Nine Steps To Landing The Internship You Want
Internships.com CEO Robin Richards shared with us the steps you should take to boost your chances of landing the internship you want.
1. Assess your values, temperament, personality and interests.
Richards says that Internships.com and other sites offer free tools for completing this critical process – however, most students jump right into the internship search without a thoughtful assessment of who they are and what they want. A self-evaluation can lead to a better understanding of the career path you want, and the types of company cultures and environments that suit you best.
2. Find the internship that suits you best.
Richards suggests that you scope out internship sites with the greatest number of listings. Then, click around on the links to make sure they are active and up-to-date. Once you find a site that you trust, you can begin your search.
You have to first limit your search to locations that are practical and affordable. Once you’ve settled on realistic geographical locations, narrow the search further by choosing your areas of interest. A lot of companies will pop up, so you may have to refine your search by “paid” or “unpaid.”
Now you should be left with a list of companies that meet your criteria – but don’t trust that they are all a good match. You’ll need to research the firms, and look at size, industry, reputation, and history, among many other things to decide which ones best suit you.
Narrow your list down to two or three companies and start networking. “The best way to get a leg up is to reach out to personal contacts,” Richards says. “Look to friends, family, and friends of family for connections to the companies you’re interested in pursuing.”
Where? Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are good places to start.
4. Apply for the internship you want.
Compose a cover letter that addresses the job description and the company’s needs. “Cover letters are kind of an old school elegance that says you’re ready to join the work force,” Richards says. “In a cover letter, you want to show them that your education coupled with relevant experience lends itself to whatever job description they put forth.” If you don’t have relevant work experience, include any pertinent volunteer work, involvement in clubs, or other activities.
Always highlight leadership roles. If you can explain, with brevity, that you’re able to deliver a project without being told what to do every step of the way – and you have experience to back that sentiment – you should do so in a cover letter and on your résumé.
Try to find good, free help before you send off your cover letter and résumé—then submit it via the preferred method. “You’re too low on the totem pole to circumvent their path,” Richards says. “Do what they say to do!”
5. Prepare for the interview.
If the employer requests an interview, you’ll need to prepare. How should you dress? “Always overdress. It’s that simple,” Richards says. “If you walk in and it’s casual, someone might tell you that, but you should say, ‘I wasn’t sure, but I wanted to be respectful,’ and that will set the tone for who you are before you even sit down.” Richards says he’s interviewed candidates who looked like they hadn’t showered or were dressed inappropriately, and “they were out before they even opened their mouths,” he says.
If you’re dressed to impress, and you’ve already done your homework – then you’re ready to go. One way to ease your nerves (and to show you’re responsible) is to arrive five to ten minutes early.
6. Ask the right questions.
Once you’re in the hot seat you’ll want to set the tone. “The tone for all good interviews is that you’re interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you. You should go in wanting to understand if this place is a good fit for you.” Richards compares companies to mentors. As a young professional, the places you intern will shape your future and provide you with knowledge and experience – so it’s important to ask them intelligent, forward looking questions.
Things not to ask: “How much will I make?” and, “How much will I have to work?” These questions say you don’t really want the job.
Something else to pay attention to during the interview: Body language. Look the interviewer in the eye, smile, sit up straight and respect personal space.
7. End the interview.
If you can get through all that, you’re almost in the clear. “Wrap up is very important,” Richards says. “You’ll want to ask for information about the process, what will happen next, and what the expected time frame is. This way, you’re planting the seed for the follow-up.”
Go home and compose a hand-written thank you note to the interviewer that day. This will set you apart from other candidates, and you will be one of the 3% to 4% who make this classy move. “It’s a great way to distinguish yourself from the pack.” If you don’t hear from the employer within the time frame they gave you, wait two to three days and email them. If you really connected with the interviewer and they provided you with their phone number, you should call.
9. Deal with the job offer or rejection.
If you’re offered the job, respond promptly and professionally. “Give them an answer that day or the next morning,” Richards says. “It’s at this time that you should voice your questions or concerns. Don’t wait until you’re hired!”
If you’re faced with rejection, use it as an opportunity to reflect on your approach. “Ask yourself what you could have done better, if you prepared enough, if you dressed appropriately,” Richards says. “If you go through a reflection process, you’ll know how to better prepare next time.”