Interview Advice

Preparing for Your Internship Interview: Top 5 Do’s and Don’ts

Have an interview coming up? Here are our five best tips on what to do – and what not to do – to give yourself an edge on your interview!

Michael Yan Leila Le
Published: (Updated: ) - 5 min read
Michael Yan is the co-founder & CEO of Simplify. Previously a software engineer at Meta, Michael dropped out of Stanford to found Simplify. He is a part-time career coach & Y Combinator alum.

Photo by LinkedIn Sales Solutions / Unsplash

Interviewing for an internship can be an intimidating experience, especially if you’re a freshly graduated college student. That’s why it’s so important to take some time and make sure you’re well-prepared. Keep reading for some well-tested advice on how to do that!

5 Things to Do:

When you think about it, an interview is not dissimilar to an audition. You’re playing yourself rather than a character, sure, but there are lines you need to prepare and ultimately, you need to leave your interviewer with a strong impression of who you are and why you’re the right hire for the internship. To do that, you need to:

Make sure your familiar with your resume! You'll likely be asked about it – here's our blog post on the best resume template.

1. Research Everything

There are three main aspects your research needs to cover: the company, the internship itself and if possible, your interviewer. Our best advice is to start with the company website and comb through as much as you can on their history, values, and the work that they do. From there, branch out to other platforms where the company may be visible, such as LinkedIn.

If you’re going to make a strong case for why you’re a good fit for an internship, you need to be specific about how you align with the company’s needs and culture. It’s also why knowing as much as possible about the internship itself is so important. By taking the time to research, you'll learn essential information about the company, their users, and the market at large. Gaining knowledge will therefore make you feel more at ease and confident throughout the interview.

2. Practice Makes Perfect

It may seem silly but practicing answering basic interview questions out loud will help ensure that you make fewer mistakes on the day. Some great questions to practice answering are: who you are, why you’re a good fit for the job, and what attracted you to the internship in the first place. You'll feel more at ease and confident during the actual interview if you've practiced answering interview questions aloud. You'll also be ready to respond to any questions the interviewer may provide.

Are you ready to practice? Read our piece on eight interview questions commonly asked in behavioral interviews.

3. Have Questions Ready

You’re not the only one under consideration in an interview, it’s your opportunity to put some questions forward as well. Having good, clarifying questions will also show your interviewer that you’re invested in the position and have done your research. Asking questions demonstrates interest in and excitement for your internship and frequently yields important insights that will enhance the overall influence you have on the organization you want to work for.

Not sure what questions to ask? The Balance has a great article with questions you can get started with today. Check it out here!

4. Take a Deep Breath

It’s normal to experience anxiety when going into an interview but make sure you give yourself a moment to take a breath. The calmer you are, the more mindful you’ll be about your words, and in turn, this will allow you to come across as confident and collected. You need to seem like someone who can be trusted to do the job well. A sense of panic won’t help with that.

Additionally, interviews are a chance for you to showcase your abilities and experience while learning more about the job! You are interviewing the organization just as much as they are interviewing you. Understand that you are not alone and that the person conducting your interview likely had to interview for their job (and was probably just as anxious too)!

5. Always Follow Up

No matter how the interview went, always follow up with an email or even a handwritten note thanking your interviewer for their time. Keep it short, sweet, and polite. It’s one of the easiest tips to put into action and it helps ensure that your interviewer is left with a positive impression of you.

Looking for a great follow up email template? Here's one we wrote for those attending a career fair.

5 Things NOT to Do:

Remember, you’re trying to show an interviewer that you’re someone who can be relied upon to do good work. With that in mind, here are some mistakes to avoid when you’re preparing and during an internship interview:

1. Don’t Be Late

Whether it’s an online interview or in person, make sure you’re on time. Check your internet connection and camera before a video chat and always run through your route and any possible traffic issues if you have to travel somewhere for the interview. Being late will make you flustered and start your interaction with your interviewer on a negative note. Arriving on time will allow you to make a great first impression and allows you to appear professional and punctual!

2. Don’t Talk Too much

Slow down. Talking too much can make you sound nervous. Try instead to keep your answers short and clear. Allow the interviewer to ask the questions and make sure you’re not going off on tangents or interrupting them. A well-known trick is to pause and ask to restart the question if you see that you are starting to ramble. You'll be able to respond to the question in a much more collected, composed manner as a result.

3. Don’t Exaggerate Yourself

It’s important to be as honest as you can about who you are and what your skill set is. Yes, you want to present yourself in the best possible light but over-exaggerating things will come across as insincere or worse, dishonest. Trust is one of the most important things an interviewer is gauging for during an interview, and over-exaggerating can send a red flag right off the bat.

4. Don’t Underdress

Check the dress code of the company you’re applying for, but when in doubt, go for something neat and understated. As much as you don’t want to dress like you’re still a college student, overdressing can also throw your interviewer off. Our advice is to pick something classic and professional that will allow your personality to do the talking.

If you're still wondering what attire is best for interviews – UC Davis has a great guide with examples. Check it out here!

5. Don’t Be Mean to Yourself

This is perhaps the most difficult piece of advice to take on during the interviewing process. Sometimes when we want something badly, we can be unnecessarily harsh on ourselves, but it’s important to remember that sitting in front of a stranger and convincing them to hire you for your dream internship is no easy task.

One of the best tips to keep in mind is that if you stumble or find yourself not knowing the answer to a question, don’t beat yourself up. It’s completely normal. Try, if possible, to have a positive inner dialogue that allows you to face the curveballs of an interview with grace and even a bit of humor. You can even ask the interviewer for some guidance – not being afraid to ask for help is a great quality.

The Bottom Line

Interviewers aren’t expecting you to do everything perfectly, they just want to see that you care enough to try. Although we know how challenging internship interviews may be, we hope that this post has given you some advice on what to prepare for and what to avoid. Happy applying!

Looking for internships to apply to? Read our piece on resume tips, and check out Simplify's database of over 1,000,000+ jobs and internships here!