Preparing for the HOD Capstone Internship Fair

The HOD Internship Fair is Wednesday, January 30th, 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 ( 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 (
  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 you 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
  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, as 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. If you are enrolled in the Self-Directed Search class, you must complete the HOD Capstone Internship Fair Worksheet and submit a typed copy on Brightspace with your Brightspace Self-Directed Search class check-in.

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 the Sony Building, 4th Floor.

Top 5 Employer Feedback Takeaways from the Internship Fair

fair-supervisor-f17Would you like to know what employers thought of HOD students at the Internship Fair?

Here are 5 takeaways you can apply moving forward with the HOD Internship search:

  1. They are very likely to offer you a job.

93.93% of employer responders stated that they were either “Definitely” or “Very Likely” going to hire an HOD intern for the summer/fall. The odds are in your favor, but you must follow-up with employers you hear from via email/phone to continue the process smoothly. Do not take longer than 24 hours to respond to professional contacts. Remember, even it you are not interested, you stand to gain interview experience and to build relationships. Should you choose not to confirm with the site, you should send a letter of regret as follow-up communication.

2. Some parts of your resume are more important than others.

According to our employer feedback, here is what you should emphasize on your cover letter and resume:


You might be wondering how to show “work ethic” or “initiative” on your resume. Your implementation of course projects and/or role in extracurricular activities could demonstrate these skills. You can be creative with how to showcase these attributes on your resume.

3. The most important qualities employers look for in an intern are:

1) Professional Work Ethic 2) Oral/Written Communication 3) Teamwork/Collaboration


4. According to employers, your greatest area for development is conducting stronger market research.

It is important to employers that you have researched their business. You should demonstrate a handle on current, relevant market research before the internship fair and even more critically, your interview. Having a working understanding of current market trends specific to the industry/company you are applying to work in shows knowledge, initiative, and interest beyond meeting the requirements of simply being a student. It increases the likelihood that employers will take you seriously for hiring as an intern and potentially for a full-time position. You will also have excellent material to customize your list of questions for the employer.

Market research is critical to the success of any business. It helps companies understand their consumer, examine their competition, and develop innovative strategies to maximize impact and minimize risk. These are all skills that you will be expected to demonstrate in your HOD internship as an employee, and in your coursework as a student.

5. What sets our HOD interns apart?

We asked our Internship Fair employers what keeps them coming back to Vanderbilt to speak with HOD intern candidates, and have a sample of their responses. Insider tip: these are skills/abilities you may want to highlight in interviews.

“HOD interns are able to work on a wide range of issues at our agency, and they do so in a professional and competent manner.”

“They are well-rounded students who can transition into various areas of business.”

“Most of our interns come with a strong desire to have an impact on the company and to engage from day one. This is very important to us.”

“Having an intern for 30 hours a week versus 8-10 sets the HOD program apart from many other internship opportunities. The interns learn to become part of the organization, and not just an outsider working with us for a short time. That mindset leads to greater productivity and a greater fulfillment in the product.”

“Structured, high-performing candidates that add value through their time but especially through their primary program deliverable.”

“It is clear that HOD interns, above and beyond interns or volunteers that we may find from any other source, are hungry learners and are asking themselves if they can make something even better rather than just fulfilling the tasks that are asked of them.”

Finally, don’t 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.


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:

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.