Just about a year ago, I was applying to fall internships like the majority of the rest of my peers. After having five previous internships, mainly at nonprofits, I was on the hunt for a different type of position to diversify my resume and gain exposure to a different work environment. I landed a communications management internship at Hirons, which eventually led me to joining their team full time. I’ve come full circle and I’m now on the other side of the interview table — looking to hire a fall intern for my department.
Fall intern recruitment can be tricky because students are often not thinking about their fall plans yet but rather trying to make the most of their summer. They may also already have a summer internship and are focusing on that, or a million other responsibilities they have. I get it.
It’s important though, especially for those still in college, that you stay on top of your game and keep looking for great opportunities.
Get your application in early
Speaking from experience, when I post a deadline for applications I haven’t just picked a random date. I have chosen that day because it allows proper time for reviewing applications, scheduling interviews, conducting interviews and extending offers, all before my summer intern leaves and my department is caught without the much-needed help of this role.
In my current position (and all other organizations I’ve chosen to work with), interns are crucial and I put their skills to use. As a supervisor, I make sure you’re not just fetching coffee or stapling papers. Maybe you’ll do some administrative stuff (we all do!), but I am hiring you because I need you to actively contribute to important projects.
So, when students fail to submit their applications in time for my original deadline and I’m forced to extend it, it can be very frustrating. I recommend making sure you follow any organizations you might be interested in working for on social media, and then maintaining a note or spreadsheet of their application deadlines.
I won’t hold it against you if you don’t apply before the original deadline and then submit your application after the extension, but submitting on time will likely make the hiring process smoother for both you and me. Do yourself this favor.
Whenever possible, include a cover letter
I know, I know, people go back and forth on this all the time. I’m only one person, so my advice isn’t universal, but I feel pretty strongly about candidates providing some sort of narrative when they reach out to me. Applications are submitted differently for every company, but at Hirons we have an online form that allows you to enter contact information into a text box and upload files. The resume upload is required, but the cover letter is not.
I always prefer when a candidate gives me some context of why they’re a great fit and tells me a little bit about who they are. It doesn’t have to be your life story, but I like to see some indication 1.) that you thoroughly read the job description and 2.) write well enough to demonstrate your personality. This is particularly important in my department, as the job will include a lot of writing.
I will usually skim a candidate’s resume first to get a general idea of their past experience and then, if they’ve given one, I’ll look over the cover letter to see if it points out anything I might have missed on the resume. It’s helpful and your time in writing it isn’t going to waste, trust me.
Please don’t be presumptuous
I don’t have a problem with name dropping or with a student who’s hoping that an internship will lead to a full-time, salaried position. I definitely encourage you to network with employees at companies you’d want to work for and to pursue opportunities that might have great potential for you. What I don’t appreciate is receiving an application that states from the get-go that you know my boss or that you’re looking for this internship to result in a full-time job.
If you’re going to highlight the fact that you know someone at the company, that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for writing a great cover letter and submitting a relevant resume. Also, if you’ve not given me any context about how you know a person I work with so that I feel comfortable asking them about it, I probably won’t ask them.
Some people might admire the confidence of a person who signifies in their cover letter that they want the internship to turn into a salaried job. I am not without empathy — I know it’s hard out here for fresh grads to find something to pay the bills. However, I personally find this tactic concerning. It makes me feel as though you’re not focusing on the internship you’re applying for, but that you’ve already moved on to the next step. If it feels organic to ask about potential full time opportunities in the interview, I would say that’s a more appropriate time to bring it up. That way, I’ve had the chance to get to know you better rather than just a name at the head of a cover letter.