With the last of summer internship deadlines quickly approaching, you are most likely putting the finishing touches on your applications. As you do so, take a look at this list of tips for some last minute ways to make your application more competitive.
1) The statement of purpose. Most applications require an essay of some sort, and though you have probably already written it, go through the following checklist to make sure that your essay is…
a. Personal enough. A statement of purpose is not supposed to be a narrative of your resume. We want to know what drives you, what you are passionate about, and why specifically you want this internship. Don’t be too general. We want your story, your voice and we want to get a sense of who you are. We want to know what challenges you have overcome and what exactly you want to get out of the internship you’re applying for. We also need to know what skills you bring and examples of how you have demonstrated them. Examples of leadership and how you have taken initiative are also important.
b. To the point. If there is a word limit, stick to it. If there isn’t, the reader still doesn’t want to read five pages of description. Cut down where you can and only leave in what is important to your point. A good statement is concise, well written, and gets across your qualifications and the key points you want to make. The readers are busy reviewing many applications at once so don’t make them work too hard to see your passion, value, and fit.
c. Grammatically and syntactically correct, and readable. It won’t take you more than ten minutes to double check your basic writing skills. Double check for grammar, spelling, sentence structure, and voice. Write from the ACTIVE voice, not passive. This is an easy change and makes all the difference in the world.
2) Resume and Cover letter: Be sure your resume is up to date, concise and professional. Be sure there are no grammatical, spelling, or formatting errors. Have a colleague or advisor review. Be sure it conveys your strengths and experience. Try to keep it to 1 page. Emphasize problems you have solved and results you have achieved. Make sure your cover letters (if required) are professional and well written. Customize to the specific opportunity and their guidelines.
3) Professionalism. When communicating with staff, be sure to follow the basic rules of etiquette. Be professional when addressing the people who are going to read your application, and moreover, be kind. It is easy to fall into the habit of writing colloquially or casually when you are online, and this can sometimes come off as rude. Remember that you are talking to the people making the decision to give you a spot in their internship. Every interaction counts, even if those interactions are through email. Be respectful of the people you are speaking with and the time lines they put forth.
4) Letters of Recommendation. If the application requires letters of recommendation, make sure you find the right person to write for you. Make sure that you are asking someone who knows you, not just someone you think will look impressive. It is far better to have someone write your letter who knows you and thinks highly of you than someone who is influential or important but doesn’t know you very well or doesn’t think highly of you. However, stay away from family member writers. Try to find a teacher, advisor, boss, etc. who knows you well in a more professional setting.
5) Follow instructions. If the application does not ask for a letter of recommendation, don’t send one. Read instructions carefully and send everything they ask for, nothing more. Sometimes an application will ask you to send any supplemental documents that you think will enhance your application, and if this is the case, then do so. If not, don’t.
6) Don’t hide your flaws. Many times a statement of purpose will ask you to talk about challenges you have overcome, and this is the perfect opportunity to talk about something that could be seen as a red flag on your application. For example, if you have a low GPA, talk about this challenge and how it helped you grow. Hiding something looks much worse than addressing it and talking about it as an asset instead of a detriment.
7) Be prompt. Submit your application at least four or five hours before the deadline. Many people wait until a few minutes before and find themselves unable to submit because the server is so crowded. Even if you wait until the last day, don’t wait until the last minute.
8) Communicate your fit with the program. It is important to make the case for why you are a good fit for the specific internship. Read their objectives and guidelines carefully. Be sure you persuasively discuss how your aspirations, strengths and experience are aligned with the program.
So, in summary: Be specific, clear, concise and professional. Be kind, double check your writing, follow instructions carefully, and be on time. If you’re doing all of this, you’re guaranteed to boost your chances of getting to that interview stage. And speaking of interviews, we will be posting a blog soon about how to nail your internship interview. So stay tuned, MyHCN friends.