It’s that time of year –  spring has sprung (mostly), and college students are hot on the trail of summer internships. As someone who started as an intern 16 (yikes!) years ago, and has been on the other side of the process for many years now, I’ve seen and heard a little bit of everything. But what makes a candidate stand out (in the right way!), and how do you go about landing that perfect summer gig?

At Padilla, we get hundreds of resumes for just a few internship spots. Competition is fierce, to say the least. Whether it’s Padilla or somewhere else, there are a couple sure-fire things you can do to up your chances of landing yourself in the “let’s talk to this person” pile.

  1. Make the most of your experiences. It seems crazy, but nowadays, you must have experience to get experience. Have you completed a PR campaigns class? Or participated in a large-scale research project for class? Make sure to include relevant classwork, on-campus leadership positions, and activities and clubs, too. Everything helps!
  2. Proofread, proofread, proofread. People in our industry have an eye for detail – that’s one of the reasons clients hire us. Make sure your resume, cover letter and any materials you submit are error-free and grammatically correct.
  3. Conduct a social media audit of your personal accounts. If you’re wondering if prospective employers look, we do. Check all of your profiles and accounts to ensure content is appropriate.
  4. Meet deadlines. If your application is due on February 1, make sure it’s in by February 1. This is a deadline-driven business. Meeting deadlines matters.

Landing in the “let’s talk” pile means just that – we want to talk, so get prepared.

  1. Do your homework: Make sure you review the company’s website and any recent news or announcements. We don’t expect you to know everything, but we do expect that you have taken the time to do a little research on who we are and what we do, and that you’ve thought through why you want to be here.
  2. Look the part: Present yourself in a professional manner. And when in doubt, go more conservative than less. It seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised.
  3. Demonstrate curiosity: I can’t stress this one enough. We can teach you the skills you need, but you must have a natural desire to learn. And when the interviewer asks if you have any questions for them, always, ALWAYS, have questions prepared.
  4. Be authentic, and make the interview a conversation. This is your chance to show us who you are. Remember, it’s as much about chemistry as it is experience.
  5. Follow up, and in a timely manner. A hand-written note goes a LONG way these days. At the very least, send an email thank you. If nothing else, it helps build the relationship, and you never know when your paths may cross again.

To all the intern candidates out there – good luck! And to those who have been there, done that, what other words of wisdom would you add?