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Intern Turned Coordinator: Advice for Applicants



Hirons’ spring internship applications will be available Oct. 7. Here are some tips for hopeful candidates. 

Just over a year ago, I was applying to fall internships like the majority of my college-age peers. After 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 spot in the communications management department here at Hirons, which eventually led me to joining the team full-time. Though I started as an intern, I’m now on the other side of the interview table, routinely looking for great intern candidates for our business development team.

Finding intern candidates can be difficult. Speaking from experience, it is easy to get caught up in the responsibilities you have to juggle as a full-time student, and sometimes seeking out future internship opportunities gets put on the back burner. It’s important though, especially for those who are still in college, to stay on top of your professional development game and keep looking for opportunities.

I have a few tips for hopeful candidates looking to enhance their applications:

Get your application in early

When we post a deadline for applications, we haven’t just picked a random date. We have chosen that day because it allows our team proper time for reviewing applications, scheduling interviews, conducting said interviews and extending offers or rejections. In Hirons’ case, we work hard to complete this process before the outgoing intern(s) leave. This helps us avoid our departments being caught without the much-needed help of interns and offers the incoming recruits a chance to meet with their predecessors for on-boarding.

At Hirons, and in all other organizations I’ve worked with thus far in my career, interns are considered crucial and we 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 tasks, but I’ve selected you because I need you to actively contribute to important projects. So, when students fail to submit their applications in time for our original deadline and we’re 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.

That being said, I won’t hold it against you if you don’t apply before the original deadline and then submit your application after the extension. However, 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 they tell me a little bit about who they are. It doesn’t have to be your life story, but I like to see some indication that 1.) you thoroughly read the job description and 2.) are capable of writing in a way that shows some personality and professionalism. This is particularly important in my department, as business development includes a lot of writing.

I will usually skim a candidate’s resume to get a general idea of their past experience and then, if they’ve included one, I’ll look over the cover letter to see if it points out anything I might have missed on the resume. Your time spent writing the cover letter doesn’t go 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 once met someone from our management team 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 well-tailored resume. Also, if you’ve not given me any context about how you know a person I work with, I probably won’t ask them about it.

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 new graduates seeking to find a way to pay the bills. However, this tactic requires a delicate balancing act. If you focus your initial application too heavily on a prospective full-time gig, it makes me feel as though you’re not actually interested in the internship you’re applying for. If it feels natural 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 seeing your name at the head of a cover letter.

Finding an internship can sometimes be a very competitive and time-consuming process. The firsthand experience you’ll gain from securing a coveted slot in an organization’s internship program will be worth it. If you take the time to ensure your application is the best it can be, you’re bound to gain the attention of internship coordinators and you’ll learn a lot in the process.

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