Updated: December 2020
An internship is a great way to get a foot in the door with your dream company. However internship positions are limited and highly competitive. You will be competing against hundreds of intern applications so you need to make your application stand out! In this blog post we will share hiring insights to help your application stand out.
The Reality with most intern applications: they stink!
Starting out can be the toughest part of your career because you’re faced with the ultimate catch 22: You need relevant experience, but you haven’t had the chance to gain any real professional experience up until this point.
Fortunately, most hiring managers understand this when hiring an intern. You don’t necessarily have to have the right experience but you do have to still use branding strategy to stand out from hundreds of applicants. Having hired interns myself, I thought I’d share my hiring manager experience. As someone who advises on career strategy, resumes and cover letters at all levels, my expectations were pretty basic. After all, an intern has access to college career services and a plethora of online resources. However, I was surprised at what came back when the applications started rolling in.
I received a steady flow of applications – a welcome sight initially. However, after scanning the applications resumes and cover letters it became quite clear that generic applications were alive and well. To my disappointment, hitting the “send” button was as effortless as ever. This left me with a slew of irrelevant resumes.
If you’re an intern (or job seeker at any level) here’s what you need to know about applying for jobs and attracting hiring manager interest.
Consider the hiring manager user experience & use a targeted approach
Getting inside the hiring manager head is important when applying to any job. The sooner you learn this lesson the better! Therefore considering the hiring manager user experience is essential. Start by making your information easy-to-skim and highly relevant. Anything else will cause the hiring manager to tune out.
Being relevant to the hiring manager is as simple as referencing your interest in the specific company and role (ie. “I am interested in x role at company”). Without indicating this to hiring managers, they’ll assume you’re just shooting out tons of applications haphazardly. While this may be the case, you don’t want the hiring manager to know this. You want the hiring manager to feel as if you only applied to his or her exact job. By taking a targeted approach to your resume, you will be more appealing to the hiring manager.
How to make your resume relevant at first glance
One way to target your branding is by targeting your job title. Include a headline under your resume heading that includes a statement about the role to which you’re applying. This is slightly different than a LinkedIn headline. Simply including a target will help the hiring manager hone in on you above the other candidate resumes. For example, if you’re applying to social media internships with nonprofits you might say: “Targeting a Social Media & Digital Marketing Internship in the Nonprofit Industry.” This will help the hiring manager identify you as someone who is interested in their job.
Follow instructions when submitting your application
Since I was hiring a social media intern, one of the key requirements for the application process was that of links to the candidates’ social networks. I was surprised how few applicants followed this simple set of instructions. Something as simple as including the requested links would have set a candidate apart immediately. This is a great way to demonstrate attention to detail and the ability to follow instructions – both of which are two very important qualities for intern candidates.
It’s a simple piece of advice, but extremely important. Be sure to read the job description in full before applying and follow all instructions. Failure to do this could cost you the opportunity.
Add a resume summary
If your intern resume doesn’t contain much experience, there’s a simple way to make sure your resume is relevant. Include a resume summary. A resume summary is a 4-5 line paragraph directly beneath your resume title. It should contain your most relevant interests and experience in summary form. An executive level summary will be different in that it will contain more juicy results.
What to include in your summary
A strong intern resume summary, should indicate some level of interest in the specific field/industry/role as well as some level of qualification. Hiring managers understand that you probably aren’t yet fully qualified and are open to helping you get that first bit of experience. However, they need some indication of interest in what they have to offer. Otherwise, they risk hiring and training someone who will not be invested in sticking around for the long term.
Why not including a summary can hurt you
If you don’t yet have all the required experience for the job and are lacking a summary to explain your relevant interest in the position, the hiring manager will be unsure as to whether or not this is even something you want to do. Hiring managers receive a ton (A TON) of irrelevant resume every day so adding a summary that contains your interest will go a long way in setting you apart from the competition.
Don’t forget to add a cover letter to your application
It’s true, the cover letter has evolved and is not always required in the application process. However, a rule of thumb you’ll want to follow is that of including the cover letter when listed as “optional” in online applications. Why? Including a cover letter is important because in the off chance that your resume is not relevant, this is your second opportunity to express interest and/or qualification.
In my experience hiring an intern the cover letter is the second candidate checkpoint. If the resume was not relevant and did not include a summary, I would skim the cover letter. If a cover letter was not included, I had no reassurance that the candidate was even interested in my role. Candidates missing a relevant resume and cover letter were not considered for the role. Therefore you want to use the cover letter to your advantage as another opportunity to sell yourself.
What hiring managers look for in the cover letter
If the cover letter was included, I looked for a few key items with relevance being first on my list. I wanted to be sure the candidates were not just hitting the “send” button at random and really did know what they were getting themselves into. I skimmed for the following pieces of information:
- Mention of my company name or indication that they wanted to work specifically for this kind of company
- Mention of any relevant skills and a powerful example of their biggest win relevant to the role
- Indicators that the applicant had taken extra time to better understand my business problem (aka the reason for the job opening)
- Indicators that the candidate had the solution I needed or the willingness to work on one
The bottom line when hiring managers review intern applications
What I learned from my intern hiring experience was simple: It requires very little to stand out on your intern application. However it does require more than just hitting “send.” Take the time to make your application relevant and the work will pay off!
If you’re hoping to improve your intern job search and land a job in record time, check out the Job Search Accelerator. In this budget-friendly job landing community you’ll have access to all of Noelle’s expert resources including a FREE resume review, optimized resume and cover letter templates, networking scripts and templates, LinkedIn optimization courses, interview answer scripts and more – everything you need to feel confident, navigate the job search successfully, and put your best foot forward as an applicant.