Follow these 6 steps to increase chances of getting an internship

I work in a large pharmaceutical company. Every year we hire many interns. From my experience, we hardly find enough students who truly could fit our projects. On the other hand, students might wonder why I was not hired, although I met all job requirements. One of the reasons is that the job description you see online is an overall description and posted by the human resource department. However, behind the scene, there are some specific skills that hiring managers are looking for. Remember, it is not a regular job rather an internship that will last only 3–4 months. In a regular job, people have time to be fully trained and integrated into the working paradigm, and it generally takes 3–6 months. The internship is not like this, where you do not have time to be trained, rather a company is looking for someone with specific skills that can be utilized instantly, and both sides can be benefited. Now the question is how an intern will acquire specific skills. The answer is students already have skills, but most of the students are not fully aware of that or are not providing enough details in their resumes. Remember, the hiring managers are not thinking unrealistically; they are very practical regarding who they can hire and who will be able to complete a project within 3–4 months.

Here I emphasize 6 steps an intern should consider before applying for an internship:

Provide details about your projects

Provide details about your projects, such as the title of the projects and methodologies and software used for the projects. For example, this year, I was looking for a Ph.D. student with Bayesian statistics experience. On top of that, I was also particularly looking for Bayesian experience for survival analysis. Although they have a Bayesian experience, I found many students did not specifically describe which Bayesian methodologies they have worked on. Many of them just mentioned Bayesian modeling, Bayesian data analysis, etc. Maybe some of them genuinely have bayesian experience for survival analysis, but there is no way I would know that. I may contact them, but they will not be my first preference. If they put details on their resume about the projects and have done survival analysis will be lucky in this situation, but it must be in the resume. Moreover, these details will prepare you for the actual interview because every time you look into your resume, you will be reminded of your accomplishment.

A one-page resume is not important

We have a misconception that resume size must be one-page. I feel this is very misleading. Of course, it should not be unnecessarily long. However, if projects one has done, they should be mentioned in their resume, especially if one applies for an internship. This year we have received approximately 500 resumes for 10 internship positions. Some resumes were 4–5 pages long, and some came with a 3–4 page cover letter. Did we review every resume? No, because we do not have to? I was looking for someone who has experience with Bayesian statistics. I just used the keyword ‘Bayesian’ because, without bayesian expertise, no one will be able to work on my project. In the end, I was not annoyed by the size of the resumes, and I just needed someone who had bayesian experience. When the specific keyword matched, I reviewed resumes even though some were very long.

Avoid repeating the same things

Providing details of the projects is crucial, but it doesn’t mean you need to pull the same things in different ways and make the resume and experience unnecessarily longer. For example, suppose there is a Ph.D. student and working as a research assistant. Some students use this job tile and repeat this for every single project. Even if you work with different professors or projects, you should keep this under the same job title. However, they can still use other bullet points to represent the projects.

Provide years of experience

Some students just mention what skills they have. But it becomes robust if you mention years of experience. Suppose you know R software for 1 year and another person knows for 10 years. These are not the same. Mentioning years of experience will give you an upper hand. Besides, providing how you used this software will provide you with another step to go up. For example, you could elaborate on hands-on software experience within your projects.

Educational background

Many of the students just only mention degree and timing. As a student, this is your primary qualification. However, most hiring managers overlook this because there is no other information besides title and timings. Remember, I am reviewing your resume because you already passed the degree requirement. If you cannot add anything more there, then you are just wasting your space. You should add more to your degree. For example, what is your Ph.D. thesis about, what kind of methodologies are you developing, and your research impact?

Take informed decision

When you apply, try to comprehend the job description. For example, if a job description is about the statistics department, highlighting data science-machine learning experience, mainly dealing with large data, will not help you that much. In fact, in the current era of data science hype, many students fail to understand this. Do statisticians use data science and machine learning? Yes, they do, but this depends on the context. Imagine you are dealing with oncology patients; you will not have the luxury of a large sample size. Nowadays, every large company has its department for data science for a particular task. Although there is a considerable overlap of methodologies between pure statistics and data science, their applications are very different. The statistical focus in clinical trials mainly deals with small sample sizes. That’s why you need to be practical when you apply for specific jobs. It is implausible that you will be hired in a statistics department when you show a high interest in data science.

In summary, do you need to write resumes whenever you apply for a new job so that you are not missed if the keywords are used? The answer is no. First, you don’t exactly know what is hiring manager is specifically looking for. The online job description is an overall profile of the department. One of the best approaches that I would recommend is to be yourself, showing what you have accomplished in detail, especially your projects. If this matches the hiring managers’ requirement, then you have a chance to be hired; if it doesn’t, then indeed you should not be hired. Because it is better not to be hired for the wrong reason. Suppose you luckily got hired for a work that is not your expertise, you will ultimately not be able to perform the job, and eventually, look bad and lose enthusiasm. Most importantly, it will close another opportunity where you could learn and flourish better. To some extent, this is not only true for an internship but also a regular job.

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Finding a dream job is challenging. So we try hard to learn from the mistakes, increase communication skills, improve hard skills. Unfortunately, almost everyone thinks this is what we should do, but the skill of negotiation and never giving up attitude matters most.

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Mohamad Hasan

Mohamad Hasan

I am a Statistician

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