Prepare to be you

By Jessica Sader

As pre-professionals seeking internships, we’re often bombarded with advice as to how to present ourselves during an interview. We’re told how to act, how to dress and how to respond. It can be especially hard in a field that relies heavily on image to know what to say about you. It is important to know that the interview process is different for everyone and depends greatly on the organization. But there is one general piece of advice that is applicable to every situation—be you.

I spoke with Beth Ann Bayus, Head of Mopar Brand Media Relations at the newly joined Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, for some insight on the process.

Bayus was Head of Internal Communications last year when she interviewed me to join her team as an intern. She has been interviewing potential interns for the company since 2008 and has plenty to share about the process.

In the last couple of years, Bayus has noticed people coming into interviews being over-practiced and so professional that it comes off as fake.

“You can tell they’ve been sitting in front of a mirror rehearsing—there is a difference between rehearsing and being prepared,” she said.

To Bayus, being prepared is learning background information ahead of time and having key points you’d like to make at the ready, but not being scripted. Here’s a breakdown of how you can prepare rather than rehearse before an interview.

Know what you want to say.

This is where all of the skills you’ve learned in class come in handy.

“It’s just like PR,” Bayus said. “You know the key messages you want to get across about yourself, but you’re open to expanding on it and being flexible. Have a couple key points in the back of your head and make them, but make them in a way that is unique to you and individualized to what you feel.”

Do your research.

Internships are learning experiences. No one expects you to know everything before you get there, but you should know some things. Prepare by reading. If you’re just spitting out facts, it’s likely that you seem rehearsed.

“Know the company, but know the industry too,” Bayus said. “You don’t have to be an expert, but you should be familiar.”

Share a connection.

You’ve applied to this specific place of work for a reason. Let that connection be known.

“What I always like to see is there some way you can tie a personal experience that you’ve had to that company,” she said. “Whether it is you use a product, know somebody who does or you hate a product… (share) some sort of genuine thing that connects you to that company or that industry.”

Here’s some additional information beyond personality that can help you out.

Before the interview

“I look for writing,” she told me. “Have these people written anything? What kind of writing experience do they have?” (Wink wink, nudge nudge—it’s not too late to start writing for our blog, the Salute, or The South End).

During the interview

Having an “openness to learn and desire to try to figure things out” is important to convey, according to Bayus. “It is easy to tell if people have a sense of entitlement or if they are genuinely interested in working and learning new things, so that’s what I look for.”

These are all things that helped me land my internship and can help you too.

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