3 Tips for Co-op Interviews During your Study Abroad
About a year ago, I took the “professional development” course at Northeastern to prepare me for my first co-op. I wasn’t yet sure what I wanted to do, but I was considering going abroad for it. After applying to a ton of jobs in and around Boston, and another dozen or so abroad, I finally got asked to interview for a position – in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. All the training that I’d had for job interviews, e.g. have a firm handshake, dress nicely, make sure you have good posture and a clean appearance… well, it all went out the window; my interview would be happening over Skype. I was nervous. Within two days, I had to prepare for a style of interview that I had never faced before. I figured most of it would be the same – they ask you a few questions, you ask them a few questions, a bit of small talk maybe. But I wasn’t sure how I could make a good impression without actually being in a room with them. Sending a handshake emoji probably wouldn’t have the same effect as a real one.
When the time came, I mostly winged it. Don’t get me wrong, I wore a suit, showered beforehand, trimmed my beard, and everything else that I would’ve done for a normal interview. But I wasn’t sure how much these things would really matter. At the end of my interview, I was offered a second one a few days later, and I graciously accepted. Lo and behold, I got the job! In January of 2019, I packed my bags and moved to Mongolia to teach English! And I would never have to do a Skype interview again. Or so I thought…
When I applied to study abroad, I guess that I forgot that I’d be applying for co-ops during my next semester, so when the time to start applying for jobs again came around, all my anxieties from the last round of co-op apps came rushing back to me faster than you could say “experiential education.” I had some experience this time, so it definitely would be easier than last time, but it was far from optimal. Every interview I would be doing would be over Skype or some similar service. As nervous as I’ve been about this, I’m relieved to say it’s going quite well so far. I’ve only applied to a handful of companies so far, and I’ve interviewed with just one. But I’ve had two interviews with that company and I’ll be having a third and final one tomorrow night.
If you’ve read this far, it may be because you’re in a similar situation and you’re looking for advice. Well, I’m no expert, but I’ve figured out a few things that should boost your chances, and I’m here to share them with you. So without further adieu...
1 – Do your Research
When you go to an in-person job interview, you have a massive advantage: your physical presence. Your potential employer gets to see how you act, how you dress, how you speak, and how you react in real-time. If you’ve prepared well for your interview, this should be a pro rather than a con. For an online interview, however, you have none of this. You’re relying solely on your personality and knowledge to get you this job, so it’s even more important that you know your stuff. Before any online interview, I would recommend that you do an extensive amount of research into the company you’re applying to. What projects do they have going on? What have they accomplished in the past? What is their position like in their industry? Who is the CEO? Try to dig a little bit deeper than the front page of their website so you can really impress the interviewer with your big ‘ol brain. While you’re at it, find a few things you really like about the company so that you can give a clear, concise answer when asked: “So why do you want to work here?” If you can show them that you know exactly what you’re applying to do, they’ll be much more likely to remember you.
2 – Be Punctual
You are a university student. You have a lot going on between classes, assignments, social life, clubs, and whatever else you may be doing. On top of that, if you’re studying abroad, you’re likely to be in a different timezone than the employer. All of this together means that it wouldn’t really be that hard to accidentally be late to your interview, or even miss it entirely. Make sure that doesn’t happen. Waiting around for a potential employee is no fun, especially if they’re just staring at a computer screen waiting for you to connect. So set an alarm, or two, or twenty. Treat it just like you would treat an in-person interview, and be at your computer 10 minutes before the scheduled time. Make sure that you’re 100% clear on when the interview will be and how their timezone relates to yours. When I had my first Skype interview this semester, I had to wake up at 6:30 in the morning so I could be showered, dressed, fed, and at my computer by 7:45. The interviewer even gave me a compliment for being up so early to speak with him. Being punctual may not seem like such a huge deal to you, but to any employer it means the world.
3 – Wear Pants!
No, seriously. Wear pants. I get it, you’re at home, you’re comfortable, it could be literally any time of the day, but if that interviewer asks you to stand up and you’re not wearing pants… good luck elsewhere. The majority of the time, they aren’t going to ask you to stand up, but if you’re interviewing for your dream co-op, and you lose out on it just because you aren’t wearing pants, unfortunately, that’s 100% on you.
While you’re at it, make sure the rest of your appearance is clean as well. Many Skype interviews are pretty laid back, and you may be okay just wearing a t-shirt instead of a full suit, but you should always shower and fix up your hair beforehand. An employer won’t think much of it if you look clean and normal during your interview, but if you look Chewbacca after a 72-hour study binge in Snell Library, they’ll take note of it.
In sum, the best way to approach a Skype interview is just like you would approach an in-person interview. Come prepared with a few interesting questions, be clean and polite, and be on time. I can’t guarantee that following these steps will land you your dream job, as every person and every employer are different, but they should at least help ease some of your nerves. Applying for jobs is going to be stressful and exhausting no matter what, and it can be even worse when you’re doing it at 7AM, but if you give it your all and keep trying, you will succeed eventually. Good luck out there, Huskies.