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Internship Interview process demystified

Internship Interview

What does this sophomore know about the Internship interview that graduating seniors do not

Beat the internship interview

Last week we discussed the Nasty logic on how to land an internship for undergraduates. A sophomore wrote in the below email and I had so much detail, I had to break the post up into two parts. Last weeks post is here, and with her permission, I am posting her email below:

Hi HRNasty,

I realize this is an old post but I’m hitting a wall when it comes to changing my resume for different jobs. I get your point but I’m a junior undergraduate student studying economics with only a few years of work experience and very little mentionable classwork (unfortunately I completed my GEs first so my more complex economic classes will all be in my last year). How can I dramatically change my resume for each job when I have such limited material? The most I could think of is adjusting descriptions to match the job posting, but as you mentioned previously, that isn’t much. Even my career adviser told me to use one resume when I tried to have two different resumes when I was applying for an accounting internship and a consulting internship. Do you have any suggestions?

Thank you,


To be hired

If we want to be hired, we need to land the first phone interview. Once we get the recruiter on the phone we have a shot of convincing them that we are worthy of being hired despite a less than desirable graduation date.

Per last weeks post, as it relates to internship experience, all candidates are created equal. Whether you have had 1 internship or 3, are a freshman or a senior, most companies look at everyone as an equal. Internships will come into perspective when applying for a full-time position post-graduation. Candidates will have interview experience and the internships show initiative. The more you have, the more initiative.

Yes, first and foremost, hiring managers would prefer to hire graduating seniors. At the end of the day, they really just want someone who can do the job and help them out in the upcoming summer. On the other hand, HR is looking at converting interns to FTE’s. Conversion isn’t as important to managers. The priorities are different. Two years of college or 4 doesn’t matter. If we can “sound” like we can take instruction and play well with others, we have a great shot.

Qualifications needed

Most intern candidates come to the table with two similar qualities and it is very easy to stand out in this crowd.

  1. Resumes which list very basic accomplishments and lack detail.
  2. Are very reserved during the interview.

These two are intertwined and feed off each other to create an impression that won’t sell. Examples of typical accomplishments listed on an intern candidate’s resume:

  • Ran the cash register
  • Responsible for making sure the kitchen was clean
  • As a nanny took care of 2 children for a dentist

Quantify with numbers

One way to stand out is to list detail and specific numbers. In the below bullets, we are saying the same thing as the above, but showing more “scale” and thus, adding credibility

  • Responsible for running the cash register and closing out the till every night. For the entire 3 month job, my balance was only off by $.75 and I am proud to say I set a record for “best accuracy”.
  • Responsible for cleaning a 1000 sq. foot kitchen every night. This consisted of scrubbing down the exhaust hoods, changing the oil in the fryers, mopping the floors and hosing down the rubber mats.
  • As a nanny was responsible for 2 children ages 5 and 14. My duties included but were not limited to preparing meals, driving the clients to extracurricular activities and monitoring 5-year-olds diabetes.

Why we fail the interview

There is one other thing that holds most candidates back in the internship interview.  Candidates are nervous and don’t show much personality. I suspect that this is due to a lot of factors. My theory is that most interns do not know what to expect in an interview and consequently, are not comfortable interviewing with larger companies.

It’s ok to f*#k-up an interview at McDonald’s because Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts and Jack in the Box are right across the street. There are plenty of these jobs. Interview with enough of these fast food joints and we can quickly gain interview experience for this type of job. We will learn what to expect. Internships don’t grow on trees so it is much harder to gain interview experience at this level. Unfortunately, colleges are not taking the time to teach interviewing skills so don’t feel bad. This early in a candidates career, there is just not a lot of experience or exposure to the interview process.

Internship interview secret

The BEST way to approach an internship interview is to treat the interview like you are having coffee with your favorite uncle or aunt.

When we talk with our favorite uncle or aunt, there is a back and forth dialogue, we provide more detail than we might with a complete stranger in a business setting.

We look at the uncle or aunt as a wiser and smarter mentor, but it is also a casual atmosphere with some joking. This is the atmosphere we want during the interview. This subtle level of comfort that you create with the person interviewing you, will set you apart. Interns usually answer questions the same way they list their accomplishments on the resume. Short and to the point as bulleted above. If you can answer the interview questions with color and detail as shown above you will have a shot.

Leverage your experience

So, if you are in the internship application process for an accounting position, try to lean your experience to ANYTHING accounting. Mention the use of EXCEL, working a cash register, counting money at the end of the day. ANYTHING accounting will help. If you are going for a marketing position, add info about your personal social media accounts, with links to the profiles. Talk about research papers, or how you follow marketing blogs or reading marketing books in your cover letter. Even if you are a sophomore in school, you CAN tailor your resume to the position of interest.

Lastly, and this is not an intentional knock on career counselors. Career counselors are well-intentioned.  Most have NOT recruited in the real world or run candidates through interview loops in the last few years. They just don’t have real-world experience. Yes, they have seen 1000’s of resumes.  Have they seen the resume’s go through the entire process or just the resumes that started the process? Don’t believe the hype, multiple resumes will help out!

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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