For those students who made it past the first cut of interviews or will be pounding the internship pavement soon, here is a little advice on how to convert an in-house interview into an offer. Traditionally, second round interviews take place in the firm’s office rather than on your home turf, aka your school’s career center. This change of scenery can wreck your nerves and certainly requires you to step up your game even higher. We hope these nuggets will help you to earn yourself an offer letter and peace of mind that all the studying was well worth it.
Scheduling Your Interview
Your behavior will be evaluated long before your walk into the door. For this reason, you should bring your A game to the process of scheduling your interview. Don’t make the inaccurate assumption that a scheduling coordinator or administrative person doesn’t have a vote on your candidacy, because they very well might.
Email correspondence during this time is a great way for the firm to evaluate your level of professionalism. Do you respond in a timely manner? Do you talk on the phone or do you just text? (I heard of this happening recently- cringe- and recommend you don’t do it!) Are you able to carry a conversation on the phone? Are you flexible with interview and travel dates? Someday you might be talking on the phone with the firm’s clients and scheduled out on jobs. The firms want to know that you have the ability to carry a cordial conversation and that you aren’t going to be high maintenance when it comes to scheduling.
Email is also a great way to evaluate your written communication skills. If you use text message language in your correspondence, the firm may be more apt to TTYL than to extend you an offer. This abbreviated language does not fly in correspondence with clients and firm leaders, nor is it acceptable in work paper documentation. Don’t underestimate the value of a well-written email message during your interview process.
Know What to Expect
The format of second round interviews varies based on firm size and culture. For example, the Big Four round up large numbers of candidates and bring them in all at once, while a smaller firm might only bring in one candidate per day. Note: This is also a great way to assess what type of environment you will excel in: being a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big (four) ocean. You can improve your likelihood of successfully impressing those you will meet by knowing what to expect. Otherwise, you might show up looking like a deer in the headlights instead of a top-notch candidate.
Are you prepared to schmooze your way around a large-scale breakfast/networking event? Do you know how to manage the dynamics of a group interview with three people sitting across from you? What do you know about dining etiquette for an interview conducted during a meal?
You can, and should, ask the firm representative what to expect. You might also check in with a person who recently went through the process, such as colleagues from school or associates who recently started with the firm. By knowing what to expect, you will know what you need to prepare for.
In coaching, we say there are two places from where a person can choose to act: fear or essence. When you think about an interview, you are probably well aware of the fear gremlins. They show up as the voices inside your mind that are telling you that you aren’t smart enough, you won’t have the right answers, and they are quick to point out your errors. If only you did or said something differently, you would have got the offer.
In contrast, your essence is a state of being that exudes an aura of calm, cool and collectedness. It is about being confident but not cocky. It is evoking a sense of trustworthiness. And most importantly, your essence is magnetic. Firms hire people they want to be around and don’t hire people that have awkward interpersonal skills. It is uncomfortable to shake someone’s hand that is dripping with sweat. It is difficult to pull a conversation out of someone who is so freaked out that they can barely formulate a sentence.
Being in your essence can be as simple as having awareness of how you act and from there being intentional about who you want to show up as when you interview. Get some altitude on your life by reflecting on a time when you performed at your highest level. What did it look like? Did you charm people with your humor? Did you impress others with a curiosity to learn more? What do you look like when you are on top of your game? If you can see how you did it before, you will have both the confidence to do it again and a game plan for showing up as a person that attracts offers.