“A Day in the Life” by Darko Osman

Darko Osman served as an intern in the HOD Internship Office in the fall of 2017. He came to us from the Next Steps Program at Vanderbilt University, and from day one, his presence and hard work contributed immensely to our team!
Chelsea and Darko
Darko Osman with his job coach, Chelsea Janda.

Before the conclusion of his internship, we had a quick Q&A with Darko to hear his thoughts regarding his time in our office.

Q: Hey Darko, tell us a little about yourself.

 My family is from Iraq. I speak Kurdish and English and live with 1 brother, 2 sisters, and my mom & dad. My dad owns a local Greek/Mediterranean restaurant. I like to travel, watch movies, go on youtube, music, and learn about politics.   

Q: Tell us about your daily roles as an intern in the HOD Capstone Internship office.

I helped faculty with tasks that they needed done on that day, such as copying/stapling, laminating, sorting/organizing, separating papers, checking the mail at the Commons post office, and working on projects to help with efficiency and aesthetics.


darko working
Every morning, Darko would check his mailbox for daily and ongoing projects, as well as correspondence between team members.


Q: What do you believe is your greatest strength, and how were you able to utilize that strength during this internship?

I believe my greatest strength is memory. Professionally, I can remember what people say to me, where things go, copy codes, etc. Socially, I can remember people’s names, ask questions, and then remembering the details people tell you.

Q: What was the most challenging aspect of this internship for you, and how did you overcome that challenge?

Visual barriers, not being able to visualize small tasks, using equipment that wasn’t fully accessible. I overcame this challenge by self-advocating and asking for help from staff and my job coach.


darko serious face
Darko’s visual barriers never stopped him from completing internship projects and being successful.


Q: What has been your favorite part about interning in the HOD Capstone Internship office?

My favorite part was gaining new knowledge and experience in the area of internships; I also enjoyed organizing.

Q: Do you have a favorite memory that you made during your time here?

The mock interviews. Kristen set it up and encouraged me to go, while Heather & Susan helped organize it for me to participate. In the mock interview, I was asked interview questions, I got to ask questions, practice my elevator pitch and interviewing tips. This was a special and unique opportunity that I would not have been able to do if I wasn’t interning in the HOD office.


darko at mock interview
Darko at the Mock Interview Event, with interviewer Christine McPherson, VP of HR at Campaign Monitor, Delivra and Emma


Q: What do you think is the most important thing you have learned during your time here?

The most important thing I have learned is about strengths and weaknesses. I learned that strengths are areas of work that you are good at. Weaknesses are skills and areas of work that you are not good at, but can work hard to improve. It is important to know your strengths and weaknesses because it helps you to look for the right job. I learned that a strength of mine is organizing and weakness of mine is writing

Q: What are your lifelong goals?

Graduate from college, live as independently as possible, have a big house, get an awesome job—maybe in government. This internship helped me figure out what kinds of work I like and am good at. This helps me to look for an awesome job.


darko with padfolio
Darko received a Vanderbilt University padfolio to take with him on his professional journey!


Q: What do you want to do as a career when you finish the Next Steps program at Vanderbilt?

When I graduate from Next Steps at Vanderbilt, I want a career where the business loves to help people. I could see myself working as an assistant. I would love to work in politics or government.

Q: If you could give someone a piece of advice for how to be successful as an intern, what would it be?

I would tell someone that to be a successful intern they should work hard, listen well, and do their best at their tasks.

Darko’s contributions to our team could not be more highly regarded- as well as his constant positivity and humor that brightened all of our spirits!


darko in front of mayborn
Darko Osman, December 2017

Thank you, Darko, for all of your hard work, determination, optimism, and creativity.

We loved having you in our office!


Preparing for the HOD Internship Fair

The HOD Internship Fair is Wednesday, January 31st, and will include representatives from a variety of organizations. Read below for tips on how to prepare for the fair, what to do during the fair, and how to best follow-up after the experience.


Tips to Prepare for the HOD Internship Fair

An internship fair is a unique and interesting place to look for internship opportunities or information about the internship market. Students will improve their chances of making good contacts at this event by following these suggestions:

Before the Fair

  1. Edit your resume and visit the Career Center (vanderbilt.edu/career) walk in hours for additional feedback.
  2. Print at least 10 copies of your resume on resume/bond paper. Vanderbilt printing services offers this service. Be sure to give them 24 hours’ notice (http://printingservices.vanderbilt.edu).
  3. Prepare your response to “Tell me about yourself” in a 30 second elevator speech (refer to your HOD 2400 coursework and/or your HOD Internship Search Process Worksheet to refresh your memory).
  4. Develop responses to common interview questions including: What industry are you interested in and why? Why are interested in working for our company? What are your personal strengths/weaknesses? Develop a response for a time when you have failed and what you learned from the situation.
  5. Practice your interview responses with friends and/or visit https://www.vanderbilt.edu//career/commodore-exchange/making-connections/interviewing/
  6. Review the list of attending employers and research the ones you are particularly interested in. Research the contact name on LinkedIN so you can customize questions at the internship fair. These steps demonstrate initiative and market research.
  7. Develop a plan of action for the top 5 sites you want to connect with at the fair. It will be crowded and this will ease your anxiety.

During the Fair

  1. First impressions are critical. Conservative, well-pressed, tailored business attire is your best choice.
  2. Arrive early or right on time to the internship fair, not all employers will stay until the end.
  3. Visit the employers you are most interested in first.
  4. Be open. Be willing to explore sites you may not have researched, but draw your interest at the fair.
  5. When you are meeting with employers, chewing gum, eating, or drinking are inappropriate.
  6. Do not travel in pairs or groups. Employers hire individuals and want to speak with you without your friends.
  7. If you are in line to speak with an employer, wait 2-3 steps behind the person who is currently speaking with them.
  8. Approach an employer with confidence, introduce yourself, and shake their hand.
  9. Do not ask if the internship is paid or not, unless the discussion is prompted by employer.
  10. As you close your conversation with the employer, ask what the next step in the interview process will be and get their business card.
  11. Make notes (on the back of their business cards) after speaking with an employer before moving on to the next one (i.e. name of person you spoke with, important considerations/talking points). This will be helpful for thank you notes, evaluating your options, and preparing for interviews.
  12. Remember, the employers are at the fair because they are looking for someone and they are all hoping that it is you!

After the Fair

  1. Say thank you and thank you again. Write a thank you message to the employers you connected with.
  2. In the thank you card, remind the employer that you met them at the job fair, express your appreciation, and give a short reminder on your qualifications and why you are interested in the job and attach a copy of your resume.
  3. You will receive an email the day after the fair with a link to a Google Document. Fill-in the information from your brochure that you completed during the fair. You will need to provide the contact names of 5 employers that you talked to, their organization they are a part of, and one thing you learned from each conversation.

Other Resources


Good luck and let us know if you have questions or concerns. The HOD internship office is open 8:30-4:30 Monday-Friday in Mayborn 104.

HOD Capstone Internship Demonstration Day

On December 8th, 2017, the HOD Capstone Internship held its first Capstone Demonstration Day. Students who completed the Capstone Internship in Fall 2017 presented their human centered design projects to an audience of their fellow classmates, Vanderbilt faculty, and supervisors from various Nashville organizations. The Wyatt Rotunda was full of energy all morning as students and members of the community engaged with each other and learned about the work the interns completed at their organizations.




Each student created a presentation and a poster to showcase the semester-long project they implemented utilizing a human-centered design approach.  In addition to presenting their own work, students learned from their peers by listening to each others presentations, viewing their posters, and asking questions.

Reva Alperson, Brookdale


Aaron Kwong, Goldner Associates


Kyle Bartholomew, G7 Entertainment Marketing


The event ended with a concluding address by Professor Bob Innes, founder of the HOD program. He shared stories from the first HOD graduating class and how the HOD program has shaped so many lives and organizations for the better.

The first HOD Capstone Internship Demonstration Day was a huge success, mainly in part to the students and all of their hard work throughout the semester. In addition, a very special thank you goes out to all of the individuals who worked to make this event possible.

“Day in the Life” by Blake Sidon – Distance Learning Internship

Intern Spotlight



Who: Blake Sidon

Fall 2017

Internship Site: U.S. Mission to the United Nations – Geneva, Switzerland


Check out video clip’s of Blake’s HOD Capstone Internship experience:

The Intern Experience

Feel How Gender Shapes Migration

Minimata Convention on Mercury


BS 1


Site description:

The Mission’s formal title is the Permanent Mission of the United States of America to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva. The Mission as it’s known today became active in 1946 after the birth of the United Nations. The central goal of the Mission is to represent the interests of the U.S. at the UN Office of Geneva (UNOG) and other Geneva-based international organizations, such as the Conference on Disarmament (CD), Human Rights Council (HRC), World Health Organization (WHO), World Trade Organization (WTO), High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), International Office of Migration (IOM), and International Labor Organization (ILO). As a bureau of the State Department, the Mission assists in representing U.S. foreign policy goals as well as playing a formal role in negotiating and constructing international law. Additionally, they assist with humanitarian aid coordination and support.


What was your role as an intern?

As an intern for the public diplomacy office, my role changed daily. One day I could be attending a meeting on the Syrian refugee crisis, another day I could be taking notes at an ambassador’s press conference. The work required a high learning curve and an ability to be flexible. Some of the “longer” projects I worked on was developing social media campaigns for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Hyderabad, the US Patent and Trade Office’s Patents for Humanity program, and the 16 days of advocacy for Ending Gender-based Violence against Women.


BS 2


What was your capstone design project for your HOD internship?

For my capstone project, I wanted to focus on the difficulties of working in the foreign service. One common observation was the struggle working abroad and trying to balance work and lifestyle. As I looked deeper into this issue, I realized that the current office culture is not supportive of a culture where work-life balance can flourish. In order to shift the Mission’s office culture, I developed the Cultural Change Agent Network (CCAN). The CCAN identifies employees who healthily prioritize a work-life balance, termed Change Agents. Change Agents are tasked with leveraging their internal networks to facilitate culture change through office activities and events. The CCAN is a cost-effective program that relies on the buy-in of employees at the foundation of an organization rather than the typical “top-down” method of organizational change. This intervention is very beneficial for organizations performing in a high-stakes environment, lacking internal mechanisms for morale improvement, and struggling to retain employees.


BS 3


What was one of the highlights from your internship experience?

One of the highlights of my internship experience was helping organize an event with Ima Matul as a guest speaker. Ima Matul is a survivor of human trafficking and now advocates for the rights of immigrant laborers in the U.S. She also works with lawmakers to develop survivor-centered legislation at the local, national, and international level. The event included guests from Geneva-based organizations, including IOM, UNHCR, and ILB, as well as delegates from different countries. It was an amazing experience to see NGOs, governments, and civil service working together to address an important issue. Additionally, it’s easy to forget how your work affects other people, especially when you’re surrounded by people in suits and leather conference rooms. Listening to the story of someone with first-hand experience surviving the issues we are trying to halt is an influential reminder to the importance of the work being conducted at the U.S. Mission and United Nations.


BS 4


How have you grown as a result of your internship?

This internship has enabled me to grow personally and professionally. It has taught me to take risks and put myself in situations that make me slightly uncomfortable. I’ve also learned the importance of keeping an open mind. Before my internship, I was hesitant on working for the government. However, I have learned a great deal about how the U.S. Department of State works and how important it is for the promotion and protection of American interests abroad.


What are 3 pieces of advice for someone in the process of their internship search?

  1. Do your HOD internship abroad! The HOD internship program at Vanderbilt is unique in that it provides the opportunity to work abroad for a semester. Take advantage!
  2. Don’t be afraid to look at different internship opportunities. There are many opportunities out there and the HOD internship office may not know of all of them. Research your own opportunities in addition to using the HOD internship database.
  3. Try something new! The HOD internship allows you to try working in an industry you may not get to otherwise. Maybe you’ll find a new passion.


HOD Capstone Demonstration Day Tips

The HOD Capstone Internship Demonstration Day is Friday, December 8th, and will showcase the design projects students have developed over the course of this semester. Students will prepare a presentation and poster to share their design project with an audience comprised of fellow classmates, Vanderbilt faculty, and supervisors from various Nashville organizations. Read below for tips on how to prepare for the final presentation and poster.


Image may contain: 7 people, people standing

The Presentation

The 7-10 minute presentation will serve as way to demonstrate to your audience how your design project works and the impact it has had on your organization.

  1. Practice. Spend time practicing your presentation. The presentation should feel conversational in nature, but you will still be expected to effectively share your ideas and demonstrate your knowledge of human centered design. Practicing highlighting your main points can improve the overall effectiveness of your presentation delivery.
  2. Dress professionally or in business casual attire. You are showcasing your work, so make sure you present yourself in a professional manor.
  3. Arrive early. You will need time to set up your poster and settle in before the presentations start, so plan on arriving 10-15 minutes before the start of the event.
  4. Slow down. Speaking too fast can take away from the effectiveness of your presentation delivery. Keep your tone steady and be aware of moments when you might begin to speed up. Practice helps with this!
  5. Make eye contact. This helps you connect with your audience and keeps them engaged with your presentation.
  6. Breathe. Taking time to pause and breathe during your presentation can serve many functions. It can serve as an opportunity to check and make sure you are still on-track, slow you down if you start talking too fast, and give the audience a moment to think about a point you just made.


Image may contain: 1 person, standing

The Poster

The tri-fold poster should supplement your presentation and highlight key experiences and learning from the semester.

  1. Avoid too much text. Having too much text can make it difficult for audience members to follow along and pull out the major concepts and ideas you want to demonstrate.
  2. Make it readable. You want your audience to be able to read the text that you do incorporate into your poster. Make sure the design of your poster, including font size and layout, allows for audience members to clearly view all of your poster’s elements.
  3. Be creative. Use pictures and info graphics to supplement your writing in a creative and aesthetically pleasing way.
  4. Don’t overwhelm. While creativity is encouraged, you do not want your poster to be overwhelming to look at. Don’t add too many contrasting pictures, colors, fonts, and borders, etc. It should be eye-catching but not distracting.
  5. Proofread. Make sure to double-check your poster before Demonstration Day. This is an easy way to avoid simple mistakes in your work, which can take away from the quality of your overall presentation.


Good luck and let us know if you have questions or concerns. The HOD internship office is open 8:30-4:30 Monday-Friday in Mayborn 104.

(Pictures are courtesy of Peabody Career Services and their 2016 LPO Symposium Event)

2nd Annual London Tea Party

Students interested in pursuing internships in London met with HOD professors and London alumni to discuss the ins and outs of life and internships abroad.

On Wednesday, September 20th, the HOD Capstone Internship Office hosted its annual London Tea Party. Students who are preparing for their Capstone Internship semester were invited to join us in the HOD Internship Office for an afternoon high tea.

The tea party is an amazing opportunity for students who are interested in learning more about the London internship process. Students demonstrated their London knowledge with a round of trivia, got firsthand information from previous London interns, and had a Skype session with the London HOD instructor, Professor Morgan.




“I think it’s such an amazing opportunity. You really learn a lot about yourself. It’s hard to get there but it’s so worth it, because you can really live independently and live in an international city.”  – Natasha Raskin

“The best part of my HOD internship experience was doing a job I loved in a city I loved. I worked for Social Enterprise UK, where I had the pleasure of learning about all sorts of innovative ways that companies are using business methods to solve social problems. It was even better because I experienced a new work culture in another country, spent my nights exploring the amazing city of London, and spent my weekend traveling all over Europe.” – Serena Deutch


Skyping with Kate Morgan, residing London HOD Capstone Professor


“This program is better than any opportunity out there with Vandy, because you get the study abroad cultural immersion type of thing and on the weekends you can travel but during the week you are having this completely immersive work experience. It’s a nice balance because you have the work experience in London and you can travel on the weekend and meet up with friends. It is such a cool growing experience unlike any other abroad programs.” – Aaron Chasan

“The London HOD internship provided an ideal opportunity to further my academic, professional, and personal goals through the internship coursework, international work experience, and travel opportunities.” – Kelsey Laabs




For those interested in completing your HOD Capstone Internship in London, here are some helpful resources:

Critical London Internship Information

HOD London Tips

London Housing Tips

If you have additional questions, feel free to reach out to these past London interns via email:


The Queen would love for you to visit!



“This is not just classroom learning, but world learning”- Interview with one of the first contributors of HOD

Nina Martin, a faculty member in the Human Development Counseling department at Vanderbilt, speaks about her experience contributing to the development of the HOD program, which was called “HD” at the time.

The Early Years:
  • Founder: Bob Innes
  • Called “HD”- the organizational development piece came later, and thus it became “HOD”
  • About 25 students total (it grew to 300 in just 4 years!)
  • Initial Goal: Think about what makes a good learning experience and how to systematically support and document it to ensure that it is of the highest caliber possible.
Interview with Nina Martin:


Nina Martin


Q: How has the HOD Internship Program changed over the years? How has the coursework/requirements of the program changed since the program’s inception?

It has become more organized and systematic with greater numbers of assignments and structure to enhance the academic portion of the experience. The number of sites increases seemingly yearly, especially as more sites in cities outside of Nashville catch on to this opportunity.

Q: What did you hope interns would gain from this experience? Is this still the vision for our interns today?

Ideally, students will gain a sense of what it actually means to be in the world as the program is applied in nature. Students will gain an understanding of how organizations work, use research to inform real-world application, and close the gap between academic and applied experiences so that each one enhances the other and ultimately expands critical thinking. These experiences inform research while research simultaneously informs students as to the best ways in which they can understand and impact organizations. Nina’s hope for students is: “you will apply what you are learning in a real life laboratory out in the world”.

Q: How has the job market changed as far as where we place interns?

It now seems to be more important to be able to read organizations quickly and effectively; with high job turnover, it is critical for new employees and interns to integrate into the organization quickly, conduct a needs assessment, be a team player, and move forward as needed.

Q: What skills should interns focus on building during their site experience?

Academic skills, such as learning about how organizations work, what developmental stages people are organizations are in, enhancing critical thinking, practicing public speaking and giving presentations, and continuing to work on writing skills; creativity; flexibility; adaptability; sense of humor (key!); and the ability to learn and receive feedback.

Q: In your opinion, what are the strongest qualities of the HOD Internship Program? What sets it apart?

First and foremost, it is academic in nature, and rigorous at that. This is not just an internship but an experience grounded in intentionality around creating thoughtful and prepared students whose skills include ethics and organizational development, to name a few. Students produce goods in the form of a portfolio, project, and other elements along the way to end their culminating capstone. Thus, they are able to prove learning through documentation and, with the help of distinguished professors, are appropriately critical of what they learn.

Q: How do you think this sort of internship prepares students for future occupations?

It is hard to imagine how this program wouldn’t enhance your potential to work in any job as it provides students ways to learn how to integrate themselves rapidly and identify needs within organizations, while understanding how to apply best practices from research in the service of enhancing those organizations. The skills learned in this program carry forth if integrated well.

Q: If you were to describe the HOD Internship Program to an individual not familiar with it, how would you describe it?

It is an experience that prepares students to be thoughtful, responsible, and intelligent citizens and integrate themselves into the communities and organizations they want to affect. Students are emerging scholars and continually think about how to help people in an intentional, systematic way. Students are able to think about what makes a good boss, a good leader, and a good organizational member and team player, all of which one cannot learn solely in a class, but must also experience in order to internalize.

Nina’s closing words… “You might be changed by the experience as much as you may change the organization itself.”


“A Day in the Life” by Dana Alloy – Distance Learning Internship

Intern Spotlight


Who: Dana Alloy

Summer 2015

Internship Site: Heart Capital – Cape Town, South Africa




What was the highlight of your experience (i.e. projects you worked on, people you met, events you attended)?

The best part of my experience was being able to be immersed in the culture of Philippi, the township where I worked, without feeling like a tourist. My afternoons selling vegetables through the maze of streets with my coworkers, Monwabisi and Justice, eating “smilies” and amagwenya with the whole team, or learning about the lives of my team members were invaluable memories I will never forget.




How does the HOD capstone internship compare to other internships you have had?

Working in the nonprofit space, there is always an aspect of complexity and chaos that is less present in a typical, for-profit business. My internship at Heart Capital was the most extreme case of that – on a daily basis, I faced corruption, gang issues, theft, internal conflicts, and more. The HOD curriculum provided me with frameworks to make sense of a complicated situation so that I could provide more value as an intern.


How do you think you have grown as a professional (i.e. skills, learning to receive feedback, professionalism tips)?

I think the most valuable lesson I learned is the importance of hard data in creating strategic initiatives in low-income areas. Secondly, I learned the importance of listening to and learning from those around me for weeks – if not months- before even beginning to take action when I am in a new environment.




What are the top 3 pieces of advice you would recommend for the internship search process?

1) Go Abroad! My internship was colored by my international experience. It both gave me a greater understanding of the coursework as well as became the most influential time in my life thus far.

2) Seriously, go abroad!

3) Contact me if you want to go abroad! I now work for the organization that placed me at Heart Capital, and I would be happy to help you find an internship in Cape Town as well. You can reach me at dana@vacorps.com


Why did you choose your site for your internship?

I knew I wanted to work at the grassroots level in a township in order to gain more experience. My passion for social enterprise and youth employment initiatives led me to Heart Capital. I also was interested in learning more about food systems, so it seemed like a perfect fit (and it was!).




How will this internship impact your future (i.e. change career, landed a job)?

My time at Heart Capital gave me a perspective that I believe is necessary for my career in the social sector. I also learned the quantitative and qualitative skills required to pursue lasting, data-driven change, and these tools will be necessary for me moving forward.


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“A Day in the Life” by Shannon van der Walt

Intern Spotlight


Who: Shannon van der Walt

Spring 2017

Internship Site: Juma Ventures

san fran 3
Shannon van der walt: “Photos of Juma youth and university pennants are scattered throughout the office, reminding us of who we serve and what they can achieve.”


What was the highlight of your experience?

As cliché as it sounds, the highlight of my experience was having the chance to work with some truly incredible people. My coworkers are from all over the country and world, and all have fascinating backgrounds and stories to tell. Similarly, the students we serve spend afternoons in the office and consistently bring excitement, happiness, and the latest pop culture updates. Juma is a family, my supervisor is a mentor and friend, and work has never been so much fun! From coffee/boba runs, to staff picnics out on the lawn, to cramming into the HR closet, every part of my experience has felt like a team effort. Juma made me feel valued and welcome, and it’s made all the difference!

san fran 1
Views from right outside our office!

How does the HOD capstone internship compare to other internships you have had?

No other internship has ever made me feel so immersed, impactful, or independent. Working 32 hours a week, for fifteen weeks gives you a much deeper understanding of the organization, which rarely to never happens over the course of a typical internship. I was given the opportunity to work on projects that wouldn’t typically be assigned to a summer intern, and as a result, I could contribute in a more significant and meaningful way to the organization. The capstone internship also provides an invaluable opportunity to live and learn in a new city, find a healthy work-life balance, and transition from a student to a young professional.

How do you think you have grown as a professional?

Some projects that I’ve worked on include: recruiting and onboarding new youth and full time staff, designing a brand new professional development program, and creating a manager onboarding packet. Each of these projects has been a unique learning opportunity, and has taught me how to apply HOD concepts to real business processes and decisions.

What are the top 3 pieces of advice you would recommend for the internship search process?

  • Start early, and start with your passions. This is a wonderful and unique opportunity, so don’t waste it! Be proactive and find an organization that shares your values and interests. You’ll be spending four months of hundreds of hours there- make sure you’re genuinely excited about it from the start.
  • USE YOUR NETWORK. I can’t say it enough, your professors, peers, and past employers will give you the best introductions, and will genuinely enjoy helping you out. As Juma’s CEO says, “Your net worth is your network” (but also you are worth so much more). Do not be scared to reach out to people you have not talked to in a while, it’ll be worth it if they can help you land that dream internship!
  • Kill the game from the beginning. Making a very strong, very positive first impression in the first two or three weeks will make the rest of your internship a breeze, and will earn you a reference that can talk in detail about your qualifications, professionalism, and work ethic. This means: get to meetings early, always be prepared, and give it 110% to make an impression. Don’t forget to add your coworkers on LinkedIn!
san fran 2
Pi Day at Juma!

Why did you choose your site for your internship?

Having just taken Jim Schorr’s class on Social Enterprises, I was fascinated by this idea of nonprofits using traditional for-profit business strategies to maximize social impact and sustainability. Throughout the class, Juma was repeatedly used as an example of an innovative nonprofit that strives to break the cycle of poverty. Enamored with the organization and the location, I reached out to Professor Schorr to make an introduction at Juma. Soon, I had an interview with the CEO and then the Director of Operations, and was offered and accepted an internship within a week. I was very lucky to have such a targeted and quick process!

How will this internship impact your future?

My capstone internship has been extremely influential in regards to my future. This internship has also given me a chance to try out living in San Francisco, and I’ve realized I love the city, and will stay here post-graduation. Through my Airbnb housing adventures, I’ve lived in 5 parts of SF. I’ve seen how diverse and wonderful different parts of the city are, and have gained an appreciation for public transportation, food trucks, and walking up and down crazy SF hills. I’ve also confirmed my passion for nonprofits, and have begun building a network within the nonprofit sector in SF. Overall, I feel so much more prepared for graduation and the post-Vanderbilt life!


8 Common Interview Questions and Tips for Answering Them

Mock Interview Photo

Each step of the career marketing process is important, although the job interview is where many employers make hiring decisions. The interview gives employers the chance to evaluate how well your qualifications and skills fit into their organization. Remember YOU are the product in the interview. You have to learn to sell yourself and let the employers know you are the best candidate for the job/internship.

1. Tell me about yourself.

Do: Don’t:
· Keep your answer short – 45 seconds to 1 minute.

· Be specific about your professional experience and what you have learned.

· Align your story of self to reflect qualities the employer is looking for.

 · Tell your personal story (i.e. too many details about where you grew up or about your family)

· Emphasize unrelated job experience.

· Speak negatively about past experiences.

2400 Connection: What is your unique selling position (USP)? Use the data in your Employee Talent Profile and Marketing Analysis Assignments. Take into account the qualities sought by employers and The Vault Guide interviewing tips.


2. What interests you about this job?

Do: Don’t:
· Focus on the role and how it aligns with your professional interests.

· Show understanding of role expectations.

· Connect the role to specifics about the company.

· Talk about benefits, salary, commute or job/internship perks.

· Make the position sound like a stepping stone.



3. What do you know about our company so far?

Do: Don’t:
· Show knowledge of company mission and goals.

· Conduct market research and trends.

· Know the competition.

· Go in unprepared.

· Discuss secondhand information.

· Give critical feedback.



4. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Do: Don’t:
· Take the opportunity to highlight a strength crucial for the position. Think about how your strengths relate to the organization’s need for an intern.

· Tell an impressive success story.

· Show that you are aware of your weakness and outline what steps you are taking to improve.

· Make claims you cannot support with evidence.

· Be too modest or too braggadocios.

· Cloak a strength as a weakness (i.e. “I work too hard” or “I am a perfectionist.”) – employers will see right through that.


2400 Connection: The premise behind behavioral interviewing is that the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in similar situations. Behavioral interviewing, in fact, is said to be 55 percent predictive of future on-the-job behavior, while traditional interviewing is only 10 percent predictive. A majority of employers are adopting this style of interviewing. Your job is to prepare and practice your approach for how to respond to a behavioral interview question using the STARS approach. (Source: http://www.quintcareers.com/behavioral_interviewing.html).

The STARS Approach

Situation or 


Describe the situation that you were in or the task that you needed to accomplish. You must describe a specific event or situation, not a generalized description of what you have done in the past. Be sure to give enough detail for the interviewer to understand. This situation can be from a previous job, from a volunteer experience, or any relevant event.
Action you took Describe the action you took and be sure to keep the focus on you. Even if you are discussing a group project or effort, describe what you did — not the efforts of the team. Do not tell what you might do, tell what you did.
Results you achieved What happened? How did the event end? What did you accomplish?
Summarize Summarize your response with what you learned that you could reapply in the future.


5. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? (This may not be asked in the internship search process, but it is an important question to think about – especially if you interview somewhere that may want to hire you after you graduate).

Do: Don’t:
· Demonstrate a level of commitment needed for the job you are applying for.

· Outline a realistic growth strategy.

· Emphasize long-term interest in the company.

· Discuss personal goals.

· Talk about being CEO of the company.

· Appear to have no plans for the future.



6. Tell me about a time when you failed.

Do: Don’t:
· Set the scene – tell what the story means.

· Identify the pivotal challenge.

· Describe what you learned.


· Frame it as a recurring issue.

· Complain about the working conditions.

· Place blame on others.

2400 Connection: David Hutchens suggests the following framework to turn your failure into a source of wisdom.

At the time I believed…

But I learned…

So now I …(what you are doing differently as a result)

Click the link below for his video explanation and suggestions for crafting your story.



7. Why should we hire you?

Do: Don’t:
· Point to your skills and track record that fit the position.

· Be engaging and enthusiastic.

· Demonstrate commitment.


· Tell them it would be a mistake not to hire you.

· Give off a nonchalant attitude.

· Mention other interviews or jobs.

2400 Connection: How would you describe your HOD (or other) major to a prospective employer? For example, Human and Organizational Development teaches students how to go into organizations and communities and identify and solve problems. Tell employers what knowledge, experience, and skills you have developed through your major(s). Tell the employer about the core classes, your track, etc. Give examples.


8. What questions do you have for me?

Do: Don’t:
· Prepare questions before the interview (see below).

· Ask questions related to company/market research.

· Ask questions about company culture/next steps in hiring process.

· Say, “No, I am good.”

·  Ask questions you could easily look up the answer to.

· Ask about salary (if it is an internship, it may not be paid) – but if you are asked, make sure you have a number in mind based on market research.

Sample Questions to Ask the Interviewer (adapted from the Vanderbilt Career Center):

  • What do you enjoy most about working for _______? Least?
  • What activities are routinely performed in this internship?
  • With what other departments or divisions do you interact the most?
  • What parts of the job or internship are most challenging?

For more information on Interview Tips, please visit the Vanderbilt Career Center: Career Center Tips

Finally, do not forget the HOD Internship Office is here to support you if you have any follow-up questions or would like to set up a meeting to discuss this material further. The HOD office is open Monday-Friday from 8:30-4:30 and is located in Mayborn 104.