As the founder of a small business that is growing into a large movement, it is inevitable at this stage in the game that I interview everyone interested in being a part of our blossoming brand. The task can be overwhelming at times, but I learn so much by talking directly to the young adults that want to join our Dream Team. From high school students to collegiates, I've interviewed hundreds of candidates (mostly via Skype), and I'm often shocked when applicants make some avoidable mistakes.
No one is perfect. We all make mistakes, but an application and interview are two places where you need to be on point. Did you have someone review your application? Dressed appropriately? Did you research the company? Here are some ways people bombed their interviews with me. Make sure you learn from their mistakes!
1. Messy application
From sloppy handwriting to misspelled words, I've seen it all. There is no greater turn off than receiving a job request with illegible writing and misspelled words. If writing neatly is not your strength, just fill in your application using an editing software like Adobe Reader, Gimp or Photoshop to submit the best representation of yourself and don't forget to use spellcheck. Try Grammarly, a writing enhancement app that does the proofreading for you!
Always let someone in your college career center read over your resume. A fresh set of eyes may find a typo that you and spellcheck overlooked. Sometimes when you spend so long looking at something, it becomes hard to see even the simplest mistakes.
If you're submitting an application via email, include the position you are seeking, your name, and the location of the position as well in the subject line and use the body of your email as a cover letter to briefly explain why you would be perfect for the position. Label your attachments (resume, cover letter, application) correctly including your name.
2. Skipping research
Don't walk or log into an interview for an internship without knowing anything about the company. You need to do your homework to make sure you're prepared. At a minimum, you should know what the company does, how your skills will apply to the internship, and who you're interviewing with. One question I've been asked in the past is, "what is your role in the company?" (inserts sarcastic side eye emoji). Join the mailing list and scan the company's social media pages for important updates that you could mention in the interview.
3. Not submitting proof of your relevant abilities.
Which position interests you? Is it editorial? Photography? Social media? Sell yourself by including examples of your relevant work. Sharing writing samples, video links, or the URL for your blog with content that proves you can deliver creative that meets our branding standards (tone, style, etc.) will make you a shoe-in for the position.
4. Showing up late for your interview
I typically schedule interviews for multiple candidates back to back so two things could happen when you show up late: either your interview is cut short, or you disrupt the schedules of several interviewers. Neither is good for you since it either shortchanges your time with an interviewer or makes multiple people grumpy.
5. Chewing gum
I can't believe that I have to include this on the list but sadly, this has happened before during a Skype interview. Chewing gum or a mint before an in-person interview is good if you are concerned about bad breath. Discreetly go to the bathroom before an interview and throw it out. During a virtual meeting, bad breath is not an issue, so please avoid having anything in your mouth. It's an unprofessional distraction.
6. Not wearing the right attire
One of the biggest mistakes candidates make when interviewing for an active company, is showing up in casual clothes. From sweatsuits to streetwear, I've seen it all. Deciding what to wear isn't as difficult as you might think. Dress in a manner that is professionally appropriate to the position for which you are applying. The rule of thumb is that you dress one or two levels higher than the job that you're going for. If you were going for a job as a mechanic, you wouldn't go in there in dirty overalls, even though that's how you would dress for that kind of work. You would respectfully go in with an open-collar shirt, clean pants and maybe a jacket.
7. Not asking the RIGHT questions
To me, no questions = no interest. At the close of an interview, I always ask "do you have any questions?" A candidate's response quickly lets me know if they're prepared. Avoid asking questions that you can easily find the answers to on our site or with a quick Google search. Ask relevant questions about the employer and the position you’re applying for. It’s OK to ask questions about the responsibilities you’ll have, the type of schedule you’re expected to work, etc. You should also ask questions that reflect the research you did about the company. Doing so proves that you took the time to get ready for the interview. Although you can usually only get in 2-3 questions at the end of the meeting, refinery29.com shared some incredible questions that you should consider: Don't Leave a Job Interview Without Asking These 6 Question
8. Wavering about why you want the job
When asked, “Why do you want this job?”, applicants often answer with why they want the job title, and not why they want to the particular position at my company. There is a big difference between saying, "I want to be in editorial because of x, y, and z” and “I want to be an Editorial Intern at your company because of x, y, and z.”
As an interviewer, I am always be disappointed if someone responded, “I really I think I’ll make an excellent Editorial Intern because I have a blog and I enjoy writing.” Sounds okay–but that has nothing to do with the company. This is better: “I know I want to be an Editorial Intern because I excel in writing, but I don’t want just any Editorial Intern role–I want to be on this team, at this company, for reasons x, y, and z.” Be specific, honest, and candid.
9. Failing to follow up
Each hiring season, I typically have more applicants than I need or want. If you aren't demonstrably interested in working with us, I am certainly not interested in hiring you. So check in on the status of your application and if you're lucky enough to get an interview, send a handwritten or at least, an email thank you afterward. Just because you have applied for an internship and sent in your resume and cover letter, doesn’t mean you can sit back and relax until the position falls into your lap. Remember… you’re probably not the only person applying for the job. I review hundreds of resumes, so it’s very easy for your application to get lost in the clutter.
Everyone makes mistakes, and, often, the mistakes are not "fatal" for your job search. But, do your best to avoid these errors, and you have a better chance of scoring the internship or job of your dreams.