Interviewing for Graduate Programs and Internships
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Interviewing for Graduate Programs and Internships

It can be difficult to know how to prepare for an interview for an internship or graduate programme. However, there are some important interview coaching things to keep in mind before you begin preparing. 

Internships can be controversial. It is not everyone that can afford to work for free in the name of acquiring valuable experience. However, for young people they can also be very useful ways of seeing how the corporate world operates. If you are a student with a placement factored into your programme it can be ideal. Many students struggle financially. However, if you have factored this into how you manage your finances a short-term internship can be workable.  And by getting in the door of these companies you can begin networking and this is what make the business world go around. 

Graduate programmes are obviously less controversial and are in some respects greatly respected. They provide a very clear pathway for new graduates to begin their careers and are often structured in ways to help with the transition from full-time education into full-time employment. 

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Interview Coaching

But how do you approach these interviews. In many cases, at such an entry level the interviews can often exclude any competency basis and in the case of internships what you are often looking at is an informal chat. But if we look at this from the perspective of a business exchange we must first ask ourselves, what is in it, not just for the potential employee, but also the organisation. 

In the case of internships the low cost can often be a big benefit, especially in the case of SMEs or smaller companies. Furthermore, in these situations you are much more likely to be given actual work to do and exposure to the inner-workings of a functioning enterprise. However, in the case of corporates, there is obviously less of an emphasis on keeping costs down (which can often be the reason they get so much flack for running internships in the first place). But the other obvious benefit is that these employers begin developing relationships with talented and ambitious young graduates, many of whom may one day be the future captains of industry. So there are plenty of incentives to go around. 

But the key takeaway H-Training suggests to clients interviewing for internships and graduate programmes is simple. The value of limiting the problems that arrive at your manager’s door is often a greatly under-stated practice. And what many managers have expressed to us through the years is simple: the last thing they want to be doing with their interns or graduates is ‘babysitting.’ Take time to think about this. The maturity levels of graduates can vary wildly. Industry is less interested in having to spoon feed and discipline young adults who haven’t quite crossed the Rubicon into adulthood yet. These candidates can cause problems in a variety of ways across a spectrum including everything from arrogance to emotional outbursts. These are the sort of problems that no HR department enjoys having to wade through. 

Not only does it reflect badly on the candidate but it creates more work for already busy management teams. 

So the central message you give in your interview needs to demonstrate this maturity. One manager of an engineering firm has shared with us his preference for new recruits who have had to endure some hardship in their lives. His reasoning is that with candidates like this, stress and difficulty doesn’t come as such a surprise. They are equipped to deal with life and less likely to be found giggling at the water cooler.

Demonstrating such things can be a balancing act. We don’t want to over-share with an interview board or become emotional taking about any difficulties we may have had. However, some candidates have worked their grandparents farms while studying. Others have had to take time out of their studies to care for a sick or dying family member. Many have struggled to overcome their own personal difficulties such as ill health, depression and financial struggles. Yet all of these experiences have helped the candidates to grow. The question is, how do we demonstrate such things appropriately.

There is no single answer to this and we often trouble shoot options with clients in order to deliver the most impactful message. And obviously many young people haven’t yet had difficult life experiences, or ones that are suitable to share with others. But again we need to remember what we are trying to convey. 

This candidate is a capable young adult. You should hire them!

Looking for expert interview coaching to help with hiring the perfect graduate or intern?
Get in touch with H-Training today.

About the Author Ciaran Hourican

As a professional coach, mentor and facilitator Ciaran has a passionate interest in developing competencies at all workplace levels but particularly in first-line and mid-level managers. His well-developed skills in coaching and his unique approach gains the confidence of clients and supports them towards significant development.

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