Getting an internship in college is one of many goals students strive to accomplish. Some want an internship to build their resume, gain insight into their future career, or apply skills they learned in their classes to an actual job setting. But just how do you land an internship at your company of choice? To become a competitive applicant and stand out from the crowd, there are necessary preparations you must make.
Do Your Research
Researching the company is important, because you need to get an idea of how the company functions. Are they hands-on and will they incorporate their interns in work-related projects? Or will they just use you to make paper copies and get coffee and donuts for everyone in the office? Ideally, you want a symbiotic relationship in which both parties benefit throughout the duration of the program. Also, it’s important to know the company’s mission statement, history, and core values. It’s not enough to be able to explain why you want to be an intern; you also need to articulate what you’ll bring to the company and how you can enforce their mission statement or philosophies, should you be selected as an intern.
Get Interview Practice
Setting up a mock interview with the career center on your campus is great practice. Even though it’s not real, you need to treat the interview as if it were. Thus, you need to dress accordingly, which is business professional and not business casual. Throughout the interview, be sure to answer the questions to the best of your ability, make eye contact, and sit up straight. Upon completion of the interview, the proctor will give you significant feedback about your strengths and weaknesses either in the form of a rubric or notes he or she took during the interview. Be sure to work on your weaknesses and, if time permits, try scheduling another mock interview before you have an actual one.
Have a Strong Resume
Equally important, be sure to get your resume critiqued by a professional at your university’s career center. In my past internship at Fox 5 WAGA-TV and with the CDC Undergraduate Public Health Scholars (CUPS) Program, the one error that instantly eliminated a number of applicants was the resume. The HR managers in both programs informed me that they are meticulous about the little things people overlook. In fact, spacing, grammar, punctuation, alignment, and misspelled words are just a few examples they named. Be sure these errors are fixed before submitting. Also, if you have done any projects or received any awards that are applicable to the industry then add them to your resume. It’s a great way for the committee to get to know you and see what you have done on your own. Having a strong resume is the first way the application committee gets to know their applicants. Now, I know creating or even editing a resume is no fun while you are in college. You would rather play video games or hang out with your friends, right? I get it. However, taking at least fifteen minutes out of your day to get your resume critiqued by a professional can be the difference between getting denied from an internship or moving a step closer to landing one.
Always Follow Up
Following up with the HR manager is a great way to earn those brownie points. I was informed that you should always send a follow-up thank-you email 24 to 48 hours after meeting with the interviewer. In the email, you should thank the individual for interviewing you, express your interest in the program, and reiterate what skills and knowledge you’ll bring to the company. Also, if the interviewer says you’ll hear back in a week about a decision and a week-and-a-half passes with no reply, send that individual an email. As daunting as this may seem, send a friendly email reminding him or her who you are and that you’re just checking on the status of your application. People get busy and may accidentally forget about following up with the prospective applicants.
Learn from the Experience
Lastly, if you’re not accepted into an internship program, still follow up and inquire about any potential weaknesses on your application and how can you become a stronger candidate next time. HR managers respect those who ask this question, because it shows you were serious about the program and will remind them to be on the lookout for your application the next time you apply. Plus, a number of applicants never call back to ask this question, which gives the impression that the candidate was never serious about the program in the first place.
Securing that dream internship at CNN, CDC, Disney, Google, or whichever company you are pursuing is difficult and takes preparation. However, doing research on companies you’re interested in doing an internship with, setting up mock interviews, getting your resume critiqued, and following up with the HR Manager or intern recruiter can make the application process less daunting and more comfortable because you’ll be prepared. Then, if you’re lucky enough, it will be a matter of time before you receive a phone call or email congratulating you on your acceptance into the program.
Wesley Clark is a recent dual degree graduate from the University of Georgia. He holds degrees in Biology and Journalism. His next academic endeavor is to attend dental school in the near future. His ultimate goal in life is to practice dental medicine globally, while being a part-time medical contributor for a major news network.