How to Give a Recruiter the Ick: Why You're Not Landing the Interview

Between wardrobe, skillset, and overall presentation, there are so many ways you can scream "red flag" to a potential employer; here's how to avoid those crucial mistakes.
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You know, that thing that instantly turns you off someone? Well, it’s not just reserved for dating.

When it comes to internship interviews, your wardrobe, skillset, and overall presentation can either make or break your chances. There are plenty of ways to accidentally wave a red flag in front of a potential employer. So, let's cut to the chase and walk you through what not to do—and what you should do instead—to leave a lasting, positive impression.

Don’t Make These Interview Mistakes

Arrive Late

First impressions are crucial, and arriving late can be a deal-breaker. It signals disrespect for the interviewer’s time and can leave you flustered and unprepared. Aim to arrive at least 10-15 minutes early. 

Dress Inappropriately

Your attire speaks volumes before you even utter a word. Dressing too casually can make you seem unprofessional, while overdressing might make you appear out of touch. Research the company culture and dress accordingly. When in doubt, it's better to err on the side of formality.

Show Up Unprepared

Familiarize yourself with the company’s mission, values, and recent achievements. Prepare answers for common interview questions and have some insightful questions ready for your interviewer. If you think "winging it" is a good strategy, think again.

Badmouth Previous Employers

You wouldn't spend a full first date talking about your ex, so don't do it in an interview.  Speaking ill of previous employers or colleagues not only reflects poorly on them but also on you. It raises red flags about your professionalism and attitude. 

Discuss Money or Time Off

Unless an offer is put on the table, it's not recommended to discuss salary or future working and holiday arrangements. Bringing up money or vacation plans too soon can make you seem more interested in perks than the actual job. Save the negotiation talk for when you're actually negotiating.

Don't Ask Questions

An interview is a two-way street. Not asking questions can signal a lack of interest or curiosity about the role. Prepare a few thoughtful questions about the company culture, team dynamics, or the specific responsibilities of the role.

Forget to Follow Up

The interview doesn’t end when you walk out the door. Sending a follow-up email to thank your interviewer for their time and reiterate your interest in the position is a crucial step. 

What to bring to your interview

Showing up prepared is half the battle won. Start with multiple copies of your resume, neatly printed on good-quality paper. You never know who else might join the interview last minute. Carry a portfolio with samples of your work, whether it's design projects, writing samples, or any relevant materials that highlight your skills and accomplishments.

Don't forget a notebook and a pen—old school, yes, but it shows you're ready to take notes and are detail-oriented. A list of questions you’ve prepared for your interviewers can be a lifesaver when your mind goes blank. Lastly, bring a positive attitude and a readiness to engage. Confidence is your best accessory!

Internship interview questions (and how to ace them)

Interviews can feel like an episode of "Survivor," but with a little prep, you won’t get voted off the island. Recruiters often stick to a few classic questions, so knowing what to expect can give you a serious edge. Here are the ones you’ll want to prep for:

Common questions a recruiter might ask you

  • Tell me about yourself.

Ah, the classic. Think of this as your elevator pitch on steroids. Keep it concise and compelling: a snapshot of your education, key experiences, and what lights your professional fire. Avoid the autobiography; recruiters don’t need to know about your childhood pet turtle, Sheldon.

  • Can you tell me about a time when you faced a challenge and how you handled it?

Here’s where you get to be the hero of your own story. Use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to craft a compelling narrative. Show them you’re resilient and resourceful.

  • Where do you see yourself in five years?

This isn’t a trick question—well, maybe just a little. They want to know if you’re ambitious and have a vision. Connect your career goals to the role and how you see yourself growing with the company. Dream big but stay grounded.

For more daunting questions and how to master them, check out our article on the five hardest interview questions. It’s like your secret weapon in the battle of the interviews.

Questions you should ask during an internship interview

Interviews aren’t just about surviving the recruiter’s questions—they’re also your chance to play detective. Show your curiosity and impress your future employer with these smart, witty questions:

  • Can you describe a typical day in this internship?

This one’s a classic. It shows you’re ready to dive in and want to picture yourself in the role. Plus, it can spill some tea on the company’s work environment.

  • What are the main goals for this intern role?

Asking this proves you’re not just here to grab coffee—you’re ready to make a splash. It also helps you understand what success looks like, so you can hit those targets like a boss.

  • What are the biggest challenges the team is currently facing?

Asking about challenges shows you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work. It also gives you a sneak peek into the current hurdles and how you might help overcome them.

  • How do you evaluate success in this internship?

Metrics matter, even if it’s not all about the numbers. This question shows you’re eager to meet and exceed expectations, setting you up as someone who’s proactive and results-driven.

For more killer questions to ask and ace your interview, check out this Extern article. And if you’re lucky enough to be interviewing with the big boss, don’t miss these 7 Questions to Ask a CEO in an Interview to truly make your mark.

After the internship interview

You nailed the interview—now what? The post-interview phase is just as crucial as the interview itself. Here are some steps to keep you on top of your game and leave a lasting impression.

  • Send a Thank You Email: Shoot a quick, personalized email to your interviewer within 24 hours. It shows your appreciation and keeps you fresh in their mind.
  • Reflect on the Interview: Take a moment to jot down what went well and what didn’t. This helps you improve for future interviews and keeps the experience fresh in your memory.
  • Follow Up: If you haven’t heard back within the timeframe discussed, send a polite follow-up email. Persistence shows you’re still interested without being pushy.
  • Stay Connected: Connect with your interviewer on LinkedIn. It’s a professional way to maintain the relationship and stay on their radar.
  • Keep Searching: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Continue applying to other opportunities while you wait for a response. It keeps your momentum going and reduces anxiety.

FAQs: More tips for cracking the internship interview

How do I relax before an interview?

Take a deep breath and step away from the prep. Engage in a calming activity like a quick walk, listening to your favorite playlist, or practicing mindfulness. Remember, you’ve got this!

What is the number one way to prepare myself for an internship interview?

Research, research, research. Know the company, understand the role, and be ready to align your skills with their needs. Think of it as a Netflix binge—only this time, you’re binging on company info.

How can I impress during an internship interview?

Show enthusiasm and be yourself. Confidence, combined with genuine interest in the role and insightful questions, will set you apart. Think of it like a first date—bring your A-game and let your personality shine through.

Preparing for an internship interview might seem daunting, but with the right strategies, you can walk in with confidence and walk out with an offer. From thorough research and thoughtful preparation to showcasing your unique skills and personality, each step brings you closer to securing that dream internship. Remember, every interview is a learning experience. Stay positive, stay proactive, and keep refining your approach. You’ve got the tools—now go out there and ace it!

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