I myself was in this position not too long ago, and I’m pretty sure I experienced every kind of psychometric tests, competency-based interview question and assessment centre group challenge possible (don’t worry I will explain what these all are later on). As a veteran to the applications process for internships and industrial placement, I am here to coach you and give you some clever little manoeuvres to help you tackle this gigantic task.
If you’re reading this and thinking this seems like a lot of work, trust me the benefits of doing an industrial placement are well worth the effort!
... Check out this article to see why
Bear in mind that each company will use a specific selection of the application and interview techniques I talk about in order to find their intern. So, don’t worry, you shouldn’t have to do four different types of interview for to get onto one internship programme.
How to Find Internships and Placements
There are so many places to look for placements from job search engines like
Milkround.com to having a good old scroll through Google.
However, the larger more well-known companies and most advertised placements can be extremely competitive. So, it’s worth checking out the smaller, less commonly known companies as well to see what they offer, especially as sometimes they will have less stages to the application process.
Your universities’ careers website will also advertise internships, and sometimes companies will come to the university directly to offer places only to students from that university.
This is probably your first time, so don’t worry we were all just as confused by what to do too, so take advantage of the careers advisors. They will be able to provide you with so much help and advice on the whole application process, from helping draft your CV and cover letter to running practice interviews with you. Plus these services, which in the real world you have to pay for, are FREE!
How to Land an Internship/Placement
Your First Year Counts
Now, against what near enough all students say, doing well in your first year of university will really help your application.
Yes, it doesn’t contribute to your final degree grade in most universities, but as you will be applying during your second year, it is the best and most recent indication to companies of how good you are at your subject. Plus it also shows how hard you work; even during the fun and shenanigans of
A bit like your personal statement, your CV and cover letter is the first way to convince companies why they should give you the placement. So, sell yourself!
Using the job advert, highlight how your academic achievements as well as your extra-curricular activities show the skills they are looking for in the role. For example, if your only hobby is knitting, then sell it! Tell them how this fine art involves intense precision and a keen eye for design.
The recruiters at the company may read hundreds of these applications, therefore make sure you stand out (but in a good way of course). Keep it relevant and keep it positive. At the end of the day, if you’re going into a marketing internship and you can’t market yourself, how you gonna market anything else?
Check Your Spelling
It’s easy to get tired and not notice spelling or grammar mistakes in your application. But bad spelling and grammar mistakes tells the recruiter you didn’t care enough about this application to make sure you can get your wording right. For highly sort after placements, this can be a sure-fire way to knock yourself out of the process. Spell checker doesn’t always get it right either, so take a break and check with fresh eyes.
For some companies, they may require you to answer some questions for them. Now after a few of these applications for similar roles, you start to notice there are trends, and a few questions that seem quite similar.
However, don’t fall into the trap of copying and pasting the answer you used for a different company. Different companies will be looking for different things and this will be obvious from the job description. Make the company feel special and customise your answer.
It’s a Game of Numbers
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket as mumma used to say. You can’t just rely on one application as you may not get that place, so send several applications out, the more out there the better your chances.
But remember, a better-quality application will always trump a rushed one. The recruiter at the company will notice if your CV and cover letter seem generic and not customised to the role, so try to strike the balance.
Internship and Placement Tests and Interviews
Reading a paragraph of text or graphs and answering four questions on them all in three minutes?! This may sound insane but this can be part of the next stage of the application process for some companies. Sometimes a ‘Diagrammatic Reasoning’ psychometric test is used which involves figuring out what shapes come next in a sequence (I quite enjoyed these personally).
There is only one thing to do here… PRACTICE! There is a wealth of practice tests on the World Wide Web and your university careers advisors will tell you where to find the good ones. You will get faster and don’t be afraid to have a pen, paper and a calculator close by to help you.
There are four main types of interviews you may face (don’t worry, it’s extremely unlikely you will do all four for one application):
Competency-based – These involve telling the interviewer about real life situations where you demonstrated a specific skill. For example “Tell me about a time when you worked in a team”. For these use the ‘ STAR’ technique (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to give your answer a good structure. Also chuck in what you learnt from this situation at the end. Everyone loves a good learner.
Technical – This involves knowing the subject area you’re applying for well and answering questions on it. So, just like for an exam, it’s best to get some revision notes at the ready for it.
Telephone – Usually in the initial stages of the application process, the beauty of the telephone interview is the interviewer can’t actually see you, so take advantage and have your notes sprawled all over the table during it. However, I once got told by an interview that they knew I was smiling… freaky!
Video – This usually involves recording your answers to questions set by the company. This does seem a bit weird as you’re essentially talking to yourself, but try to get over this and make sure you keep eye contact with the camera.
It’s important to make sure you’re looking smart, professional and dress appropriately in the video. Make sure you remove all things that may disrupt your video too (phones, dogs, pesky children, etc).
Here’s an example why...
And make sure you brush up on your knowledge of the company and their values too before you do any of these interview types.
This can seem like a marathon of a day but it’s the final push! You can expect to do a couple of group challenges, which usually involves doing a task relevant to the role within a team.
It can be frustrating working with a variety of competing personalities but don’t lose your cool. The best thing you can do is listen, actively contribute and smile. This day is aimed for the assessors trying to get to know you as a person. So essentially, just be the best you you can be.
What Happens Next?
Nobody likes rejection. And you’re bound to get rejected from companies a few times (unless you’re one of the fortunate ones). But don’t be sad. If you didn’t get offered the position then it’s usually because you weren’t the right fit, which means you wouldn’t have enjoyed the internship anyway.
Keep powering on through as companies take interns all year round. So, if you didn’t manage to get a placement in the Autumn term, don’t fear! There are so many companies that open up for applications after Christmas. Make sure you review and revaluate your application technique to see where you might have gone wrong before.
You’ve done it! Congratulations! Now it’s time to sign that contract and look forward to your year of valuable experience.
I found after almost 7 months of weekly applications and interviews that I had five offers come through at once! So good things come to those who have patience and work relentlessly hard for a position.