So, you know which companies you are applying to for an internship. Great! The next part is to start filling out those online application forms and sell yourself.
Part 1: Your Resume is your story
While there are many ways to structure and curate your resume, here are a few key tips to keep in mind so you can wow your employers from the get go:
#1 The Basics: Put down your name, city, email, and contact number to begin with. If you have it, consider adding your LinkedIn or personal website.
#2 The Categories: For students applying for an internship, three categories are a must: education, work and internships, and extra-curricular. If you don’t have prior work or internship, you can omit that category.
#2.1 Education: List your university and college education, include your obtained or predicted grades, and don’t be shy when it comes to listing down any academic awards you may have up your sleeve. If you don’t have an awful lot to write in this section, an alternative would be to list certain courses that you have taken to demonstrate you have the fundamental blocks pinned down.
#2.2 Work and Internships: While it can be tempting to list down all the work and internships roles you have previously held, think about its relevance. If you’re applying for a bank internship, exactly how relevant was your job as a part-time bubble tea store employee? Of course, if there are certain transferrable skills you’d like to highlight from your part-time job, go for it.
#2.3 Extra-curricular: Include a range of extra-curricular if you are active in them. This is a great way to demonstrate that you are involved in your community and can very well manage your time and efforts between academics and life outside of university.
#3 Reverse Chronological Order: You’d be surprised by the number of people who forget to organise each category by reverse chronological order. Essentially, you’d want to list your most recent experience first and go backwards from there.
#4 Bullet Points Are Your Best Friends: Keep it short and concise. Three bullet points per experience or position should do the trick.
#5 Action Verbs: Start every bullet point with an action verb. Example: “Revamped the society’s official website to feature event write-ups, sponsor and partnership introductions, and committee introductions to attract stakeholders and third-parties.” Need some suggestions? Check out page four of Harvard’s Resume Guide and thank me later.
#6 Quantify: The Little Prince said it best: adults love numbers. Wherever possible, provide statistics of your accomplishments. Were you the social media manager for your student society? Tell us the percentage growth of followers over your tenure.
#7 You’re only human: While resumes are mostly professional, don’t forget to hint at your personality a little. No, I don’t mean telling the employers that you know how to have fun when Friday comes around. If you have space to spare, add a section about the languages you speak or even your hobbies. Recruiters these days are looking for more than just a robotic person who gets the job done right, they want to see how you might fit in with the company culture.
Part 2: Filling Out The Forms
I know, perhaps the most labourious part of it all. Nine times out of ten, the initial application stage of any internship will involve never-ending sections of personal information to fill out. Take your time and make sure you answer each question honestly. Most importantly, double check your email and contact information to ensure that the recruiters can reach you in the case that your application progresses to the next stage!
Certain applications will also involve short- or long-answer questions to understand your motivations for applying and technical skills. This is your chance to shine. You do not have to wait until the final interview stage to showcase who you are, what you have to offer, and what you are looking to learn. Where appropriate and possible, maximise these open-ended questions to set yourself apart from other candidates. Just because this is a question being asked in the initial application stage doesn’t mean you should take it lightly.
Part 3: Ring, ring! I’m cold calling
Remember those firms you are interested in applying to but might not be hiring at the moment? Well, try sending them an email anyway—you never know what might come out of it. Here are a couple things to include in your email:
- Mention your field of study and university name
- Express your interest to gain hands-on experience in X industry
- Make it clear that you have researched the company, but remember to show instead of tell; consider talking about how you were impressed by the company’s mission or vision
- Briefly mention what you are looking to learn should you get an internship from this company
- Explain you are interested in this particular position or division (perhaps it aligns with your skills or interests)
- Demonstrate your current abilities and what you can bring to the table
- Thank the recruiter for their consideration
The best part? You can also apply the same tips for writing a cover letter.
Part 4: Put To The Test
So, you have been invited by a company to undertake a series of tests so they can get to know you better. If you are equal parts excited for and dreading the test, that is normal. While the tests vary according to what you are applying for, some common ones are aptitude tests, technical tests, behavioural assessments, case studies, psychometric tests, and numerical reasoning.
We would be here all week if we were to go through every single test, but here are some general tips that are applicable to all tests:
- Answer honestly; don’t worry about the kinds of answers that employers would want to see
- It’s better to get most questions right and miss a few than race against the clock and end up with a handful of wrongs (most tests are designed without expecting you to fully complete them!)
- Read the questions and information carefully; sometimes, there might be extra information sneaked in just to confuse you
- Apply what you already know; these tests will rarely go so far as to test you on something you know nothing about, so think back to the fundamentals you have and utilize them
- Look for patterns; train your brain to recognise patterns (just like the kind of questions shown in IQ tests)
- Practice, practice, practice! There are tons of practice tests you can take online before attempting the actual one
Got that final stage invitation for an interview? Well done! Next up is my final instalment, Internship Insider #3: The Interview Impression