How to Land an Internship

Career Blog

Writers trust in the old adage: Show. Don’t tell. The advice also applies to those interviewing for an internship.

Don’t give the hiring manager a song and dance about how innovative, strategic, and out-of the-box awesome you are. Chances are they’ve heard a sales pitch or two and trust me no one wins at Buzzword Bingo. Instead, demonstrate your potential by pointing to prior, relevant successes and articulating a plan to repeat them at my company. You’ll further increase the odds of landing that internship by embracing the following four factors:

  1. Strive for Clarity: Have an error-free, easy-to-follow resume that highlights what you’ve done and how you went beyond the requirements of each role. No work experience? No problem. Use the same approach for your volunteer efforts, showcasing the impact of your contribution.

Remember, interns are hired to make manager’s lives easier. They expect to spend time training you, but will typically error on the side of selecting the person with shortest learning curve. If your communication is convoluted, it is often seen as a symptom of aggravation to come. So keep it simple. That means resisting the temptation to create a confusing on-line profile or “interest-focused” resume that leans more toward the hypothetical. Recently a candidate submitted a document that featured three graphs and an illustration of his leadership style. Some would give him points for creativity, but five pages in and I had no clue as to what he did, who he did it for, or if he ever actually managed anyone.

  1. Do Your Research: “Back in my day….” books were written on stone tablets and if we wanted to conduct research we had to trek to the library and navigate the Dewey Decimal System. (No. That’s not something invented by a tiny duck.) Today we have Google. Use it. There’s no excuse for being unprepared.
  2. Have a Backbone: Intern candidates should be willing to share their data-backed opinions during an interview. They bring a fresh perspective that is incredibly valuable to organizations so be sure to speak up, ask questions, and take that pause if you need a moment to consider what’s been asked of you.
  3. Stay Humble: Confidence is important, but you also need to be teachable. A 20 something know-it-all is a huge red flag. Sure, maybe you’ll run the place one day, but probably not on day one. Bring the correct balance of confidence and humility to the discussion and you’ll increase rapport with the hiring manager.

Of course if you really want to impress, showcase your business skills by expressing an interest in how the company makes money. No matter what position you seek, a solid understanding of how a dollar works its way from the top line to the bottom line can give you both a wider perspective and a leg up on the competition.

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Be sure to check out my latest book The Introvert’s Guide to Job Hunting and follow me on Twitter at @timtoterhi

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