It’s just about that time of the season: the hunt for the perfect summer internship. While some of us dread searching for open internship listings or writing cover letters upon cover letters, the final step of the process, aka the interview, can be the most daunting. It seems like we’re taught our entire lives on how to nail the perfect interview that will get us hired, but what about the things to avoid? To get the realest answers, I reached out to several professionals in the industry to get the inside scoop on what common interview mistakes potential interns make during that final step that can cost you the job.
Mistake #1: Oversharing Personal Information
During interviews, many potential employees get overwhelmed, leading to them share a bit too much. Gabriela Pelletier, brand partnerships coordinator and assistant buyer at Lisa Says Gah, says, “A common mistake when people don’t know how to answer the questions is to ramble or to start to go into detail about things that are irrelevant to the interview.” While at times sharing personal stories seems like the best way to answer certain questions, Gabriela says that it “just wastes everyone’s time while also looking unprofessional.”
How to avoid it: Gabriela states that the best way to avoid the rambling tendency is to “keep the answers short and to the point to keep the interview flowing.” Because interviewers are both on a tight schedule and only wish to see the most polished side of you, it’s important to stay true to the topics. Instead of using your speaking skills to narrate your life story to potential employers, stick to the basics and only disclose what is most important and relevant, especially in the context of the position you are interested in.
Mistake #2: Describing Negative Situations in a Negative Light
Many interviewers will ask the dreaded question, “What is one negative experience you have dealt with in previous work experiences, and how did you overcome it?” This question can be difficult to answer because it seems impossible to share a negative experience without showcasing yourself as an unqualified worker. However, it is something you should be able to do. Ruth Ghilwet, store director at Madewell, says she finds it frustrating when interviewees “explain a negative situation and make it more negative, making it seem like they have a bad work ethic that can cost them the job.” Being unable to explain negative situations (which happen to practically everyone) can make it seem like you’re unable to communicate properly and, even worse, as someone who is unable to overcome and learn from their mistakes.
How to avoid it: Ruth says the best way to steer clear of this mistake is to “stay positive when explaining a negative situation.” Even if the experience you decide to talk about was very negative, showing how you overcame the mistake by giving examples of future situations where you learned from the mistake shows that you can continue forward after failure and stay positive, which every employer admires.
Mistake #3: Not Listening to Your Interviewer
Interviews can feel extremely daunting, which can, unfortunately, lead to an inability to genuinely listen or make good conversation. Lauren Caruso, editorial director of Bandier, says she hates it when interviewees “don’t really listen to what the other person is saying, and instead, they wait to ask their next question or cross a talking point off their list.” Because this prevents, as Lauren calls it, a “balanced conversation” and instead creates a “one-sided talk,” the interview can both get awkward and also reveal that the interviewee isn’t actually prepared.
How to avoid it: Lauren says that “taking the time to listen, as well as being prepared to pivot directions when needed” are the best ways to stray away from an unbalanced conversation. It not only will showcase you as a good communicator, but it will also show that you are prepared for anything the interviewer asks, no matter how unconventional or unexpected their questions are.
Mistake #4: Not Coming Prepared with Questions
One great way to go above and beyond in an interview is to ask informed questions about the position, the company, or the interviewer’s specific job experiences. However, this is also an easy step to skip. Gabby explains that “everyone gets nervous in an interview, and sometimes it becomes hard to vocalize any concerns or curiosities.” And while it’s an understandable blunder, it can also show that you’re not prepared, which is something you should avoid in every interview.
How to avoid it: Gabby says the best way to avoid this is to prepare yourself ahead of time for the questions you will ask your interviewers, as it “allows the interviewer and candidate to see more quickly if the position would be the best fit for both parties given their needs and concerns. It also shows you are organized, dedicated, confident, and that you are able to think ahead.” Asking questions puts both you and your interviewer on the same page, and it also showcases you as a curious individual who is genuinely interested in the position.
Mistake #5: Being Uninformed About or Apathetic Toward the Position
The last thing employers want to see during interviews are people who don’t show enthusiasm for the position. Jennifer Lubitz, hiring manager at Madewell, says that “not doing any research on the position the applicant is interviewing for, or even worse, not expressing passion and desire for the position” is one of the worst mistakes candidates can make. She also says you should never “state that the job is only for extra money, is nothing long term, or is just a résumé builder,” as this tells the employer that you’re thinking about how this role can benefit you more than how you can benefit the company.
How to avoid it: Oftentimes, a display of disinterest is subtle, making it difficult to even know if you’re coming across as apathetic toward the role or company. To avoid this, make sure you are as informed as possible about the brand, you have a list of four to five concrete reasons why you would like to work at the company, and you can give examples of why you are the right fit for the position. Showing that you’ve taken the time to do your research and that you understand what the role requires and how you fit into that will prove to the interviewer that you actually care about the job and not just how it will benefit you.
Mistake #6: Forgetting Your Résumé
Although it may seem obvious that you need to print out a résumé before coming to an interview, skipping this step actually happens to be a frequent error that younger candidates make. Jenna Igneri, associate fashion and beauty editor at Nylon Magazine, says, “I think the most common mistake I see with candidates is arriving to an interview without a résumé. I shouldn’t have to search through my own e-mail to bring it up on my phone.” This major mishap ultimately shows that you are unprepared, which can make potential employers believe that’s how you’ll be at work, too.
How to avoid it: Yes, we do live in a digital age where it seems pointless to print out a copy of your résumé. However, not doing so just puts extra work on the employer, which is the last thing you should do during an interview. Jenna suggests “to come to an interview equipped with both your résumé and writing clips [for an editorial position]” to avoid this sign of unpreparedness. “Even if you’re not printing a physical paper copy, you should have a way to present me a digital version,” she explains. Employers want to know that you’re going to make their lives easier, not harder, so prove that you’re capable of doing so from the very first time you meet.
Now that you’re prepared to impress the hiring manager, it’s time to pick out the perfect interview outfit.
Featured photo by @geowollner.