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Cronkite Hosts First Virtual Internship Interview Day

April 20, 2020

First Virtual Internship Interview Day

By Courtney Bush

Journalism sophomore Ellie Borst interviewed for five internships at three different companies Friday – all without leaving her bedroom.

Borst was one of 56 students in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University who participated in the school’s first virtual internship day. The students used Zoom to connect with digital and print news organizations from throughout the Valley seeking interns for this summer and next fall.

Each semester, Career Services Director Mike Wong plans three internship events, placing students in nearly 500 internships each year. The first two for this semester – for public relations and broadcast internships – had been completed when COVID-19 shut down all events at the university.

The last one, for print and digital internships, had not yet taken place, but Wong was undeterred. He and Career Service’s Program Coordinator Krista Paniagua immediately set about recreating the internship day online.

Wong admits the prospect made him a little nervous. Normally, employers come to campus and meet in person with students. Managing nearly 200 individual interviews in one day entirely online seemed a daunting prospect.

But Wong and Paniagua were familiar with Zoom and knew the school had been using it successfully to teach classes, so they decided to give it a go.

“We did a few tests and made a few discoveries,” Wong said. “We thought we could launch several meetings at the same time from our ASU accounts, but discovered that was not possible because one meeting has to end before you can launch another, so we thought it would be best to have each employer enter the student’s personal Zoom room at a scheduled time.”

As the day began “my fingers were crossed that this would work according to plan,” Wong said. And other than some temporary password issues, it did.

Borst interviewed for a total of five positions with editors from The Arizona Republic/azcentral.com, the Phoenix New Times and the Phoenix Business Journal.

She switched outfits to fit the interviews, wearing a “funky plaid blazer” for an interview with Phoenix New Times and business casual for the others. She said the blazer seem suited to the arts and culture beat she was interviewing for at the New Times, and it sparked a discussion with the recruiter about a story Borst had done featuring the work of an animator.

She also took care to choose the right background. She sat on the floor in front of a plain wall in the corner of her bedroom with her laptop on a large stack of books to get a good angle.

“All the interviewers popped into my Zoom conference call at the exact time I was expecting them to,” Borst said. “I had good conversations, and the interviewers asked great questions. I can only hope I interviewed well enough for a spot.”

Sophomore Kara Angeli, who is hoping for an internship at the Phoenix Business Journal, said she ran into a problem with Zoom, but she and the recruiter quickly pivoted to Facetime to complete the interview.

She said the virtual format was both quicker and more flexible than in-person interviews: She didn’t have to arrive 30 minutes ahead of time and time limits for interviews didn’t have to be as strictly enforced.

“This process was great, and I felt really comfortable doing it,” she said.

Craig Outhier, editor-in-chief of Phoenix Magazine, said, he, too was comfortable with the format. A lot of reporting is done over the phone – and these days by Zoom – and the principles of good interviewing remain the same, he said.

Alyssa Tufts, associate editor of AZ Big Media, interviewed eight students over the course of the day. All of them, she said, were prepared with good questions and good answers.

Preparation is something Wong tells students is key to landing the position they want. In the weeks leading up to the interview day, he emphasized to students that they had to do everything they would normally do before a face-to-face interview – finalize resumes and portfolios, practice how they would present themselves and their experience, research the companies to which they were applying and think about how they could contribute to the organization.

There were a few additional instructions this time around. Students were told that dressing professionally was just as important as if they were meeting with recruiters in-person and they needed to carefully plan where they would do the interviews.

“We reminded students to be in a quiet room with no distractions as well as to have good lighting and framing and to make sure their internet connection was working properly,” Wong said.

"This extraordinary time led us to try something we've never done before,” he added. “And for the most part it worked. Now we hope to place many students in summer and/or fall internships."

The following employers participated in the April 17 internship day:

Arizona Capitol Times
Arizona Republic
AZ Big Media
Bonneville Media, KTAR.com
Cronkite Journal
Destination I Do
Echo Magazine
Phoenix Business Journal
Phoenix Home & Garden
Phoenix Magazine
Phoenix New Times
Times Media Group