Interview Tips for Summer Students

Next Monday begins another three-day recruiting blitz for summer students applying for positions in Toronto firms. I’ve sat on Hicks Morley’s committee for a number of years now and have relished the experience each and every time.

If you’re participating as a candidate, here are three tips on making a good pitch.

  1. Don’t sell table stakes. You’ll surely get the question, “So what distinguishes you from our other candidates?” We’re being pretty lazy by asking this question, but don’t mess up your answer by selling the attributes that every student must have – “table stakes.” “I’m hard working” is a very, very bad answer.
  2. Speak to demonstrated behaviours. A sophisticated interviewer will ask for demonstrated behaviours rather than character traits. I’m hardly a sophisticated interviewer, but was taught this technique by a psychologist I once worked for, who said the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. So push your preparation beyond statements about your characteristics (like intelligence, creativity and fortitude) and get ready to talk about how you’ve acted when it mattered.
  3. Be prepared to articulate the reason for your success. I might be repeating myself, but successes are not enough unless you can explain the behaviours that led to them. I’m often blown away by some of the accomplishments I read on resumes, then am equally blown away when I don’t get an answer to the question, “So how’d you do it?” It’s a good turn-off for me, especially because my question is usually born of genuine interest.

So there you go. Of course, listening and questioning is an important skill to demonstrate too, but I wanted to focus my thoughts on the selling part of your meeting. And think about these points in your preparation but then cast them aside and try to enjoy yourself. It’s an experience you’ll never forget!

Best of luck to all firms and students next week!


  1. Good tips Dan, both for the students and for the interviewers. I try not to ask the ‘lazy’ questions but certainly these come up in interviews and students need to be prepared to answer these effectively.