So you want to be an intern…

It’s internship application season!  As an intern hiring manager, I have the task of reading hundreds of internship resumes every year.  Hiring interns is challenging and I find it much different from hiring full time employees.  Interns often come with little to no experience and thus we are trying to determine from their resume if they have sufficient skills to accomplish the tasks we have planned.  It is also in our best interest to utilize the internship as an extended interview, so those who would be a good fit for full time work after graduation are attractive candidates.  I often read over 500 resumes for 1-2 positions, so you can imagine that it is hard to stand out in a crowd.  In order to make yourself most attractive as a candidate, it is critical that your resume conveys what the hiring manager needs to know about you.  Askamanager.org is one of my favorite sources for all things job related, but Alison Green’s advice on resumes is a great resource.  Since she mostly focuses on full-time employment, here are some of the additional things I recommend to internship seekers.  In my next post, I’ll focus specifically on exoskeleton jobs! 

  1. Demonstrate your skills.  For full time employment, this is often done by sharing accomplishments at previous jobs.  Most interns have very few relevant job experiences, so it is critical to demonstrate this skill by talking about course projects and club projects.  Be specific about what you accomplished and what skills were required to do so. Brag! Show off!  This is your chance to tell me what you can do.
  2. Do projects.  I am hiring engineers, and while being able to pass tests and solve problem sets is indicative of skill, it is easiest for me to see how you will succeed in the role if you have been involved in hands-on projects.  If your coursework doesn’t include projects, I highly recommend joining a club or other activity that does or even apply these concepts to projects on your own.  Furthermore, it is unnecessary to list your courses.  I know what an accredited engineering curriculum looks like, so use that space to show me what those courses taught you.
  3. Demonstrate why you want the job.  I do NOT mean an objective statement that says: “I want to be an intern at X company”.  I mean show me through your projects, interests, and courses that this is an interesting field to you; that this is a potential stepping stone for your future career.  This is especially true if you are early in your college career or applying from a non-traditional major for the position.  Given the number of resumes I have to review, I don’t always have time to read full cover letters, so it is best to include this information somehow on the resume itself though expanding in a cover letter is important. 
  4. Make your resume professional.  Proofread!  This is critical for any job level, but in the sea of internship applications, small things can make your resume stand out.  Don’t let it stand out for the wrong reasons.  I recommend submitting a pdf format resume and including some minimal formatting.  Do not go overkill, but a bit of polish shows a level of professionalism and care.  
  5. Apply for THIS job.  As an intern applicant, I too took the spaghetti approach- throw out a bunch of resumes and hope one sticks.  This will sometimes work and a well-written resume will be applicable to multiple jobs; however to optimize your chances, it is worth spending some time with the job description and the company webpage to make sure that you have addressed the concerns that this hiring manager may have.  I, unfortunately, will get to the phone screen level with a far fewer percentage of intern candidates than full time candidates, so it is even more critical that you sell yourself through your resume.

Applying for internships among problem sets, exams, projects, and other college life can be challenging.  It can also be very frustrating when you know that you are just one of many applicants in a pool.  However, taking the time to put your best foot forward can reward you with a great summer experience and open the door to future opportunities.  

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