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?

Give and You Shall Receive

You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again: Internships are important. According to YouTern, “9 out of 10 direct-from-college hires to go those with internship experience on their resumes.” Employers that I talk with tell me that they look for candidates with related experience, the kind typically gained through internships.

You know that an internship benefits you. But have you ever thought about how an internship benefits an employer? Start thinking about it if you want that internship or if you want to be a successful intern.

Thank you Card

When Applying for an Internship…

  • Your resume is about you, but not really about you. Yes, your resume and cover letter provide details on your skills and experiences that qualify you for the internship. But when it comes to crafting your resume, it should speak to an employer’s needs. For example, let’s say you are applying for a PR Internship and you’ve already had some PR experience (like a previous internship). Instead of lumping that PR experience into a general “Experience” section with all of your other jobs, break it out into a “PR Experience” section. Help the reader clearly see that you have the experience they’re looking for.
  • Be careful with those Objective Statements. More often than not, I read Objectives on students’ resumes that are all about themselves: “To obtain an internship that allows me to gain experience, use my communication skills…blah, blah, blah.” If you are going to use an Objective Statement on your resume, keep it simple: “To obtain the ______ Internship with ________ (name of organization).” Don’t go into a long diatribe about what the internship will do for you.
  • The same goes for that cover letter. Just as with your resume, your cover letter is about you. However, the letter is about you in the context of what you bring to the table. How will your background benefit the employer? Have you worked in a similar environment? Have you done similar work successfully in the past?
  • Don’t forget to send a thank you note. This one should be self-explanatory. If you have an interview, make sure to follow up with a thank you note. Thank the interviewer for his/her time. Incorporate elements from your conversation, something that highlights what you will bring to the position. Showcase your appreciation for the opportunity and a genuine interest in their organization and the position.

During Your Internship…

  • There is never nothing to do. So, you finished all of your assigned work for the day. Do you sit back and relax until it’s time to leave? No, you don’t. Ask your co-workers if they need any help. Look around you for a new project to tackle. Work ahead on existing projects. Bottom line: Do something.
  • Be grateful for the opportunity. Not everyone does an internship before they graduate. For some, this might be by choice. For others, opportunities don’t pan out. Either way, you are fortunate for having the opportunity to work in a professional setting doing the work you want to do when you graduate. So, say thank you. Do small things like providing a co-worker a recommendation on LinkedIn. Share your great experience with others, such as through our Intern of the Month feature.

Yes, an internship will provide you with experience that boosts your resume and makes you a marketable candidate. But as an intern, you are there to do something for that employer, too. The right frame of mind, hard work, and gratefulness will pay off in your favor big time!

Photo by Jon Ashcroft

Last-Minute Internship Search

The Point of No Return

On Monday, I hosted my “Last-Minute Internship Search” workshop. I covered a variety of strategies that students can employ at this point in the semester in order to hopefully secure an internship for this summer…which is only about a month, month-and-a-half away.

I know that there are still plenty of people in this last-minute boat. So for the next few weeks, I am going to cover a strategy you can use at this point in the internship search game. This week’s focus: Internship Postings.

Essentially, internship postings are electronic want ads. Many of you are likely using this resource: searching online internship/job boards is easy. But the ease and volume of users is one of this strategy’s downfalls. Internships that are posted have higher exposure, leading to more applicants and more competition.

While perusing internship postings seems like a no-brainer strategy, here’s how to do it effectively:

  • Identify positions of interest. Most internship posting sites allow you to search in a number of ways. You can use keywords to narrow down options or possibly sort by industry or job category. On the other hand, you might be able to pull up EVERY internship listed. This can be helpful if you’re not sure what you’re looking for – you can gain some insight into what types of internships appeal to you and work from there.
    • UW-Whitewater Internships Website, “Find an Internship” section: Access Hawk Jobs, General Search Resources, and Field-Specific Programs/Resources.
    • Hawk Jobs: Within Hawk Jobs, UW-W students can access some “hidden” treasures. Navigate to the Career Resources section along the top menu. EmployOn and are both excellent.
  • Research the organization. The importance of employer research can’t be stressed enough. The information you gather about an organization should be used as you craft your application materials and during the interview process. Here are some questions to explore:
    • What does the organization do?
    • What is the size of the organization?
    • How is the organization structured?
    • What is the organization’s reputation?
    • What are the credentials of their top leaders?
  • Understand the application process. Worst-case scenario: You find an internship you would LOVE, and then completely miss the application deadline. Know how to apply and mark applicable deadlines.
  • Adapt your application materials. Targeting your resume is key at any point in time, but I might argue it’s even more important now. You want to stand apart from the competition in the best way possible. Make it easy for an employer to “see” how you are qualified. Develop a cover letter specifically for the given internship and for the particular organization. Your cover letter provides you with an opportunity to go more in depth about what you bring to the table, especially important if this would be your first internship. Work with a career counselor on both of these important documents.
  • Submit your materials. Enough said.
  • Follow up. Follow-up is a key step in the process, but it’s also a delicate one. Follow up too soon, too often, or too inappropriately and you can erase any chance of getting an interview. First, only follow up on your application IF it’s ok. Some organizations will specifically state, “No Calls.” If you see this, don’t follow up. If follow-up is an option, as is most often the case, then do so just before the deadline or 2 weeks after your application submission. You can check that they received your materials, ask what the next step in the process is, inquire what the anticipated timeline is for the process, and express your continued interest in the position. Short, sweet, to the point.

Be sure to start NOW and work at your search consistently. Not much time remains. Next Monday, I’ll cover Employer Sourcing. Stayed tuned!

Photo by Pat Hawks

Question of the Week:

What is your favorite site for finding posted internships?

Skills to Exhibit in Your Search: Communication & Problem-Solving


Photo by karindalziel

I seem to be experiencing a mild case of writer’s block today. I’m racking my brain trying to think of an internship search topic to write about, but I’m drawing a blank. So, I’ve decided to write about writing – internship search-related writing. Written communication is a part of most any internship search and includes cover letters, resumes, thank you notes, and emails. And what better topic to write about when I can’t think of what to write about than writing itself!

Since strong communication skills are sought by all employers, highlight them using these internship search communication tips:

  1. Errors in grammar and spelling are big no-nos for any written internship search correspondence. It’s always a good idea to have several people proof-read your cover letters and your resume before you send them. Even if you are a grammar master, you might have missed something. Better to be safe than sorry.
  2. Do you know how to structure a cover letter? A key to writing a solid cover letter is understanding the purpose of it – it’s to make the employer want to read your resume. Keep this principle in mind in order to craft a focused letter.
  3. Be mindful when using email to communicate with employers. Since email is just words, you’re only working with about 7% of your information communication potential. Written messages that go beyond mere facts and data into more sensitive issues can easily be misinterpreted.
  4. On the topic of email, remember that emailing a potential employer is not the same as sending a text message to your friend. It’s a bad idea to use text-speak when composing your email message. You could come across as lazy or just a poor communicator. Instead, model professional email etiquette.
  5. Thank you notes are important to your internship search. Write a thank you letter after any occassion for which you want to express thanks, especially after interviews or after a professional contact has been especially helpful. While you might think that everybody does this, it’s not usually the case. Be the candidate to follow-up with a well-written thank you.

Five internship search communication tips is all I can think of today. Now that my busy faculty/staff orientation week is over, I hope my thoughts will be flowing better for my next post. Luckily, my writer’s block still provided me with some inspiration for what to write about. You know, one of the top skills employers look for is problem-solving. Looks like my writer’s block helped me highlight two important concepts. Not bad for a day’s work.


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