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Overly Obvious But Still Necessary Tips to Landing an Internship

Don't be this guy. Of course if you're young enough to be an intern, it's entirely possible you don't who this guy is. Sigh.

I’ve now been through the internship hiring process four times and have noticed the same trends keep popping up. Despite all the career training and resources offered, some students still seem totally unprepared for the interview or even the application process. And others completely shine.

So in the interest of saving everyone a little time and heartache, my list of the cardinal rules of internship applications and interviews that, unfortunately, are broken quite often:

Proofread everything. Cover letter, resume, writing samples, e-mails. I had one applicant misspell “business” in the first paragraph of her cover letter. For a writing job. At a business school. It even had the MS Word spell-check red squiggly underline.

Talk about ME. Well not me, but my company, my position I’m hiring for. You need to show off your own skills and personality too, but if your cover letter and interview answers say nothing specific about my internship, it comes off as if you’re just going through the motions.

Provide context. Don’t just drop in random work experience without explaining why it’s relevant to this job. If you’re submitting writing samples, please oh please I beg you, tell me what they’re from! It’s ok if it’s a class assignment–I just need to know what I’m reading.

Do research on yourself. If, during the interview, I realize I know your resume better than you, that’s a bad sign. Bring a hard copy with you for reference if necessary. Spend time beforehand reviewing your work history, class assignments, past challenges and successes, etc. especially as they might relate to this job.

Do research on us! Our internship is a writing position that contributes to our news blog and alumni magazine. Both are easily found on our website, and I expect you to have looked at them.

Check your e-mail. I know that’s so old-fashioned, but you’re not going to get an interview request via text or Facebook, so check your e-mail regularly. If you haven’t responded to me within 2-3 days, I start to doubt your interest.

Read instructions carefully. If you don’t submit the proper application materials or complete the writing test as instructed, that’s pretty much a guaranteed ticket to the “no” pile.

Be interested and show a little effort. The intern we just hired had less experience than other applicants, but she displayed the most passion and enthusiasm for both the job and the organization. Her cover letter demonstrated she did her homework on the organization and paid attention to the job description. She was prompt, engaged and professional in all her communications with us. And of course she had the talent and skills to back everything up.

Finally, hang in there. Keep applying. Keep networking. Keep being amazingly talented and connected to your field. I know it’s tough looking for a job. I did it for a year and a half after graduating! I apologize for companies that never respond to you, even if it’s just to tell you thanks, but no thanks. But hang in there.

Oh, and don’t ask if the internship is going to be a waste of your time and then lecture the hiring manager about being unprofessional.

Also check out Todd Defren’s Open Letter to Millenials for more great tips.

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I write what I know (and love). Mostly higher education, writing and public relations.