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How to Stand Out in the Internship Application Process

Nowadays, it may be accurate to say that securing a summer internship is harder than securing a full time job after college. Internship applications include a perfected resume, strong recommendation letters, and several rounds of digital and in-person interviews. Not to mention, to even get an interview, your application needs to go through multiple rounds of review. While they require an extensive amount of effort, internships have become vital components of college resumes that either push job-seekers through to the interview phase or hold them back into the never-ending stream of “We have selected a different applicant for this position” emails. 

One of the most frustrating realities to face when applying for internships is the number of unresponsive applications you’ll submit – in other words, when you apply for a position and never hear back about your application status. This may happen for a number of reasons. Maybe your resume does not have enough “keywords” that companies are looking for. Maybe your cover letter sounds too generic and is not specific enough to your interest in the position at hand. Or maybe the company receives so many applications that they simply do not have the manpower to read yours. After enduring the struggle of this search myself, here are my most impactful takeaways to remember while trying to stand out in the application process this semester.

You Should Have a Variety of Resumes 

The goal of a resume is to tell an employer the most important things about your skills and your experience in the most concise and professional manner possible. The idea of having multiple resumes does not mean that each resume should tell a different story about who you are as a professional, but rather they should highlight specific skills that are well suited towards the given position you’re applying for. For example, if you’re applying for an analytics position in the tech industry, your resume may features skills such as critical thinking, troubleshooting, design-planning, or whatever other keywords the job description lists in its ‘qualifications’ section. Whereas, if you’re applying for an analytics position in the beauty industry, your skills may include project management, effective team cooperation, or quantitative analysis. While these positions may require a number of the same skills, you want to make sure that your resume uses the words listed in the job description and that they are relevant to the position/industry you’re applying for. These are the small changes that most applicants fail to make, but those who do are those who are highly regarded by recruiters.

Your Cover Letter Should Sound as if You’re Talking Face-to-Face With the Recruiter

Take a moment and put yourself in the shoes of a campus recruiter. What would your impression of a student be if he/she walked up to your company’s stand and told you they are a motivated worker seeking employment opportunities for the upcoming summer and that they hope you consider their application? You’d probably forget about the students seconds after they walk away because they sound exactly like every other applicant you meet. Another way to say it is that they are easily forgettable. Recruiters can tell when students have not done their research on the position. They can tell when a student sends out an application just to send out an application. For a recruiter who’s trying to take the time to get to know you as a professional and your intentions on why you want the position, it’s important that you take the time to write a professional cover letter for each application that briefly introduces yourself, why you’re applying for the position, and what you have to offer. I’m not saying that each cover letter has to be structured differently. They can each share a similar template, just know that speaking directly to a recruiter and showing that you’re knowledgeable about the position you’re applying for goes a long way.

Send. Those. Emails.

Getting in contact with recruiters or people that work at the company you’re interested in is key. A recruiter is much more likely to remember who you are and give you important information if you reach out to them with your resume and cover letter as opposed to submitting them through a job portal. It also shows that you’re very serious about any opportunities that the company may offer for college students. Now, you may be wondering, how do I get these emails if I don’t know anyone at the company of my dreams? This is where you have to do a lot of digging. I suggest searching on LinkedIn for alumni from your school or friends of friends that you happen to find work in the same industry or company that you want to work for. Send these people an invitation on LinkedIn and ask them if they’d be willing to send you a recruiter’s email or refer your resume. This goes such a long way and can be the determinant of whether or not you are offered an interview. Also, it’s worth mentioning that some smaller companies don’t have internship positions posted online, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t willing to take one on. If you find a small start-up that you love, email the best contact address you can find and tell them about yourself! Let them know you’d love to contribute to their company as an intern and see what they say. You’d be surprised as to how many businesses would appreciate the extra help. 

Even after following all of these tips, this process is stressful. It’s not as easy as some make it seem to get an internship. Following these suggestions, however, is guaranteed to put you ahead of applicants who fail to put in extra effort. Before you can secure an interview, you have to make yourself look great on paper. Make a coffee, sit down, and start getting to work!


Images: 1, 2, 3, 4

Ashley Guertin

U Mass Amherst '21

Ashley is graduate of UMass Amherst, Class of 2021. After joining Her Campus during her sophomore year, Ashley quickly became involved in her chapter as a Content Editor and the Facebook Coordinator. She served as the chapter's Editor in Chief and Campus Correspondent during her senior year and owes Her Campus for giving her lifelong friends and endless opportunities. You can find Ashley writing about career development, her favorite trends, and her personal experiences that she hopes will help other Her Campus readers navigate their lives.
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