Applying to an Internship: A Guide from an Intern Coordinator

Written by Randy Keefe

Having gone from being an intern to being hired to manage my company’s internship program within the matter of a few months, I have been on both sides of the application process in recent history.

As I am reviewing applications for our summer internship, several different types of applications come across my desk, and not all of them are equal. Here are a few things to keep in mind that will automatically improve the first impression you give a potential employer.

  1. Personalization
    Try to find out the name of the intern coordinator. If you cannot find a name or cannot tell whether the coordinator is male or female, simply address it to “Intern Coordinator.” A stock “Dear Sir/Madam” makes your letter seem like a blanket letter you send to everyone. Tailor your cover letter to each organization as well. While you cannot change your qualifications, you can highlight your relevant experience and show that you are aware of what the position requires by taking the time to customize each letter. Employers are interested in how you will make a good fit with them and what skills you bring to the table.
  2. Be Traditional & Conservative
    Format your cover letter correctly. A proper cover letter has your name and address, the date, the address for the organization to which you are applying, a formal greeting, and the body of your letter. Just as in politics, a résumé with a conservative design and substance is better than trying to demonstrate you are up-to-date with the latest trends in graphic design. (Even if you are applying to a position that requires you to demonstrate creativity, be sure the substantive information for your background does not get lost.)  
  3. PDF, PDF, PDF
    Send all documents you are submitting for review as a PDF. A PDF both ensures your formatting remains and guarantees that it will be easy for the person receiving your application to review. Speaking from personal experience, this alone will make your application stand out. While it is unlikely that you would not get a position simply because you sent your résumé as a Word document, using a PDF demonstrates a proficiency in business communication.
  4. First Impressions
    Remember that either the email or cover letter you send with your application is the first impression an intern coordinator is going to have of you. If you are emailing your application, write a short note telling the coordinator where you found the internship posting, that you are interested in the position, and list the documents you have attached. Thank the coordinator for his or her consideration. Believe it or not, I have received applications via an email that simply had three attachments and no message in the body. You do not need to recreate your cover letter, but you should at the very least write a message in the body saying, “Dear ___, Please see the attached documents as my internship application.”
  5. Self-Edit and Review
    One of the simplest ways to make sure your cover letter or résumé is free of mistakes is to self-edit and review your documents. Make all the changes you want to make, save the document, and then wait twenty-four hours. When you are working on a document and have been looking at it all day, you are likely to miss mistakes. Come back to the document with fresh eyes to give it a final review before submitting it, or send it to a friend to review. An application free of mistakes is refreshing to see and allows anyone looking at your materials to focus on the content rather than editing your documents.

Randy KeefeRandy Keefe, ’16, was a Political Economy major from southern California. A founding member of Hillsdale College’s 1844 Society, he now works at the Council for National Policy and is based in Washington, DC.