Lackluster covid internship? Here’s how to talk about it in an interview

October 4, 2020

“My summer internship turned into several weeks worth of virtual training instead of actually working on a project, with a team, at a client. How am I supposed to include that on a resume or talk about it in an interview for a full time job?”

A bunch of people, specifically students, are asking this question now that fall recruiting is in full swing. While my heart breaks for those who didn’t get to experience the internship they were hoping for, I wouldn’t worry too much about how that impacts your prospects for a full-time job offer. However, there is definitely some nuance to how you want to present your experience in a professional and honest way.

From a general perspective, all the recruiters are going to know that this summer was basically a wash, so the value-add is that you went through the interview process for the internship at that company and they selected you. That’s not all that different from years past.

Personally speaking, my internship was a bad experience, so the main points that I got from the internship was “I went through this company’s interview process and they selected me” and “I learned the nuts and bolts of being a professional in the ‘real world'” which isn’t too far off from what your experience likely was.

Intentionally look through the other experiences on your resume that you can pull from for your interviews to help balance out the lack of interesting work during the interview itself. When it comes time to inevitably discuss your internship in an interview (or even in informal discussions with recruiters and interviewers), you can focus on “adapting to the virtual model of communication and information sharing” and you’ll be able to check that box off with no sweat.

Specifically I can see this being a totally cool interview exchange:

“Tell me about your internship.”

“Truthfully, it was not what I was expecting, and that was a little disappointing with all the changes. I was really looking forward to [getting to meet new people in person/seeing what it looks like to work at a client site/spending the summer in a new city/etc.], but — along with the rest of the world — we had to adapt!

I enjoyed getting to learn the skill set of virtual communication [or insert something that you learned & applied]. Meeting people for the first time and forming genuine connections is much harder via a screen, but by the end of the summer, I felt like I had truly expanded my network of friends and colleagues, and that gave me an appreciation for the art and science of Zoom meetings!

I also learned a lot about their [frameworks, something you learned in theory but didn’t apply, etc.] which I am excited to apply to my role as [insert relevant role].”

Aaaand scene.

When I mention stories, this is the model that I’m thinking of. It’s a tool I made when I was interviewing that was a lifesaver! Behavioral Interview Matrix You essentially plot out the most common interview questions and your resume line items and then fill in the intersecting boxes with relevant anecdotes from a variety of experiences. That way, you’ve got your best stories prepped and you can show the breadth of your experiences.

You can also throw in stories from other non-resume topics to show being well-rounded, like interesting hobbies or side projects, origin-story style anecdotes about your upbringing or hometown, or your favorite places that you’ve travelled. Remember this concept about interviews and informal exchanges: people are looking for ways to connect with you, not just looking for black-and-white answers to questions. There is nuance of course, but don’t be afraid to bring up interesting tidbits about yourself to help the other person get to know you better. I explore this more in this post!

For more interview goodness:

» Grab this checklist on how to prep for a job application & interview (each checklist item takes 5 minutes or less)

» Read this article on virtual meeting etiquette if you’re doing a Zoom interview

» Define your Core Values — because I think literally every human should 🙂


Happy interviewing!

Explore more categories:  Interview Prep

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