My commute Monday was typical—I spent most of it reading the Metro paper. The advice column featured an article by Dan Schawbel about “The real value of internships.” It’s worth a read if you are a student wrestling with how to secure an interview for an internship. I receive tons of resumes everyday with students hoping to apply for our internship program and it’s only a select few that we’ll ask to come in. But getting the interview is only step one. How do you nail the interview once you have it?
Here are the top must-do’s to secure an interview and land an internship:
- Send a personalized cover letter, proofed resume that immediately demonstrates your personal connection to the company (do we have a mutual contact, have you worked with one of our clients or one of their competitors, did someone personally refer you to our agency, etc.)
- Display the “right” attitude (self-starter, team player, and enthusiastic with a hunger to know it all). Use these terms to describe yourself in the interview and be prepared to back up the descriptions with specific examples of past projects or jobs that highlight these qualities.
- Seems like common sense, but you would be surprised how many folks walk into an interview not knowing who the agency’s clients are. Make the effort and proactively share client-specific ideas or questions to demonstrate your knowledge. Eg. “I noticed from your Website that you currently represent client X, I saw from a recent press release that they are growing in area Y. Based on a few things I’ve read lately about area Y it seems the market is facing challenge A. Have you seen this as well? Did you discuss it yet with client X? A possible proactive pitch campaign to address challenge A could be <insert SMART idea here>.”
*This isn’t about having the perfect pitch, it’s about showing that you already care about what is most important to the agency (client service, of course).
- Follow up with a hand-written thank you note to everyone who takes the time to meet with you (or at least your primary interviewer).
Once you land the internship, how do you translate your experience into a job? It’s about the effort and interest you invest while in the office. Many times you’ll be one of a few interns that is only in-office a few days a week. How can you stand out from the rest:
- Volunteer for assignments and ask questions!
- Work on mastering the arts of: multitasking, writing and verbal communications.
- Always think about the strategy behind your task and ask “what’s the bigger picture?”
- Maintain a high-level of organization and manage deadlines.
- Take the time to get to know the full time staffers—you want them to give you a personal reference later, right? Get to know them personally then!
- When you make a mistake (you will, it’s ok- we all do!) let your manger know immediately and be prepared to with ideas on how to remedy the situation.