Its important to know getting an internship is a pretty difficult task. Often times there is a ton going on in the background that you have no idea about or are out of your control. I applied for three years straight to one company and was denied every single year, sometimes getting internships is dumb luck...in grad school one of my good friends who is an incredible scholar (top publications, prestigious fellowships, amazing awards and extra-curriculars) never got an internship...and that person applied every single year for 4.5 years! That person works at Google now, but the moral of the story is that, its hard, but dont give up, these opportunities are phenomenal and are worth it but you can still succeed without them.
Consider these when prepping for an interview:
1. Research the team and your interviewers (they'll likely have an input on hiring you...sometimes its out of their control). What have they been posting on linkedin, what can you find about their background, what organization do they work in ? You need to have an idea of who you'll be talking to so you can predict questions that you'll be asked.
2. Be prepared to talk about yourself. You are being interviewed for a reason, youre a promising candidate that is either interesting, does relevant work, or both! This is where you need to practice telling your story. Depending on who youre interviewing with you may have different stories to tell. In my experience, people want to know:
- who you are now (work over the last two years) be really specific here and show your depth of knowledge.
- who you were a bit ago (motivations towards why you are where you are now 4-5 years ago)
- what sparked your interest in XYZ (is there something fundamental about your past/childhood that led you to where you are)
- where are you going (what are you interested in working on, problems you'd like to solve)
Its important to have each of these streams rehearsed and ready to go, make sure you pause for questions when explaining these as usually there are some interesting questions that come up.
Have a slide deck prepared that you can hand off after the interview, make sure its specific for that company and not just a general slide deck. Here's one of my very old ones.
3. Pick up the puzzle pieces. In the interview process your job is to figure out is this something i'd enjoy doing? Your conversations with the team are helpful in figuring out the role and scope of the project. Ask questions about the role, but more about the project space and challenges within the project.
4. Interview them. Usually there is always time for questions at the end, not as much time as youd like but still some time...be sure to pick 1 or 2 questions that will give you more clarity on the role. I like to usually ask a clarifiying question and then an organization question. For example, what would be an ideal deliverable for this position? and what is the culture of the team and broader organization like?
5. Stay connected. Play the long game, the people you interview with genuinely want to see you succeed and love young scholars, take advantage of that. Regardless of if you get the position stay connected with that person on linkedin or email etc. Send them a yearly update of what youre up too and where you are at. BE GENUINE. Seriously, eventually you'll all be colleagues and you never know who you'll end up working with. People know when you arent genuine.
6. Leave them with something that standouts. This last part is tricky and really dependent on your personality. You know what you are best at and lean into that. Be confident, not cocky, and be genuine in the interview. These are opportunities to have fun, interview the team, and really get a peek under the hood, embrace that. Personally, if i could do it all over again, I wouldnt change anything but maybe interview a bit more with folks. Interviewing is a skill that takes repitition to master.
Have fun and enjoy the ride.