Internship Applications: What Do You Need?

After you find an internship that interests you and after you have polished up your resume, it’s time to actually apply for a position. But how exactly do you do that? It’s a question I’ve received a lot lately, so I decided it was a good topic to cover on the ol’ blog.

Apply for Internship

As you move towards the professional world, formal application forms will become few and far between. Will you ever have to fill out an application again? Maybe. Some large corporations might have an online application to complete. In some industries, you might still see paper and pencil forms. But for the most part, you will be submitting your own materials to apply for internships.

So what will you be asked for when applying for an internship? Here are a few possibilities:

  1. A Resume – I wrote about internship resumes last week. Resumes take the place of formal application forms for professional and pre-professional positions. When you think about it, your resume contains most of the information requested by an application form. However, a good resume is targeted for the specific opportunity and can give an employer a better sense of what you are capable of accomplishing.
  2. A Cover Letter – Some employers may formally ask you to submit a cover letter (aka letter of application or letter of interest) when applying for an internship. If you are asked to submit such a letter, then you need to do so. But what if you aren’t asked to submit a cover letter? You are always welcome to do so anyways. A cover letter allows you to go into more detail about how you are qualified for the position, and cover letters have been a traditional piece of the application process. The key with a cover letter is to make it well-written and appropriately focused. It’s about the employer, not about you. Virginia Tech Career Services gives a good overview of the cover letter writing process. I also encourage you to seek guidance from a career advisor as you begin writing a cover letter for the first time.
  3. Writing Samples – If you are applying for an internship that involves a lot of writing – internships in Journalism and Public Relations come to mind – you might be asked to submit writing samples. Employers want to see your skills first hand. Boston College’s Career Center provides some good answers to common writing sample questions. Ask A Manager also covered it on her blog: What kind of writing sample do employers want to see?
  4. A Portfolio – Again, the request to see a portfolio will depend on the field you are seeking an internship in. You will commonly see them requested in creative fields, like Graphic Design, where an actual “product” is an important indicator of your skills. However, students in writing-heavy fields might also be asked to submit portfolios of their work. Portfolios can be used by students in a variety of fields. A link to an electronic portfolio can be an appropriate addition to any resume. Here’s a great post from YouTern on the topic: 5 Easy Steps to Build a “Recruiter-Ready” Online Portfolio.

This covers the standard elements of an internship application. In some cases, it might be as simple as sending in your resume. In others, you might be submitting some real work examples to further demonstrate your qualifications. Just be sure to give the employer everything that they are asking for. A complete application is the only acceptable application there is.

Have you seen any other materials requested for an internship application?