impression alone, the interviewer did not proceed with the candidate.

Firstly, unless it’s an informative/conversational style call, or a case interview (explained below), there shouldn’t really be a reason to be taking notes. It’s something I would not recommend, but if you’d really like to, it’s essential that you notify your interviewer first. In this case, rather use a pen and notepad to jot down notes – it comes across as a bit more genuine.

Case interviews are one scenario that may require some note-taking. For example, for some consulting and engineering roles, interviewees are typically asked comprehensive case questions that require a calculation or two to answer. In these situations, it will be to your benefit to take notes. Again, tell your interviewer you are doing so. In summary, do some research into your industry to find out what might be best here.

4. Don’t forget to email your interviewer afterwards thanking them

It’s really just common courtesy. It’s easy, it’s professional, it’s polite, and it’ll leave things on a sweet note. A ‘thank you’ email needn’t be longer than two lines. And most importantly, above everything else, double check your email comms to make sure you’re not confusing a potential employer with a mate. So often I see candidates not use the correct format for an email and it looks like a WhatsApp message. This is something that almost every candidate forgets to do after an interview, but possibly one of the best and easiest ways to leave a good impression and have the employer remember you.

Don’t forget about your LinkedIn profile

You’re in the market for a job, there’s absolutely no reason for you to not have LinkedIn – even the U.S Secret Service has a LinkedIn page, get with it. It’s the #1 networking tool at the moment, and there are unlimited ways to grow your professional circle. That being said, it’s imperative that you keep your profile updated at all times. Plenty of employers ask for candidates’ LinkedIn profiles before interviews, and sometimes all it takes is a couple of spelling mistakes to put an employer off. This has happened in the past and the employer noted “lack of attention to detail”. I’m not kidding. 

Attention to detail is key, and it’s not only about spelling and grammar, it’s how an employer feels after looking at your profile. I used to think that the more certifications and courses I had up on LinkedIn, the better impression I’d give off. This is not always the case, and nine times out of ten, less is more. You don’t want employers to feel like they have to take a nap after reading through your profile, you want them to be curious enough to speak to you. Rather than feeling like you need to add every course you’ve taken, put together a powerful bio that’ll showcase more than what your certificates can say about you.

Also, please use a professional picture and not a filter selfie, keep that for the ‘gram.

Final Thoughts

A few things have been mentioned here, so I’ll keep the summary short and sweet. Show your beautiful face, be intentional with your questions and think about the consequences thereof, don’t make assumptions, always say thank you, update your LinkedIn profile, and eat your veggies.

To be a bit cheeky, we’d actually written how you can elevate your LinkedIn profile. Check it out here.

Don’t forget to share this post!

Lara Peach

Lara Peach

Having started out as an intern, Lara now works with companies around the world to help other interns find global internship opportunities. She has seen a lot when it comes to what employers look for in a candidate. So, if you want the inside scoop on what's really happening in the market, she's most easily bribed with choc chip cookies.

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