With fall comes warm drinks, spiced scents and cozy knits. Fall can also bring in a cloud of anxiety for students who are on the hunt for a winter internship.
Internships are critical and for most companies a mandatory rite of passage into securing any entry level position. I once read a statistic that said 70 percent of all entry-level PR agency staff were former interns who were hired on full-time by their employer. I believe it. In Stratacomm’s Detroit office alone, more than half of our team first walked through the doors as intern candidates.
As we look to bring on new talent for the winter semester in both Detroit and D.C., Stratacomm offers the following six tips to help you make the best impression when applying and interviewing for internships. Following these tips alone won’t guarantee you the job, but you’re certain not to get the position if you miss these important, yet commonly overlooked, rules of thumb.
- Start off on the right foot – Internships are highly competitive. It should go without saying, but common sense is still required to get the position. Show up on time (15 minutes early is on time), dress professionally, avoid typos in your resume, cover letter and introduction email, and be gracious to your interviewer.
- Understand PR – Talk to your professors, find a mentor in the field or job shadow to understand the common job functions and tasks performed by communications professionals practitioners. Red carpets, velvet ropes and VIP access is the stuff of movies.
- Research the company – Know what they do, where they do it and who they do it for. Visit company websites, read bios, case studies and recent announcements. Up for a phone interview with an agency? Ask the interviewer who their clients are and then research those companies, too.
- Enthusiasm counts! If you don’t appear to really want the job, there will be other applicants who do. Believe it or not, some applicants act like they’re doing us the favor of granting an interview.
- Ask questions – This cannot be stressed enough. Most students do not ask questions at the end of an interview, which shows a lack of interest and preparation. It’s pretty simple. After you research the company and/or their clients, draft a list of questions before you even show up (it’s OK to pull them out and reference them if you need to during an interview). Ask about our clients, our jobs or our background. Ask questions that you have already asked someone else or that you already know the answer to. Ask us anything! If you don’t have questions, then most likely it’s not the right fit. Good questions to ask include: “What is a typical day like?” “What clients/projects are you currently working on?” “What is the best part about working for ___?”
- Say “thank you” – Yes, the rules your mom taught you as a toddler still apply. Send a quick email or snail mail a thank you card to everyone who interviewed you thanking them for their time. If the final decision comes down to you and one other candidate, that thank you letter might be the extra touch that lands you the job. Make sure when sending a follow up that you know the name and official spelling of the company and people that you interviewed with, especially if it’s unconventional.
Finally, begin and end each in-person interview with a firm handshake. It displays confidence. Practice with a friend or family member. Do whatever it takes to make sure your grip doesn’t feel like a wet noodle.
Good luck and happy hunting!
Karah Davenport is a vice president in Stratacomm’s Detroit office.