How to Make Me Love Your Internship Application

And pretty much every other hiring manager, too.

I’m hiring interns. (As of May 2016, in case you’re reading this later.)

Working with Generation Z is one of the most fun parts of my job. I love offering opportunities for students. I love interviewing them, I love their energy, and I love watching them grow.

Students, I want to interview you. I want to work with you. If you’re applying for an internship on my team, here’s how you can help me get us what we both want.

Stan looks like a delightful intern. Photographed and CC-licensed by e-lame on Flickr.

Show attention to detail.

Read the entire job description, even if you get excited and are ready to apply after the first sentence. There are hidden reading comprehension tests in there. Look for specific application instructions and questions you’re supposed to answer in your cover letter.

Check your spelling and grammar before you press “send.” Pay special attention to the spelling of names, including the company’s name. Have at least one person besides yourself check your resume and cover letter for typos. (This is crucial when you’re running on little sleep and multitasking constantly to get through finals. Too much multitasking actually lowers your IQ!)

Tip: If you’re applying for an internship that asks for a “detail-oriented” or “meticulous” intern, be aware that your application is a work sample, which should demonstrate these traits.

If this internship doesn’t relate to your major, explain your interest.

Here’s a great example, loosely based on a real cover letter I received: “I’m a third-year English Literature major looking to transition over the next 18 months into a career in community management. This internship would allow me to expand on my writing and communication skills, while gaining new experience in content curation and digital marketing.”

This is good because the candidate thoughtfully anticipated my questions and answered before I asked them. It also shows a plan, the ability to work toward a medium-term goal, and self-awareness.

An eager interviewee, as photographed and CC-licensed by Pulpolux.

Make choosing you easy.

There’s only one gimmick/hack that really works for internship-hunting: Make your hiring manager’s life easier. Here are four ways to do that:

  • Have a clear, easy to skim resume front-loaded with the most important information first. (Skip the heavily designed visual resume unless you’re applying for a role involving design work.)
  • Picture your hiring manager rephrasing your cover letter as an explanation to their boss for why they chose you. “She’s a strong proofreader, as she demonstrated in her role as editor for the campus newspaper, which has never had to publish a correction during her tenure.” Rewrite until this conversation goes well in your head.
  • When contacted for an interview, make it easy to schedule with you. If the interviewer suggests a time that doesn’t work for you, offer three alternate times that do work.
  • Be prepared for your interview. Arrive early and wait politely. Have your portfolio/work samples, resume copies, references, and an informal school transcript with you, neatly organized in a folder.

Objective? Summary? Nothing?

I’m seeing internship candidates confuse “objective” and “summary” on their resumes. It’s a trivial error that won’t kill your application, but it leaves a lousy first impression that the rest of your resume must overcome. Know the difference:

Summary: One sentence that describes you and highlights your strengths.

Objective: One sentence that describes your goal in seeking an internship.

I personally dislike objectives and like summaries. However, you don’t need either of these. If you find it hard to write a self-summary sentence, it’s okay to just jump right into your experience.

Make me feel like your first choice.

Have you ever had an experience with online dating where it was just so, so obvious that the other person was talking to lots of people? Remember how it felt, receiving copy-paste pickup lines and, when you met up, finding out they take every first date to the same bar?

Hiring managers feel like that when you don’t personalize your application materials or show real enthusiasm for this specific internship. We feel strongly about our companies and we’ve (hopefully) spent a lot of time developing an internship program that will be valuable to you. We want to see that you care, not just about landing an internship, but about this internship. I know you’re tired, stressed, and running on a combination of caffeine, adrenaline, and finals jitters. When you make the extra effort anyway, it’ll mean that much more.

Thanks for reading! If you got here by Googling my name because you’re applying for an internship with my team, great stalking — kudos. Include the phrase “two ferrets in red velvet smoking jackets” in your cover letter to let me know you read this and you’re paying attention to detail. If you got some useful internship-hunting tips from this post, use the green heart to say “thanks,” and the follow button to say “write more.”

Check out what working with my team is like:

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