An internship is a great way to open the door to a career. Competition is often fierce – especially in the current economic climate.
I've been interviewing interns for several years. Here are my tips on landing the internship that might be the first step to a career.
Apply Less, Succeed More
Anybody who has dealt with intern job applications – or indeed any recruiting at a junior level – will tell you that it's obvious which candidates sent the same email/letter to hundreds of companies applying for widely different roles.
If your application looks careless, the inference is you are.
One tell-tale sign of a less than serious job application: bland content that has nothing to do with the role. Or one that references a completely different role to the one advertised. For example, I once received a resume for an agency role that stated the candidate wanted to work in the not-for-profit sector.
Now you know what you shouldn't do. So what should you do?
Pick roles that genuinely interest you, suit your experience, and you can see yourself building a career in. Your interest and enthusiasm will come across. Apply less, achieve more interviews.
Showcase Your Experiences
Resumes all too often read like a list of job titles, qualifications, schools, and personal interests. That's all necessary information, but it's standard to us all.
Showcase your skills and experiences. Don't just tell me you worked in a restaurant every weekend for two years – tell me you were responsible for cashing-up or for dealing with complaints.
Recently I received a resume from somebody who had held six jobs to earn funds for traveling. All were low paid, menial, and short-lived – but this person had listed the experiences, skills, and responsibilities they had gained in brackets next to those jobs.
In this resume I saw somebody focused on an objective (saving money to travel) who was hard working (they applied for and got six short-term menial jobs) and had the sense to take a step back and rearrange their CV to showcase what they had learned, not just list jobs. This person is now interviewing with me.
Make sure to organize your intern resume to fit its purpose. Showcase your experiences that an employer will want to build on.
More Than a Resume
The file you attached when you apply for a job is only part of your resume. Many employers will type your name straight into Google and look at your LinkedIn, Facebook, that YouTube channel you set when a drunken student.
Take a critical look at your social presences – what should you lock down so they're not public (Facebook if you haven't already!), delete, or update more regularly? Should you use About.me, your own website or Flavors.me to draw all your presences together and ensure a listing in the results for your name?
Research the Role and Company
Obvious, right? Many candidates – often the same ones who send out applications like a mailshot – don't know anything about the company they have applied to and falter in interviews.
Research the company where you want to intern. Have a few questions about the business and the role ready. If you haven't given it any thought, it'll come across in the interview.
Look at their website and social presences. Subscribe to their newsletter or RSS feed. Type the company name into Google and Google News.
The next candidate will be better prepared. Again, less is more.
Find out the Process
Make sure you ask about the interview process – and be prepared. Too many candidates don't ask how many stages there are, if they need to prepare, or when they will hear back. The person arranging the interviews should make this clear, but sometimes things get overlooked or change.
Again, the next candidate may be better prepared.
Think Like an Employer
This is the most important thing. Look at your resume, think about your cover letter, and compare them to the job description. What questions would you have about your experience? What gaps are there compared to the job description?
Try to answer them in your resume or cover letter – and be ready to do so again in the interview. If there are lots of gaps, maybe you shouldn't apply. If you can have a relative or friend who regularly recruits look over your resume or even conduct a mock interview, even better.
After all, the next candidate many have already done all of this – it's a competitive market in search, now more than ever.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!