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Is a Lack of Common Sense Hurting Your Internship Search?

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Emily Kapit, MS, CPRW, ACRW
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Published on December 22, 2014

Do you want an internship/interview/job? Are you sure? If so, let’s go over some pointers that I like to believe are common sense but, judging by some face-slapping-in-shock experiences with clients (some just recently!), a refresher is needed:

Preface #1: I am not much older than you (let’s just say that we are in the same generation) so this is not coming from the perspective of an antiquated, doesn’t-get-your-generation Baby Boomer (though I believe we have a lot to learn from the older generation too!)

Preface #2: Yes, common sense is a real thing that will get you far. Similar to newspaper use, common sense seems to be on the decline. For the benefit of your career, please don’t fall victim to this sad trend.

Preface #3: These are all real stories; identifying points have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.

Texting During an Interview

Look, I love to text; it’s efficient, on my own time, and easier. I would prefer texting/Facebook Messaging/WhatsApping over an actual phone call any day. That said, please don’t text during an interview. Put. Your phone. Away! Bonus: Don’t just put it on vibrate; use the silencer mode.

Texting a Thank You Note

So, your interview is over, you feel great about your responses, and you are back to checking your phone. Text your mom/best friend/significant other about how you nailed the interview and are definitely getting the job. If at any point the following thought pops into your head, drop the phone and run away: “Hey, I am so good at texting and the interviewer loved me; I’ll just text my thank you!” Again, stop. Drop the phone. Run away from said phone until your common sense returns and then draft an email that you will send later that day once you had had a chance to review it. Bonus: An actual hand-written note, in addition to an email, is so rare these days that sending one is actually impressive.

Not Sending a Thank You At All

I still get shivers up my spine when I think of this one; a client once claimed he didn’t need to send a thank you because, “They really liked me and will hire me anyway.” Yes, they may have liked you and may still want to hire you regardless of whether or not you send a thank you but why gamble like what when it takes literally five minutes to send an email? Also, that “I’m infallible” perspective will likely end up hurting you more in the long run than you can possibly know.

Being Too Informal

If you haven’t picked up on it quite yet, I strongly believe in erring on the side of formality when it comes to one’s career search. Whether it’s your clothes in an interview or how you address an interviewer, your approach can make or break next steps. Please refer to the examples below.

  • Dress For Success…Even If You Think You’re a Shoo-in: Earlier in my career, I worked for a prominent Wall Street bank and it was common practice for senior executives to request interviews of their college-aged children, relatives, close friends’ kids, etc. for different summer analyst roles. It was also standard practice to comply with said request (sorry, nepotism is real!). More often than not, the interviewee treated it as a real interview (since it was) and handled it with the utmost professionalism.

One such student did not and showed up to a business-formal Wall Street bank dressed like her next stop was Burning Man. Furthermore, she made it quite obvious during the interview that she believed she would just “get” the internship because her father was the Firm’s most senior C-suite execs. Let’s just say she didn’t “get” the role but yours truly “got” to deliver the news to her uncle. Luckily, he understood!

  • Address For Success (see what I did there?): Quite recently, I was working with a team on hiring an Executive Director role for a religiously affiliated non-profit organization. The candidate pool was narrowed down to three and final-round interviews started. One of the main hiring managers for this role was an ordained clergy member (a Rabbi) and while a fairly laid-back individual overall, she was surprised when a candidate referred to her by her first name during the interview. When it came time to determine who would get the job offer, she mentioned being put-off by the address gaffe and lack of respect for her role and she indicated wanting to go in a different direction. A new commandment: Thou shalt respectfully address your interviewers, especially if formal titles are involved!

If you are on this site and reading this post, I assume you truly want a great internship or job and I applaud you for that. A strong resume and LinkedIn profile will help you in that endeavor but so will using that innate common sense. It’s YOUR Career: ReFresh. Revive. Renew!

Emily Kapit, MS, CPRW, ACRW

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