It's just about that time when interviews for fall internships start happening. Resumes get typed up and sent in. Phones ring off the hook: "Hi! I sent in my resume and just wanted to make sure someone at your office received it!" Wide-eyed students walk into big buildings wearing their best, ready to prove themselves as worthy candidates.
Can I share some helpful feedback?
You are focusing on all the wrong things.
Here are 7 mistakes interns make before they've even stepped foot through the door.
1. The company you are applying to? You haven't read a page of their website.
Here you are, looking for a job--"I am so excited by the opportunity!"--and you haven't done an ounce of due diligence. And if you did, you made it to the About page and that's it. No perusing of the blog. No research on the case studies. You just skimmed the front page and decided to wing it.
This isn't a book presentation in your English class. Get it together.
2. Your resume says you are a designer, but it lacks any resemblance of "design."
I could go on and on about the resumes I've seen come through the door: Copywriter, but doesn't know the difference between your and you're. Designer, but it's just one big block of endless text. Account Manager, but uses so much industry slang you can't tell if they're serious or joking. Formatting errors. Capitalization errors. Referencing clubs from freshman year of high school.
Your resume is one of the few things you have to show for who you are and what you're all about. Make it an accurate reflection.
3. All you have is a resume.
Now, that said, if all you have is a resume, honestly you're out of luck. Your parents were wrong. Your teachers were wrong. "Beefing up your resume" is a poor tactic for getting a job these days.
Do you know where employers look instead?
Google. LinkedIn. Facebook. Twitter.
They look you up. They see what you are actively doing--not what you've claimed to have done--and they make their judgments from there.
(Pssst... Hence why I am such a firm believer in the value of building a Personal Brand.)
4. You do not have a rehearsed answer to the question, "What is it you're interested in doing here?"
By no means am I saying you should, or need to have canned responses for all hypothetical questions. Be yourself and let the interview move as it must. But come on, did you not expect to be asked about what it is you might potentially be doing at this company?
It's usually at this point at the interview that the decision is made, intentionally or not. If your response is, "Honestly, I'm not sure. I just really like being creative," then good luck. Of course you like being creative. Wouldn't it be amazing if we were all paid to just sit around and "be creative."
The real question is what value you can provide. Have an answer for that.
5. You don't know anything about the founders of the company or the people interviewing you.
Usually, to set up an interview someone has to reach out to you, right? There, you now have a name and an e-mail address. Do some due diligence of your own. Look them up. Find out their role at the company. Read through their LinkedIn. See if you have any mutual friends on Facebook.
Do some good old fashioned digital stalking so that you are more prepared.
6. You show up late.
If you are late, you might as well not show up at all--and I'm being serious. Train breaks down. Bus catches fire. You were saving a little old ladies life. Doesn't matter. On interview day, show up two hours early and hang out at the coffee shop down the street, if you have to. You only get to walk through those doors once.
7. You send in your resume and then you hope.
Let me share some wisdom here, because nobody told this to me when I was an aspiring intern.
When you send in your resume, do you know where it goes? It goes to a general e-mail that someone begrudgingly checks every couple days. No one is sitting there waiting for new resumes to come in, hopeful at your proclamation to "work somewhere exciting." And when you call asking if anyone received your resume, the answer is always no.
I find the whole process to be painful--for both parties.
Instead, here is what I suggest: Do things differently.
Interact with the company on social media. Most companies aren't swimming in notifications anyway, but they all have active pages. Tweet them and express your interest. Maybe send them an article you think they would benefit from. Something to wave and say hello.
Then, reach out to one of the employees on LinkedIn and share your interest in working for the company. Don't just come right out and say, "Who do I talk to if I want to apply?" Treat them as a friend and ask for their opinion: Do they like working there? What's the culture like? Etc. Then, after building a bit of report, ask if they would be willing to point you in the right direction to set up an interview--or at least send in your resume.
Once you have that, it's time to put on your big boy/girl pants. Call and ask for that person, and make it very clear the value you feel you can provide the company--and your interest in exploring the opportunity. Don't say, "I'm looking for somewhere engaging and interesting to work." That's you seeking value, not providing value. Instead say, "I am a very experienced writer and looking through your list of clients and the projects your company is involved with, I think I could provide great value to your team." Something like that.
Remember: It's not about what you want. It's about what you can offer.
If you can get your foot in the door that way, you are much better of. And then, of course, see the beginning of this list to make sure you get all the little things right along the way.