This year, PRI hired a fantastic summer intern. He's helping out with lots of projects, and gaining hands-on experience to take back to school next semester. And, when he's ready for a full-time job, he can include PRI on his resume and add us as a reference.
During our search, we received a pile of resumes from smart, highly qualified college students who impressed us. But—WOW—we also saw some mistakes and red flags along the way.
The following advice is good for anyone coaching a prospective intern, or, of course, anyone who hopes to be an intern.
Include a cover letter. It doesn't have to be a five-paragraph essay, but include a few lines to introduce yourself, explain why you're applying for the job, and point out your capabilities. Too often we read only why an internship was of value to the applicant. Be sure to point out how your skills as an intern would benefit the company.
Answer your phone. If you've sent out any resumes, don't ignore incoming calls from numbers you don't know. Skipping a call could mean missing out on an opportunity. They might not call back.
Answer the phone politely. "Yeah... who's this?" is not going to impress any HR folks. If you're expecting calls from potential employers, always say hello and give your name, e.g., "Hello. This is ..."
Have a proper outgoing voice message. In case you do miss a call, record an outgoing message that's short, polite, and professional. You have three choices in tone: formal, informal, or conversational. Be conversational.
PROOFREAD! Our favorite "what not to do" is from an almost-hire who began a sentence with: "I bereave my creative skill sets in advertising and web design, cupped with my years of experience ...” So be sure to proofread thoroughly, or get someone else to proofread for you. Spellcheckers won't necessarily catch a correctly spelled word used incorrectly.
Think before you share. We asked candidates to send us their Twitter handles. Make sure your feed is clean and workplace appropriate, or don't send it! And remember, employers WILL and DO look at your social media presence. If your accounts have questionable material, make it private. Better yet, don't put it online in the first place.
Be enthusiastic. What's it like to work with you? If you're lucky enough to get an interview, an upbeat and positive attitude goes a long way toward an interviewer imagining you as a colleague in the future.
Be confident. Talk about your accomplishments, and give examples of situations where you used creative problem-solving skills to handle a problem.
Be honest. But be creative. If you don't have knowledge in a particular area, admit it. But also point out related experience that might carry over: "I've never worked in marketing, but I did handle all the promotions for my Glee Club." Or, "I am always reading, can you recommend any good books on e-marketing?"
Send a thank you. This needs to be only a short, sweet, thanks-for-you-time email. This could easily be the difference between being hired or not hired. Extra points: Send a professional, handwritten thank you note.