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Want a gap year internship? Here's how to nail the interview

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How to Interview for an Internship

An interview for a high school internship or gap year internship could be long and arduous, or just an informal meeting to make sure that you are presentable and have basic social skills, a positive attitude and a willingness to work hard.

Either way, here are a few fundamentals to help you give the best impression possible when you’re headed to the interview.

  1. Research and prepare in advance.

Memorizing tons of facts is not necessary, but it’s important to have a good idea of what the company does. If it’s a restaurant or store, visit in advance to get a feel for what the atmosphere is like. This shows interest and enables you to ask informed questions. Be sure to visit the company’s website and understand how the organization makes money. Remeber that whether this is a paid high school internship or you’re interning for free, the company is investing time in you and wants the investment to be worthwhile.

  1. Tell why your work matters

The most important preparation step is to imagine why you would be a good match for a position, whether it’s an internship for high school students or your first full-time job. For example, if you’re applying for a summer engineering internship, describe your experience with the robotics club at school and how you might apply what you will learn working for the company. Candidates should always talk honestly about their strengths, but the best idea is to focus on strengths that are relevant to doing the job well. Come up with three reasons why you’re best suited for the job that can be explained through simple examples.

  1. Dress appropriately for the interview.

Boys should wear nice pants, a collared shirt, and dress shoes; girls should wear a nice shirt or blouse, skirt or dressy slacks and dress shoes. Hair should be neat – pulled back if it’s long. No jeans, T-shirts, tank tops, sneakers or flip-flops.

  1. Arrive early for the interview.

It’s best to arrive at an interview five minutes early. It shows interest and promptness, but won’t stress out the employer who planned for a meeting at a specific time.

  1. Turn nervous energy into a positive

It’s normal to be nervous. The key is to use that energy to smile, focus on what the interviewer is saying, and to express excitement about the position.

  1. Don’t dread open-ended questions

Interestingly, many job seekers hate the questions that often start an interview, such as “Tell me about you.” Rightfully so; it can feel impossibly broad. But a shrewd interviewee knows that such questions are an open invitation to talk about specific reasons why they would be a fit in an internship or job at that company. Some of the questions may be similar to what you would expect in a college interview:

  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?

  • What do you imagine doing in 10 years?

  • What challenges have you overcome?

  • What are some ways you’ve demonstrated intiative or leadership?

Always ask questions. It’s your opportunity to show real interest in learning more about the job. Such as:

  • What makes an ideal candidate for this job?

  • How could I best prepare for the job before I start?

  • When do you plan to make a decision for this position?

  • What kind of training or information will I get before I start an internship?

  • May I have your business card so I can follow up with you later?

And, always follow up with a thank-you note or e-mail within 24 hours. Keep it simple and absolutely error-free:

Dear Ms. Smith,

Thanks so much for meeting with me today to talk about
the waitress position at your restaurant. It was interesting
to learn that you value a positive attitude more than job
experience when evaluating your staff.

I am definitely interested in the job and believe that I would provide outstanding customer service to your patrons. I hope that you will consider me for the job, and I look forward to
hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Josephine Jobseeker

If you prepare well for the interview, the potential employer will be impressed and think that you are a good bet for a high school internship.

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Written by Scott Weighart

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Scott Weighart is Director of Learning and Development with Bates Communications in Wellesley, Mass. Prior to joining Bates in 2011, he worked in the education and private sectors, helping students of all ages reach their full professional potential through books, articles, workshops, classes, coaching and integrated learning systems. For more than 10 years, he was on the faculty of the Department of Cooperative Education at Northeastern University, providing career coaching to students.

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