I interview about 10-15 potential interns per year on average, and usually select about 50% to work with my colleagues and me at Billboard for a semester.
Through these interviews and internship experiences each semester, I’ve come to realize that times have changed since I was in college. Included below are a few key tips for anyone looking to interview at my company (or any other, for that matter), collected in the spirit of education potential interns on how to get and make the most out of a college internship.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
Nothing, and I repeat NOTHING, is worse than a potential intern (referred to as PI in all further paragraphs) showing up to an interview unprepared. How can the interview tell if an interviewee is prepared?
- They can intelligently discuss what the company does
- They have questions about the internship description
- They come prepared with their resume in case their interviewers forgot a copy
… for starters.
Conversely, if a PI shows up to an interview and imitates crickets chirping when I ask them to tell me what they know about the company I work for, forgets a copy of their resume, or say that they don’t have any questions about the internship/work environment/company/why the sky is blue… I know they’ve failed to do even the most BASIC levels of research.
SEND A THANK YOU NOTE
It’s polite, plus it expresses your interest in securing the position. You’re the one that has to work for the internship, not the company! Show them that you’re willing to put in effort and follow-up digitally (or even better, with a thank-you note that is hand-written) after the interview.
Pro tip: Ask a follow-up question while expressing your excitement, and make it a good one! Nothing shows interest like… interest!
Once you get the job, here are a few top tips for maximizing your internship…
Seriously. You’re there to learn if you want to work in the field/at the company/in that type of role eventually, right? Why not ask around? Talk to the people that DO the jobs you’re interested in or ask your boss at your internship to intro you to people at other companies (but let them know the purpose of the request). The worst your boss can say is “no”, so gather your gumption and make the ask.
BRING A PEN AND PAPER EVERYWHERE
Are you going to a meeting? You may need to take notes. Are you working on a project? You may need to take notes. Are you talking to your boss? You may need to take notes. Are you being given directions? You definitely need to take notes.
… see where I’m going with this?
You may THINK you may be able to remember everything, but hedge your bets and bring a pen and paper anyway on the off-chance that your memory isn’t perfect and/or your boss gives you a complicated (read: multi-step) set of directions.
SHOW UP ON TIME
I work odd hours, as many people in my field do. If your internship hours are from 9am-5pm, I expect you to be there at 9am even if I’m not. I work whatever hours the job requires, even if that means showing up at 7am and leaving at 11pm for multiple days in a row, working weekends, or taking a breakfast meeting and showing up to the office at 10.
I don’t expect the interns to work the same hours as I do, but I do expect that they’ll show up on time to their internship and work the hours outlined when they were hired.
“Professional” has many definitions, depending on your industry. Professional for me used to mean heels, a skirt/slacks and a nice top or a fitted suit. Professional for me now means something akin to “business casual” OR “would happily network with other music biz professionals after work”.
We have everyone in jeans and a t-shirt in our office to full suits every day. Aim to strike a balance and wear things that belong in an office setting. Save your pre-faded jeans and gym t-shirts for your nights and weekends, please.
The purpose of an internship is to learn. One of the best ways to learn I know of is to ask questions when you have them. No question is stupid (really), no question to small or too big, and I’m never too busy to explain something and help educate someone about my role or the professional world.
So – fellow readers, what tips do you have for interns that want to work with you? Share your tips, pet peeves, pearls of wisdom and other thoughts in the comments… I know I didn’t hit on all of them!