The Internship Interview: How To Prove You’re The Top Choice

WP Popular Music Studies students

A student recently going to meet with a company for an internship interview asked me for some tips.  After I had a long conversation with one of my friends, who hires many interns every year for a major label, we came up with some great tips and ideas to help you get that gig.  

The Internship Interview: How To Prove You’re The Right Choice

To ace any internship interview, try these things:

1.  Look up the person/people you’ll be interviewing with on LinkedIn.  If they’re there, memorize one or three facts about each person.

2.  Learn all you can about the company.  Spend time on its About Us page.

3.  Learn all you can about their specific industry.  Who is their competition?  

4.  Go in and be cool.  Don’t be too aggressive but don’t be too cool.  Be comfortable in your skin.  Make eye contact when they shake your hand and make sure your dry, not sweaty, hand gives a firm shake in return.  Look your interviewer(s) in the eye.    

5.  Listen to what they have to say.  

6.  Be prepared to ask them 2 or 3 or 6 questions about the company or the industry.  Show you’re willing to learn and genuinely interested in what they do.

Does that help?  Good.  But it’s not enough.  What?  Let me repeat:

That’s not enough!


Your goal now is to show them something.  Maybe it’s some work you prepared in advance.  For example, if it’s a social media internship, pull out your phone or tablet and show them your Twitter strategy; show them the Iconosquare engagement statistics you’re getting from Instagram.

How to interview for an internship

Whether you want an internship at a studio or a label, these tips will help.

That’s still not enough.  Do you listen?  Do you learn?  Are you open to the idea of having a mentor?  Better yet, have you even thought about the importance of a mentor?  If not, think about it now.  If yes, talk about that in your interview. Explain how driven you are.  Pull out your phone again and show them that your alarm goes off at 5:53 each morning so you can work out, eat a good breakfast, and read/study/write.  Then show them what you’re writing or reading or studying.

The point?

You have to show them that you’re better than everyone else being interviewed.  You have to prove right then and there that YOU have passion and drive; you have smarts and a desire to learn that exceeds what anyone else will say.  You must let that passion pour out of your soul in an authentic way.  

The internship market is as competitive as the job market.  You have to go above and beyond what’s asked of you to prove your passion and abilities.

Do you get it?  There’s more.

The interview ends.  You smile, looking your interviewer(s) in the eye as you offer a firm handshake.  Before you leave, you ask: “What did you think?”  

Listen to their response.  

Many people will not ask for instant feedback.  You are selling yourself.  You want them to place one order of you (you’ll offer fries with that soon).  The one thing bad salespeople don’t remember is to ask for the order.  That’s what you do now.  Ask for the order.

“What do I need to do to convince you that I can be a valuable member of your team?”

Listen to their response.  

Popular Music Studies Students 2015

These goofballs are getting internships. What’s stopping you?

They may be unclear.  You have the right to ask for clarity.  Don’t be afraid of rejection at this point.  You need to  know where you stand because you need to know how to strategize once you are out of their sight lines.

“We have a number of candidates to speak with and will be in touch.”

That’s a professional, canned response.  You very well may get that.  Knowing that in advance, be prepared to give your response.  This is not a time to be cocky.  “Your search is over.  I’m your person.”  If you’ve been listening, your gut should give you a good idea of what these people think of you.  A good answer would be, “Please explain the process from here.  You speak with other candidates, and then what?  Is there another interview?  Or do you choose based upon our time together now?”

That is a professional, respectful response to their statement.  If you want this internship, you need as much information as possible because your work is not done.  

Listen to their response.  

Meagan Johnson linkedIn

Tip: Make sure you have a LinkedIn profile AND a quality profile image. Meagan Johnson, who just got her MBA in Music Management at William Paterson University, uses this pic.

You may have room for another follow up question.  Questions are not bad, as long as they are good questions.  Another logical question: “What’s your timeframe to make a decision?”  More valuable information can come out of this.  

Listen to their response.  

Now, this next part may be just as important as the interview itself.  Go back to your car or the closest park bench or coffee shop.  Pull out your notes from the interview.  

Oh.  Yes, you should take notes.  Remember, you’re interviewing them just as they’re interviewing you.  You should take notes because you’re going to be nervous and there’s no way you are cool enough to remember every single word your interviewer(s) said.  Plus, you’ll probably impress them.  How many people are going to walk into an interview ready to take notes?  That’s a good trait.  It’s another subtle way to prove you’re the right person for this internship.  

You’re in the coffee shop or park bench or wherever.  First thing you do is construct your Thank You note.  Email?  That could work.  Don’t forget spell check and MAKE SURE you spell everyone’s names correctly.  But you want to know what will impress them even more?

Snail mail.

Send a thank you note through the mail.  Because you planned ahead, you have the stamped, addressed envelope already in your manila folder (which contains notes about the company that you studied before the interview).  Because you planned ahead, you have a few sheets of paper handy because you are going to hand write a thank you note.  

HAND WRITE A THANK YOU NOTE.

That’s a big deal.  I’m telling you now that nobody else will do this (unless they also read this post).  If more than one person interviewed you, write notes to each person.  You planned ahead and had multiple envelopes (already addressed) and you had extra stamps.  Write a short note.  

Thank you for your time today.  I learned some interesting characteristics about your company and am excited about taking the next step.  Looking forward to our next meeting.”

how to interview for an internship

Tip: Before you go to your interview, find a place nearby with wifi so you can go there afterward to connect with your interviewers on LinkedIn.

Then sign it.  You can write it in script (cursive is a synonym) but they probably will have a tough time reading your handwriting.  Slowly write the note a letter at a time in print.  (You have extra sheets of paper because your mind will wander and you’ll write a “p” instead of a “q” and it’ll look bad to try to fix that with just a pen.  Take your time, concentrate, and don’t mess up.  The place for script/cursive is when you sign your name.  

You’re still not done.  

Now you look at your notes.  What were you guys talking about?  What are they looking for?  Did you convince them with the props (your phone, your social media presentation) you brought in?  Yes?  No?  Maybe?  God, I don’t know!  

Okay.  Let’s say you need to go that extra yard.  Brainstorm.  It’s a social media position.  Put together a social media plan for whomever or whatever they represent.  Think about the audience.  Think about what would work.  Think about what the company is currently doing and what you might suggest that can be done better, or in a more unique way.  

Write it down.  Then make your presentation.  Maybe it’s on Powerpoint.  Maybe it’s with Prezi.  Maybe you create a cool infographic.  That point is, you need to do something.  Show them that you listened.  Show them that you’re thinking.  

Show them that YOU ARE WHO THEY WANT.  

How to interview for an internship

See all these students? They all want the same internship. What can you do to prove you’re the right choice?

Think about your audience (the person/people doing the hiring).  You just met with them.  Their voices still resonate in your head.  You have notes.  You listened.  You know something about what makes them tick.  Go.  Follow your passion now.  Make more out of what you just learned.  

Leave the coffee shop or park bench and mail those thank you notes (you’re close so they should get them within a day or two).  Then go home and put together Draft #1 of what you’re going to send over to them.  Then sleep.  Because when you wake up in the morning, you’ll be fresh and have the ability to fix spelling errors or errors in judgement to make a better Draft #2.  Go back to it over the next 24 hours, refining, thinking, telling your subconscious to help (that really works sometimes).  Once you think you have something professional and entirely creative, send it over.

Thank you again for your time the other day.  I’ve been thinking about our meeting and referring to my notes.  What I think you need to solve your problem with X is Y.  I put some ideas together that I had to share with you.  Please click on the attachment and let me know what you think.  Oh, and in case I didn’t make it clear before, I really want this internship.

Your interview is now over.  

Do you get it?  The interview process may take two or three days because you want this internship and you are going to prove to them that YOU are the perfect person for their company.  You are extending the interview based on your passion, your creativity, and your desire to get that position.  

The hidden gem to this?  If they say no, they may also say, “But I loved your ideas and want to help you.  I’ve sent your name to Jim Bob and he’s going to call you.”  

Here’s what I hope you learned:

1.  The interview doesn’t just take place in front of the decision makers.
2.  The interview isn’t just for the advertised job.
3.  The interview is, at the very least, a way to make connections with people in the company/industry that you want to be in.
4.  The interview might lead to your name being referred to somebody else either within or outside of the company.

Does this help?  Let us know your thoughts and experiences.  Maybe you’ve succeeded with other creative solutions. Leave a comment below and share.

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Professor David Philp is Assistant Professor Music Management & Popular Music Studies at William Paterson University. He is the co-host of the only FREE advice college radio-based music & entertainment industry talk show in America, Music Biz 101 & More, which airs live most Wednesday nights and is available as a podcast HERE every night (days too).  Reach him at PhilpD@wpunj.edu or find him on LinkedIn HERE.

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