by Al Dea, MBASchooled
After countless presentations, happy hours, informational interviews, and cover letters, MBA internship interview season is finally here! The process for interviewing for your internship is both exciting and stressful. I know this personally, as an MBA graduate who had to navigate this process, but also because I talked with hundreds of MBA students for my book MBA Insider: How to Make the Most of Your MBA Experience. We talked about their time in business school, and I heard first-hand about their challenges, development, and successes in the internship interview process. Here are five tips I’ve learned through my own experience and research to help you navigate your path to a summer internship
Tip 1: Focus on the Process, Not the Outcome
It can be easy to focus on the outcome as the barometer of your interview success. While outcomes are important (we all want an internship!), I think the best approach is to focus on developing a process and executing against that process, as opposed to focusing solely on the outcome. By focusing solely on the outcome, if you don’t get the internship after a great interview, you might think you did “poorly.” But you’d be missing so many of the positive aspects you put forth in that interview. Not every person lands an internship right away, and it may take a bunch of “No’s” before you get a ”Yes.”
Furthermore, let’s say you nailed an interview, but so did three other candidates. So, you don’t get an offer. Focusing solely on the outcome may hinder you from seeing all the things you did well. But if you focus on your process (e.g., Did you prepare? Did you come with good questions? Were you succinct with your responses?) and how effective you were in following it, you can learn so much more from the interview. You can then take into account all these factors when you prepare for your next interview.
Tip 2: Debrief Each Interview
Interviewing is important, not just because it’s a chance to land your summer internship, but also because it’s a chance to learn. But you can only learn from it if you take the time and make the space to do so. After each interview, write down what you did well, what you could improve on, what questions were challenging, and how you would have answered them differently. The internship interview process can be a lengthy one, so taking time to reflect, and using these insights for the next interview, can help you on your path to success.
Tip 3: 24 Hours and Move On
While self reflection and analysis are essential, it’s also important not to make too much of any specific interview, regardless of how good or bad it went. The last thing you want heading into your next interview is the ghost of the previous one! To manage this, follow Drew Miller’s (Owen, ‘20) advice and time-box the debrief of any given interview. Give yourself a set amount of time to debrief an interview, and let your emotions out. After that time period is over, move on to the next interview.
Tip 4: Make It a Group Effort
During the interview season, it can be easy to want to hole up on your own and remove yourself from the rest of your peers or your class. You might want to do this because you want to focus or because you’re afraid of sharing your successes or failures too publically. I’m going to challenge you to instead. Lean into collaborating with your peers and classmates. So much can be learned from what others are doing in the process. When you collaborate and share best practices, what you learn can help you improve your own interview process. Furthermore, in those moments when you are down or struggling, being a part of a group can give you support and confidence to keep pushing forward. At some point, you surely can be that support mechanism for your classmates. Finally, when you do have a breakthrough, having others to celebrate with is certainly a nice feeling!
Tip 5: “No” isn’t permanent
Getting a “no” or rejection isn’t fun. But also know that there are very few hard “No’s” in the interview process. If you’re still interested in a company after they turn you down, it never hurts to keep the door open. You might end up recruiting for full-time jobs or end up looking there later in your career. As such, remember to email everyone that you interacted with throughout the interview process to follow up with them and thank them for their time. It may seem tedious or unnecessary, but sometimes the little things make a big difference.
Al Dea is a career and leadership coach, author, and speaker. He is the founder of MBASchooled, and the author of MBA Insider: How to Make the Most of Your MBA Experience. Al received his bachelor’s degree in Business and Theology from Boston College, and his Master’s in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina Chapel-Hill.