You’ve just come across the most perfect internship opportunity. What do you do next?
Not long ago, I was in your shoes. Then the tables turned, and I went from eager potential intern to the office’s eagerly-seeking-smart-interns internship coordinator. I encountered some fantastic—as well as some not-so-fantastic—would-be interns and was able to view the entire process in a whole new light.
So before you hit send on that email with your resume attached, check out these tips to give yourself the best chance at getting it right at every step of your internship.
Applying for the Internship
Use common sense. Business 101: professionalism and courtesy. I once received a completely blank email from a student with only their resume attached. I kid you not. I stared at the email, dumbstruck, for a good five minutes, confused as to why someone would actually send a blank email—no greeting, no message, no nothing.
A concise, upbeat and professional message in the body of the email that expresses interest in the available internship goes a long way and gives you the opportunity to wow the employer with your clean writing before they even open your resume.
Do your homework. Come to the interview with knowledge of the company you’re applying to.
The first question I tend to ask in an interview is, “What do you know about our company?” Of course, I don’t expect a prospective intern to know everything about the company I work for, but I do expect them to have done some research and have a general understanding of what we do. From there, I’m more than happy to share details about the company, our goals and our expectations for interns.
And when I say “do your homework,” I mean more than simply glancing at a few pages on the company’s website. Check out their social media presence, explore their press room and do a Google News search for recent news articles on the company for an outsider’s perspective.
During Your Interview
Ask questions. There’s nothing worse in an interview than asking, “Are there any questions I can answer for you?” and hearing the long pause and then “Ummm…nope. I think you covered it all.”
In the half hour I usually spend interviewing an internship candidate, I know for sure that I can’t cover the entire scope of our company and its goals. Even if you don’t have a question, think of one. Better yet, come prepared with smart questions. Asking questions makes you look knowledgeable and proves that you’ve done your research.
This blog post on Corn on the Job provides an excellent list of 50 smart sample questions.
Follow up. Immediately after the interview (preferably within 12-24 hours), send a sincere thank you email. If you really want to stand out, send an email AND a handwritten thank you note.
When I was in college just a few years ago, I thought sending a physical thank you note was pretty standard, but I’ve quickly learned they are far and few between. In fact, a U.S. News & World Report article reported that only about 60 percent of interviewees actually follow up after an interview with a thank you note. Yikes!
The people who send thank you notes usually turn out to be rockstar interns. Those who don’t follow up in some way or another? Let’s just say they likely don’t get the internship, no matter how awesome their resume or interview.
During the Internship
Bring a notepad everywhere you go. And use it. That part is key. Taking notes during a meeting or during a one-on-one with your boss or internship supervisor shows you’re engaged in what they’re telling you and committed to doing a good job following through on an assignment.
Take initiative. Bored? I don’t think so. Even if you’ve completed your assignments for the day, there’s always something you can do to help.
If you don’t feel comfortable asking your supervisor for something new to work on, do research on the industry you’re working in, ask a colleague from another department if there’s something you can help with or develop a new idea you can present to your superiors.
Find a way to make yourself useful, and believe me, your boss will notice that you’ve gone above and beyond.
Do you have any tips for excelling in the internship process? We hope you’ll share with us in the comments below!
Jessica Lawlor is a public relations professional and freelance writer in the Philadelphia area.