How to stand out as an intern applicant

543. It’s a number that is difficult to wrap your head around.

That is how many people applied to our internship ad. One position – 543 candidates. Enough to make your head spin.

Besides the time it takes for us to sift through that amount of CVs, its students and young graduates that really stand to lose from hyper-competitive internships. Work placements are fast becoming as competitive as the job market.

Crucially, they allow you to gain valuable experience and we, too, want to do our bit to help those looking for a route to their first job. 

So besides reviewing and interviewing 543 intern applicants, we wanted to share what we learned along the way. What we – as well as other employers – look for. What works and what doesn’t. And how to stand out from the crowd.

We hope it’s helpful. And we hope it encourages you to soldier on in your search.

You’ll get there.

Top tips for CV-writing:

  1.   Make your resume easily skimmable and laid out well. We saw countless CVs that were meant to look ‘designed’ and unique – only to end up being difficult to read and visually overwhelming. Many also included loooong lists of all the tasks they were responsible for in their previous roles. Two or three highlights will do, along with the results you achieved. Prioritise. 
  2.   Tailor your application to our internship. We saw many use the same resume and cover letter for every job they apply to, because their strategy is to send as many resumes out as humanly possible. The result is a canned application that is easy to spot and immediately dismissed.
  3.   Proofread, proofread, proofread. Be careful with grammar and spelling! Have different people check your resumes for errors to make sure it reads well.

Top tips for interviewing:

  1.   Arrive early. This helps you compose yourself enough before the interview starts and ensures that you don’t log on late. Leaving us waiting first thing doesn’t give the best first impression.
  2.   Read extensively about the company + the industry. Being prepared shows us that you are interested in the internship, took the time to plan ahead, and care about the outcome. It’s also unbelievably easy to spot when someone is unprepared and making it up as they go along.
  3.   Go out of your way to demonstrate your interest in the role + industry. The strongest candidates had an idea or plan for how the internship fitted into their longer-term career goals and told us about marketing projects they were involved in on the side and books they had been reading about the industry. That reassures us the candidate will take advantage of the opportunity to the max.
  4.   Be humble but proactive. We were most impressed by candidates who freely admitted their faults and weaknesses but emphasised the work they had done to address and improve them.
  5.   Have awesome body language. Some candidates looked visibly uncomfortable or disturbed – even over a video screen! Preparing with some breathing exercises, a joke or even just admitting you’re nervous goes a long way!
  6.   Talk about more than just what’s on your resume. The hiring manager has already read your resume, so they know the basics about your work experience and skills. The interview is your chance to provide additional context and details. 
  7.   Ask meaningful + unique questions. We want you to be a good fit. It’s therefore important that you screen us just as much as we screen you.
  8.   Follow up. We really appreciated it when candidates followed up after the interview, thanking us for our time, reaffirming their interest and that they were eager to hear feedback and information about the next steps.
  9.   Be yourself. Don’t try to mimic anyone or pretend to be someone else to look more “professional”. Don’t be afraid of small talk, bringing your true authentic self comes through and leaves an impression.
  10.   Answer the questions succinctly. Extensive answers can be confusing and often miss the point. Don’t be afraid of short but clear answers.

So, there you have it – our best advice to you.

By putting in extra effort and demonstrating that you are truly interested in this specific role, you’ll give yourself a better chance of success and beating those odds; 1 of 543 applicants.  

Good luck! 

By: Priscila Silva

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