Whether it’s your first job or an internship, the interview is arguably the most important step in the hiring process.
While each job may have different dynamics and each job provider may have different needs, there are some universal qualities that most all employers are looking for.
Here are five sure things you can do that, in my view, are guaranteed to make your first prospective employer pass.
1. Cancel or Reschedule On the Day of the Interview
Stuff happens and it might not be fair, but most employers know that if it starts that way, it usually ends that way. By canceling on the same day, you’re projecting that either the internship is not a high priority, or you’re going to have trouble making it there. Either way, it’s not good. If the internship is one that you really want and there’s any small doubt you’ll have trouble arriving, reschedule in advance to make sure you’ll be there the day of.
2. Avoid Answering Questions
You may get some questions you don’t know the answer to and that’s fine, but you don’t want to simply avoid an answer (you know, the way politicians do). Example: “Can you tell me about a time when you failed?” “Well, I think I’ve always been lucky enough not to have any serious failures…” Another example: “What interests you about this internship and our company?” “Well, I’m looking for an internship in IT.”
3. Don’t Research the Company Before the Interview
Ok, so far so good. You have a good rapport with the interviewer, you have his or her attention, and you seem like a good fit for the internship. Now here it comes: “Can you describe what our company does?” “Well, I’m not exactly sure…” That answer, or one that is completely off base, will probably put you in the “no” pile.
By not knowing what the company you are applying for does, what you’re projecting is that:
a) You don’t care enough to do your research
b) You’re looking for whatever
c) You don’t know how you will contribute
How could you if you didn’t take the time to figure out why they exist?
4. Have Misaligned Goals
Ever wonder about that question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”, and why you hear that at every interview? Answer with something that has absolutely nothing to do with the internship, and you can probably keep looking elsewhere. For example: if you’re interviewing for an IT position, your five year goal probably shouldn’t be to become a famous writer of romance novels.
5. Project that You’re Not a Team Player
Example: “What were your responsibilities on the team when you worked on that project?” “Well the guys on my team sucked so bad, I had to go off and fix everything.” There’s a reason Google doesn’t hire lone wolfs. Even if you’re great, you have to be able to pass the ball to win the game. Alternatively, here’s an even worse answer from the other side: “I didn’t really do any of the code on that project, I just put it on my resume since I was part of the group.” This shows that you are ok with not contributing anything.
In the end, it helps to remember the universal fact that above all else, an employer wants to know if you are the right fit. A big part of that is you wanting to be there and learn. Clearly, there are other ways to fail and not get the internship you want, but these are five of the most common.