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The Storyteller’s Guide to Landing the Summer Internship Interview

by Story2 Guest Author, on Jun 3, 2016 4:00:00 AM


The air smells different around this time of year, and it’s not just because the city is beginning to warm up. Rather, it signals the distinguished season that makes students rampant with anxiety, hitting up their networks and searching ever so fervently. What could it be?

Internship season.

The awaited summer session kicks in soon, and students will emerge from their educational institutions, sharpening their claws and ready to pounce on summer opporunities. 

When you are invited to the next step of the recruiting process from application to an interview, that means that they see you as a potential candidate, someone who possess the qualities and aptitude that the organization is looking for. The interview determines your fit with the company culture. How can you be sure to stand out in a competitive applicant pool during the interview process?

The interview itself is typically a half hour to an hour professional meeting with your potential employer or someone you would be working with. The first impression you make is extremely important, so be sure to look your best and be confident and enthusiastic! (Even if you have to “fake it ‘til you make it.”)

Worst case scenario: when you sit down for the actual interview, your nerves begin to jumble as you fumble over your words, fidget and swivel around on your chair. Your responses lack a clear sense of direction or purpose. You are unable to convey your enthusiasm and end up presenting yourself as a unrefined candidate for the position.

Well, that sounds rough, doesn’t it? Using  the power of storytelling, you can avoid the worst case scenario outlined above.

Storytelling is scientifically proven to allow others to relate to you in memorable ways among other benefits which you can read more about here. Tough questions like: “Tell me about a time you failed,” can trip you up. But you can seize these opportunities by telling stories that bring out your unique self, highlight what you have done in the past and make a case for what you will do if accepted to the position.

Telling stories passionately and persuasively will not only captivate your interviewer, it will also distinguish you from other candidates.

Storytelling is a skill that requires persistent effort, and fine-tuning. It is also deeply rooted in neuroscience--so understanding what goes on in our bodies as we communicate with each other can be used to your benefit.

Three ways you can begin improving your storytelling skills in an interview or any context include:

  • Stay positive and focus on the brighter side of things rather than accusing or judging others in your stories. According to a Harvard Business Review article, positive conversations induce the hormone oxytocin in our systems which elevates our ability to trust each other.
  • Vary your tone and pitch. By avoiding a monotone voice, you’ll engage your interviewer and show your enthusiasm for the position. A calm pace with gaps (that means no “um”, “like” or “uh” to fill the silences!) will also improve your delivery to provide the strongest impact from your stories.
  • Be warm and invite conversation for a seamless interview that flows smoothly. My personal favorite interviews are the ones that were like conversations. You may strike up conversation by revealing personal information such as relevant hobbies and interests that your interview might share. Self-disclosure has been linked to increase dopamine in the brain, otherwise known as the “reward center” of the brain. This will allow you and the interviewer to enjoy each other’s company and take genuine interest and compassion for each other.

Take a look at these common interview questions that you may be asked. Using some or all of the tips above, can you think of a vivid story to weave into your answer?

  • What is your greatest strength?
  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • Why should we hire you, rather than another candidate?
  • Tell me about a challenging time in which you had difficulty getting along with a professor, supervisor, classmate or co-worker. How did you handle it?

Storytelling doesn't just help you succeed in your summer internship interviews. Storytelling skills can be applied to just about anything, including your college essay. Be sure to put your best foot forward, have your best three stories in mind, and have fun with the interview!

Michelle is a student at the Macaulay Honors College of Baruch College in NYC. She studies just about everything she can fit in her schedule, with a major in Graphic Communications and tiers of minors in Psychology, Spanish and Interdisciplinary NYC Studies. Her favorite part of college life is the fact that she can join such diverse clubs ranging from Undergraduate Student Government to New Media Lab, and the free food at club events.