What Stands Out on an Internship Application? Hearing from Professionals and Employers

From an employer’s perspective, a few key elements stand out as indicators of a promising candidate and I’ll be talking through 3 of those points. After speaking with employers and members of the Student Engagement and Career Development team, these are 3 points they found as strong additions to an application:

  • An applicant’s relevant experience and skills that align with the specific role or program are crucial, as a clear demonstration of practical knowledge and the ability to apply it effectively is a strong point of a candidate’s potential.
  • Showing your commitment to continuous learning. This speaks volumes about an applicant’s dedication to their field.
  • Personalized well-crafted resume and cover letter that showcases not only an applicant’s qualifications but also their passion and genuine interest in the internship they’re pursuing.

Overall, a combination of relevant experience, a commitment to growth, teamwork skills, and a well- articulated motivation for the position can make an application truly stand out in the eyes of a supervisor

Hearing From Our Team

Stacy, one of our Career Educators at Student Engagement and Career Development, shared a crucial insight – the significance of personalizing your professional documents, such as a resume and cover letter, for specific internship opportunities. This isn’t about having a ‘general’ document that you can use over and over to apply for multiple internships; it’s about tailoring your narrative to perfection.

Stacy suggests: “Move your relevant experiences front and center! Employers are eager to see the aspects of your background that align precisely with their needs. So, don’t hesitate to rearrange and prioritize your content strategically on both your resume and cover letter. By doing so, you ensure that the most vital information takes center stage, making a lasting impression on potential employers.”

Amanda, Another Career Educator and the Program Manager for Internship Initiatives also shared her take on how to connect your application to the role you are applying for.

She says: “A couple of things I would look for in an internship application would be a clear connection to why someone is interested in the role, and that the letter or resume is easy to read!

Some examples of making this connection could look like this…”I see one of the responsibilities of this role includes creating content and this is a skill I have that I would like to further develop. In my major, I’ve conducted research and written many papers and editorial-style essays, and I would like to use these skills to learn more about creating content for a different audience.

She also adds: “It doesn’t matter if you have the exact experience, as long as you can convey why you are interested and show you understand a little about the job!”

Tailoring your resume doesn’t have to be a challenge and once you do it once, you will realize how important it is. A tip for tailoring; use the internship description as a guide! Are they looking for someone with specific skills or experiences and you have them? Highlight that on your documents! For more tips on tailoring, check the tailoring resource on our website.

Brianna, one of our Career Educators at Student Engagement and Career Development also shared her tip for your internships applications.
Her advice is clear; “Share your unique experiences! Your own experiences show your distinctiveness to employers. From studying abroad, volunteer experience, awards, leadership, class and/or club experience, do not be scared to show this off.”

Stacy, also gave some insight into this topic, sharing “Students feel a disconnect thinking a club isn’t a proper experience, but it is! Showing the skills you developed and if you moved up in positions can show an employer a lot about you.”

Brianna and others on our team emphasize that every resume and cover letter is like a blank canvas and you are the artist to create it! By this idea, every resume and cover letter is different! Not everyone has work experience or a previous internship experience and that is okay! It is normal for students to highlight more of their academic life when they do not have previous professional experience.

Highlighting your experiences is important for students, especially when seeking an internship. For examples of resumes and how other students have highlighted their own experiences, check out the resumes in the Wildcat Career Guide or on our website, using the Examples and Templates filter.

Hearing From Employers

Employers also shared their perspectives with this topic. Similar to what the Career Education team said, they shared the importance of students talking about their skills and experiences that showcase why they are fit for the role.

The biggest piece that draws me into a potential employee’s application is how well they convey why this particular job is of interest. Too often, applicants focus too much on selling themselves and standing out among the crowd by listing accolades and achievements.

What is usually missing is why they would excel in the role I am looking to fill and how that position is going to be meaningful for their development. When I hire, I am looking for knowledge and passion because skills can be taught, but enthusiasm for the work is what, ideally, motivates someone to apply.”

-Pete Mcgraw, Campus Pantry Coordinator

“When we are looking for student interns through resumes and applications, we look for students who highlight their experiences as a leader and advocate on campus and within the community.
We look beyond students’ specific majors and coursework and instead use student’s out of the classroom experiences to learn about how their interests align with our program.

We know that all students are trainable for our specific programs, but the soft skills like empathy and customer service are skills we already want to see before employment. For our programs, we love personalized cover letters that share why you are interested in our programs specifically!”

-Bridgette Riebe, Senior Coordinator, Basic Needs Center and Services

These two messages from employers and the Career Education team show it’s important to customize your material and highlight specific skills and experiences that are important and relevant to the internship you are applying for. By customizing your materials, you show the employer that you are taking the time and effort to edit your documents and you are highlighting your attention-to-detail.

If you would like support editing your documents for an internship or getting them reviewed, you can book a 1:1 appointment with an Internship Coach. An Internship Coach and support you with your documents and your internship journey!

By Sarah Randolph
Sarah Randolph