Full disclosure: I do not work in HR. I’m not a recruiter. But at least once a year, I read résumés and conduct interviews looking for a couple of talented students to join the McClave + Associates team for a summer internship. Every go-round, I come up with a few tips that I think every applicant for an internship or entry-level job should know. Because at Infotech we believe in setting people up for success, I want to share with you some of what we look for when we select interns.
Before anything else, know that the hiring team wants to like you!
Working for Infotech is an honor, and it’s an honor that we are eager to share with people who are just starting to think about their career paths. Internships are an opportunity to find out where your interests do – or, in some cases, do not – lie in a work setting. Ideally, Infotech wants you to have a productive, challenging, and enjoyable learning experience and come back to us when you’re looking for full-time employment. At the least, we want you to leave having experienced a positive, engaging work environment knowing a little more about your career goals.
Although the tips I’ll share in this article are somewhat tailored to what we look for in Infotech Consulting internship candidates, many are universal. I also encourage you to seek out professional guidance when crafting résumés and cover letters. If you’re a student, your university likely has a career center, for which your tuition is paying regardless of whether you avail yourself of their services. Make an appointment. Bring your résumé, cover letter, or an outline of each and any job postings to which you want to apply. Can’t make it in to meet in person? Ask if you can get a consultation via email, or at the very least, check their website for general guidelines. You’d be surprised how many candidates can separate themselves from the pack just by knowing a few very basic best practices.
The Resume and Cover Letter
Infotech Consulting prides itself on being detail-oriented, thorough, and meticulous in our work. If you claim to share these values and traits, be sure your application fully supports this claim. Spell check your resume. Look at your formatting. If you hand it to a friend, can they find the important information in there? Does the name of the company and the position you reference match the one to which you’re applying?
In our line of work, one of our primary tasks is communicating statistical and economic principles and analyses to people who do not have backgrounds in statistics and economics: attorneys, judges, juries. Being able to present your work clearly and simply is a huge asset here, and we notice when an applicant can do so.
Unless you have publications or presentations, your resume does not need to be – and probably shouldn’t be – more than one page. I know, it can be hard to cull down; but this forces you to focus on what is most important and relevant for the position to which you are applying.
Pith is crucial for your cover letter, too.
Speaking of cover letters, writing a good one is challenging. It’s difficult to be sufficiently formal and still make an impression. My best advice for this is to use your cover letter to tell me something about you that your resume doesn’t. Maybe you once nannied for triplets and now excel at prioritizing tasks under pressure. Maybe you took a unique class that has changed the way you approach new problems. Just because it’s not formal work experience doesn’t mean it isn’t indicative of your skills or interests. If your cover letter reads as something other than the long version of your resume, I’m going to notice.
On a related note, consider sharing a special hobby or interest on your resume. Sometimes the best way to get a job candidate comfortable and talking – or just to break up the usual set of interview questions – is to ask about something unique on their resume. Do you like crossword puzzles? Do you play club croquet? Do you bake award-winning pastry? Let’s chat about it! Believe it or not, these details can tell me important things about you as a candidate that I might not get from standard interview questions.
Interviews are your chance to shine. Often, I find that a candidate who looked “pretty good” on paper is more impressive once I start chatting with them.
If you’re doing a video interview, find a quiet place to do so. Having your roommate strolling around in the background or battling the noise of the student union to hear your responses is incredibly distracting to everyone involved.
If you’re interviewing in person, you can’t get away with pj pants and a nice shirt — but you should still wear something that makes you feel comfortable and confident. Yes, it’s important to look polished; it’s also much easier to relax and focus on the interview when you don’t feel constrained or unnatural in your clothes.
Finally, one of the primary differences between a “meh” interview and a “wow!” interview is when the candidate asks US thoughtful questions at the end. We like to talk about our company and our work! This may also be an opportunity for you to show us that you have done a little research about the company or industry.
I am proud of the culture we have here at Infotech, and I look forward every year to inviting interns to experience our work environment. With a little attention to detail, you can land a spot at your dream internship, whether that be here or somewhere else.