How to Get an Internship (According to 17 Managers and HR Experts)

Share on facebook
Share on pinterest
Share on twitter
Share on email

What are the best ways of getting an internship?

We asked experts to provide us with their advice.

Table of Contents

Eric Bravo

Eric Bravo

Animation Writer | Photographer | Author, How to Get an Animation Internship |
Interned, Warner Bros., Nickelodeon, DreamWorks

How to get experience for an internship

Getting experience for an internship will depend on the industry you are applying to. For example, if I am interested in real estate and want to score an internship at Re/Max Gold but have no experience, I’ll have to show on my resume that I have an interest in real estate. One way to do so is by signing up for an online course or by joining a club or an organization dedicated to real estate. If there are no clubs at your school, create one! This shows that you take initiative and are willing to go the extra mile.

Crafting your resume

After you gain some tailored experience, your next step is to craft your resume. There are many templates online for you to use or you can use templates provided by Word, Pages, or Google Word. If you’d like your resume to look different and stand out, I’d recommend searching for resume templates at Creative Market. This online website has beautiful templates that will surely make your resume stand out from the rest of the bunch.

After you have a sleek design and experience to put on it, it is time to put it together. Usually, it goes in chronologically order with your latest/current experience on top. If you have a GPA lower than a 3.5, I would leave it off and instead put your expected graduation date. For example, UC Davis (expected graduation 2020).

If you’d like more help, look at freelance websites like UpWork or Fiverr and hire someone to help you craft, proofread, or review your resume.

Network

Most jobs are filled by referrals and internships are not different. Not only will joining a club or organization will help you gain experience to put on your resume, but it is also a great way to network. I got my very first internship by just knowing someone who was already interning at the company. Companies prefer to use referrals and recommendations.

Consider joining a business fraternity as well. Business fraternities are designed to help you get internships and most have resume and interview workshops. Most importantly, your network and chances of landing an internship will instantly expand with the fraternities vast alumni network.

Interview

Interviews can be tough, but if you practice and have some answers pre-written, your chances of getting a question you’re not ready for will be much lower. Search for some internship questions online and answer them prior to your interview. I find this method improves my confidence. For phone interviews, I have the answers on my computer and for in-person interviews, I familiarize myself with the answers.

It does not matter if the interviewer is wearing shorts and flip flops, you should always dress to impress during the interview for two reasons. The first, most people don’t dress up for interviews, so it makes you stand out and leaves an impression on them. That’s a good thing to have! The second, it shows that you are serious about the internship and that you put in the effort to clean up and look good.

During the internship

After you get your internship, treat it as if it’s your longest job interview ever. You want to exceed everyone’s expectations and stand out from the current employees by dressing business casual. You want to be known as the intern who is always hustling and delivering each task quickly and efficiently without complaint. This is how you get a job offer by the end of the internship program.

Chris Chancey

Chris Chancey

Founder, Amplio Recruiting

These days, an internship is an important prerequisite for most entry-level jobs. An internship or two shows that you have the industry-level experience, which gives you a leg up when you begin formal employment. In spite of all the competition out there, getting an internship does not have to be difficult. Below are some tips:

Look in the right places

Knowing where to find the right opportunities is the first step to securing a good internship position. I would recommend that candidates pay particular attention to internship websites.

The ones I use the most and with great success are internshipfinder.com and internships.com but of course, there are many more. It is also a good idea to check out regular job boards where recruiters often post open positions.

Network smartly

To get an internship, think beyond just letting your family and friends know that are you in the market for one. If you are serious about locking in that internship, commit to making connections with people who can get you a step closer to where you want to go.

Prepare adequately and attend job fairs, go to relevant meetups, and use LinkedIn to reach out to alumni working at a company you would like to intern for; they could be instrumental in helping you get your foot in the door.

Reach out to the hiring manager or a recruiter

Job boards are all nice but there is no denying the cutthroat competition there. You can, however, bypass the competition and increase your chances of securing an internship by going ahead and getting in touch with the hiring manager. Sometimes, information about who the hiring manager is may not be readily available, so you will need to dig around a little

The company’s website and LinkedIn profile are good places to start when looking for the hiring manager’s email address or contact information. Send an email and if you do not get a response after a few days, give them a call and ask whether they would be interested in hiring an intern.

Related: How to Reach Out to a Recruiter

Get help with your resume and cover letter

If you are not too confident about your resume and cover letter, I recommend that you get someone to help you put together a solid application package. In my experience, candidates straight out of college looking for an internship have the hardest time writing a resume that reflects their skills, strengths, and achievements.

If you want to get ahead of the curve, do not be shy to ask for help for example, from your school’s career office or from a reputable recruiting agency.

Related: How Long Should a Cover Letter Be, How to End a Cover Letter 

Demonstrate your value

To get an internship, you have to show what you bring to the table. Employers look for interns who are genuinely interested in their company/business, are open to learning, are innovative, and add value to the company’s bottom line. Whether or not the position you are applying to was advertised, think of ways you can demonstrate to the hiring manager that bringing you on board will benefit the company.

For example, during the interview or in the cover letter, you could propose a solution to a problem the company is facing and outline ways you can be part of this solution.

Follow up

Do not shy away from following up with the hiring manager, first to thank them for the interview ( within 24-48 hours) and later (after a week or so of no response) to remind them of your availability.

Hiring managers have a lot on their plate at any given time; sending them an appreciation letter and following up about the recruitment process will keep you top of their mind, increasing your chances of snagging that interview.

Related: How to Follow up After an Interview If You Haven’t Heard Back

Deborah Sweeney

Deborah Sweeney

CEO, MyCorporation

Apply to local small businesses in your area

Often times, when college students hunt for internships, they apply to big businesses. Generally, large corporations have hundreds and thousands of applicants to sort through when selecting an intern. That makes it easier for your application to get lost in the mix.

If you want to increase your odds of landing an internship, apply to local small businesses in your area. Small businesses may be the underdog of internships, but they offer a great deal of experience along with a quick application process. This means you won’t be waiting for months to hear back from recruiters.

Gina Curtis

Gina Curtis

Executive Recruiting Manager, JMJ Phillip Executive Search | Executive Trainer, Employment BOOST

Start your search early

If you know you will be available for a summer internship, start looking at the beginning of the year. These positions are competitive and are filled quickly.

Utilize your network

Ask friends and family if they know of any internships that you would be a fit for. See if they can help you get in touch with the right person. Look to your professional network as well, your connections on LinkedIn could help suggest an open internship at their company.

Work with your school’s career services center

Typically, schools have leads on internships in your field. Reach out to an advisor, ask frequently, and reach out quickly when you do receive a lead.

Have a professional resume

Although it is an internship, it is important to treat it as you would any other interview. Make sure you have a resume prepared and ready to go. If you do not have an adequate amount of work experience, use your education, projects, and letters of recommendation to create a resume.

Related: How to Get an Entry Level Job with No Qualifications or Experience

Practice interviewing

Prepare prior to the interview. Take the time to research the company and look over the requirements. They may have numerous applicants for the position and you always want to put your best foot forward.

Reach out to companies you are interested in

If there is a company you would love to work for, don’t hesitate to reach out to them. Connect with the HR department or recruiters at companies you are interested in and inquire about potential internship opportunities available.

Dr. Roshawnna Novellus

Roshawnna Novellus

Founder & CEO, EnrichHER

Find an industry that you truly care about

Research the various businesses that operate within that industry, how they’re different, where they’re located, and which one you may be able to bring the most value to. You should also consider which one will bring the most value to you.

As an intern, you will be doing a lot of learning, so you’ll want to find a business whose teachings will be useful to carry with you. Once you’ve identified the industry and type of business that you like, get your resume together.

You can ask a mentor, classmate, or your school’s guidance department to review it and offer up any suggestions for improvement. Make sure to include your basic contact information, education thus far, and any relevant work experience.

Prepare to be interviewed

During the interview process, ask as many questions about the company and the role as you’d like in order to get a good feel for your day to day responsibilities. If you feel confident that you’re a good fit, and that the company is a good fit for you, then you’re ready to start!

Related: The Best Time to Schedule a Job Interview

Martin Luenendonk

Martin Luenendonk

Co-Founder & CEO, Cleverism

Your Schooling does not assure employment, but your skills do. The education is of no worth if you lack experience. The best way to ornament your knowledge with expertise is an internship. The graduates with the work experience in the form of an internship are more valuable candidates for any job.

The internship can polish the talent of the students and enables them to manage things responsibly. But it is not equally possible for all the candidates to get selected for the internship. There are specific requirements that must be kept in mind to compete in the market.

Find a suitable place

If you do not have much knowledge about the market, there are many ways to find the right place for the internship. Send your resume to all the startups in which you are interested in doing an internship. You can even make a profile on LinkedIn or may take help from various social media sites. There are several sites on the internet that are very helpful for an internship.

Practice

While applying for the internship, do not forget to polish your skills with practice. Try to prepare yourself for an effective interview. Moreover, groom your personality for a positive impact on the owners. A well-prepared interview is essential to get the job.

Immediate response

If you receive a positive answer from any corporation, try to lead with the prompt response for the vacancy. Treat it like you’re accepting an official job offer. Because the struggle is the crucial factor, as you know, the first come first served rule has always been preferred.

Prove your abilities

The interview phase is the time where you have to put the maximum effort to prove your capabilities. Try to be presentable and effectively demonstrate yourself. As the first impression is the last impression. With all these features be attentive, confident, and responsive.

Brian Kelley

Brian Kelley

Business Expert | Vice President, Bellwether Community Credit Union

As a business expert with many years of experience, I am aware that most jobs look for qualified candidates that have some relative experience within the industry. Preparing yourself for a big job opportunity will help you succeed in your career much more than not having any experience at all.

Do your research

If you are looking for internship opportunities I would highly recommend doing your research. Preferably relative to your industry, an overall good company to reference on your resume, the time required, and what to expect from the internship.

Other key factors you want to pay attention to are location, school credited ( if you are a current college student) and whether the internship is paid or not depending on what you are looking for. You can start by looking online through popular job sites Indeed, Glassdoor, LinkedIn, even your college’s career resources.

An internship is a chance for you to learn many skills before going to a bigger job, enough to get your foot in the door when applying to your future job. It is definitely beneficial to explore your interests, knowing what to expect, and what the possibilities are with your degree.

Update your resume

When you are ready to apply and get in contact with the company, make sure your resume is up to date. Highlighting key skills that are in the job description within your resume will increase your chances of getting noticed. Always submit a cover letter; this adds more value to your application and informs the reader why choosing you would be the best decision.

Get prepared for your interview

Make sure you know enough about the company beforehand, dress professional, practice questions you think might get asked during the interview, and be yourself.

Follow-up

Be persistent and follow-up with the interviewer preferably within a couple of hours or within the next twenty-four hours. I personally think when you follow up you stand out and it makes you look dedicated to the opportunity.

Jes Osrow

Jes Osrow

Director of People & Culture, TodayTix | Co-Founder, The Rise Journey

Apply

Make sure your resume is filled out and relevant – this includes projects, extracurricular activities, schoolwork, previous internships. Don’t leave anything out! Of course, make sure there are no spelling errors, formatting is correct, etc.

Personal branding

Update your website (or create one if you don’t have one). Clean up your LinkedIn, get some new recommendations. I often suggest to those I coach to create referral pods – everyone in the group will write recommendations for someone else in the pod. This also works well for social sharing and endorsements.

Follow up

Standard followup with an HR or hiring manager is okay. What you do not want to do is followup in three different places and with multiple people multiple times. You’ll create a negative association with your name rather than a positive one.

Check-In

Similar to followup, but if you got an interview make sure to send thank you notes (digital and handwritten if you’re smart) to each person you talked to. They should be personal, not generic. They don’t have to be long, short and personal is key.

Internships can be super competitive, so make sure you’re applying to multiple. To get your heart set on one can be detrimental. If you can, you should also be applying to entry level roles. This will allow salary leverage if you get offers for both internships, part-time, or full-time roles.

Ollie Smith

Ollie Smith

CEO, ExpertSure

Completing an internship affords a recent graduate valuable work experience in their industry of choice. There are a number of actions which recent graduates can take to increase their chances of being successful.

Set your availability

You should definitely say your available to start immediately – with the growing competition for internships, especially those that are paid, ensure that you state your immediate readiness to commence during the course of your interview.

Cold-calling

If you can’t’ find the internship you want, the create it by cold calling. By calling on the phone or in-person, you can volunteer your skills and experience, and you may be invited for a formal interview. You could very well become their very first intern as a result!

Follow-up with the interviewer

Finally, if you have heard nothing two weeks after sending an application or interview, then you should follow-up directly with the interviewer or send an email directly to the HR Department. This has the ability to trigger a positive response from the organization in question.

Winston Widdes

Winston Widdes

Entrepreneur | Internet Marketing Consultant | CEO, Find Your Flow

Finding a quality internship that can teach you new skills and provide you with the hands-on experience and practical application of those skills can be a challenge.

Many interns have found themselves stuck in a “catch 22,” where they want to get a job, but the job requires experience. Fortunately, there is a way to find a quality internship that is a win-win for the intern seeker, and the employer looking for new talent and new hires.

Be clear about what you want to learn

If you know specifically which skills you want to learn, then you can find internship opportunities that will provide you with those specific skills.

One of the biggest mistakes many would-be interns make is trying to “do it all”

Not being focused makes it difficult to find a good match with a potential employer because even if the perfect match came along unless you know what you are looking for, you probably wouldn’t even recognize it!

Picture and imagine your dream job

What skills do you need to get that job? Which skills do you already have? Which skills do you need to develop further? Create a list of the skills that you would like to learn and then find a platform where you can sign up and start connecting with business owners that are willing to train you on those specific skills.

Yafees Sarwar

Yafees Sarwar

Marketing Manager, ManhattanTechSupport.com LLC

Internships are great ways to gain valuable real-world experiences that can boost your skill sets and of course, resume. But to secure a worthwhile internship – one must consider the following points:

Hard skills

You must have an essential hard skill or two which you can bring to the table. Whether it’s proficiency in Microsoft Excel or Adobe Photoshop – interns will be required to put their skills to use on a day-to-day basis.

Job relevance

Sometimes, students get the urge to apply for all open job postings, whether it is relevant to their passions or not. I believe you should avoid doing this because you truly want an internship that will be a valuable learning experience. For example, a finance major most likely won’t benefit much from a marketing internship and vice versa. Follow your passion and have respect for your and your employer’s time.

Read the actual job description

When I see some of the submissions for our internship program – it feels like the student didn’t even read the job description. You must read the information provided in its entirety, feel confident that you can carry out the tasks expected of you and only apply if you think both you and the company you are applying to will benefit from this arrangement.

Remember, internships are a two-way street – you give and take. Companies will deploy considerable resources (time and capital) to have you over so you should respect that effort by also be willing to give it your all.

Confidence and positive attitude

These two qualities will often help you cross the bridge when your technical skills fall short. As a potential intern, you probably won’t have mastery over different software suites and other skills, but what you need to develop early on is confidence and positive “can do” attitude.

When a potential employer feels that you have strong work ethics and will go the extra mile for them – they will often overlook the skills gap you might have and will even be willing to train you to become better at them. So cultivating confidence, positive attitude, strong work ethics, and overall good manners will boost you as a candidate for any internships.

Related: Why is Self Confidence Important?

Shawn Lim

shawn-lim

HR Manager, Orbital Systems Equipment

There are many ways to secure an internship.

Go for career fairs organized by your school

Email prompts are usually provided so that you’re well informed of the upcoming fairs. Before attending one of these, print out a few copies of your resume so that you can hand them to the companies. During the event, actively network with the people there to leave a deep impression. Thereafter, drop them an email to thank them for their time during the fair and attach your resume again.

Subscribe to career sites and keep your eyes peeled

You can either set your email notification preferences for alerts regarding the jobs you’re interested in or you can browse the site every now and then.

Brush up and optimize your LinkedIn profile

Take a professional headshot and fill in your past education and relevant job experiences. Be active on LinkedIn, connect with your peers and like-minded individuals working in the field you’re interested in.

Put yourself out there and register for networking events

This is a great platform to get to know people who have similar intentions. You’re more likely to secure an internship through establishing a mutually beneficial relationship.

Charlotte Ang

Charlotte Ang

HR Manager, Winifred Kristé Cake

Utilize your network and connections

The easiest way to get an internship is to approach someone you know who is already working in the organization.

Gather insiders’ information on what are the opening positions

Sometimes, companies usually look for a referral from their staffs first before listing the available positions online. If you manage to get referred to even before the company list the positions online, you will supersede other potential candidates who are sourcing online.

Make sure your referrer is a good friend or someone who likes you

This is to ensure that your referrer will speak good of you, increasing your chances of getting hired as an intern.

Do your own homework

Because you are tapping on your network and know the referrer personally, don’t be afraid to gather insights on what interview questions the company usually ask and what the hiring manager is looking out for. Practice and prepare intensively for the interview and make sure you ace it.

Nicole Green

Nicole Green

HR Manager, Perfect Search Media

Getting noticed when applying to internships can be tough. However, there are a few surefire approaches all students should take when applying.

The first is polishing up your resume

Take your resume to your school’s career center and even ask professors or family members in similar industries to review it and provide their feedback. There are also plenty of templates online that will make sure you’re coming across as qualified and organized upon first glance.

Be sure to be involved in as many organizations and activities that relate to the internship you’re looking for

This can include transferable skills in part-time jobs as well such as customer service (relates to client-facing roles) and managing a register (organizational skills)!

Reach out to your networks

Express your interest in an internship. You never know what opportunities may arise when you get the word out there!

Sam Orchard

Sam Orchard

Managing Director, Edge of the Web

Having an intern in the office can be a big commitment – especially for a small business, so finding the right intern is essential. But the right intern isn’t always the one with the most skills boxes ticked, or the best academic record, the best intern is the one with the most potential, and that’s a difficult thing to assess.

Your curriculum vitae should reflect your potential

Stand-out CVs also do more than just show your work or experience, they take the employer through a project or issue, explaining what decisions were made, and more importantly, why.

A description of a project or problem, how that applicant addressed it and the outcome it produced gives a true picture of how you are going to tackle the tasks and situations you’re presented within the office – and it’s that process that really shows your potential as a member of the team.

Interns that have shown us their potential by giving us a CV that takes us through their thought process in dealing with a project or a problem in their work or life are the ones who we choose for our internship programs. And more often than not, we also invite those interns to come back to us when they’re ready to fully enter the workplace.

Maji Tharpe

Maji Tharpe

Principal Consultant, MAJI, LLC

Demonstrate eagerness, perseverance, and professionalism

Diversity challenges are still a reality. When students purposely seek high-quality and high-paid internships in work environments in which they are a minority, they can be taking a definitive step to expanding their entire career trajectory. However, to motivate their career development team to go above and beyond in recommending them, they should go the extra mile to proactively demonstrate their eagerness, perseverance, and professionalism.

Every personal recommendation is a risk to the employment relationship that they have worked very hard to build. Tapping into these relationships can, in reality, be the easiest way for students to open doors that they, unfortunately, are statistically less likely to open on their own.

Sergio Arboledas Garrido

Sergio Arboledas Garrido

Digital Marketing Manager, MintTwist

The key to catching the attention of the employer is personalization. My key tips for interns applying for internships are the following:

  • Do your research
  • Personalize your cover letter
  • Include how you can help the company to achieve its objectives
  • Don’t oversell yourself too much
  • Only apply to relevant job offers to your background