How to Land Your Dream Internship, Part I

Landing your DREAM INTERNSHIP, like landing a whole bunch of money, won’t come easy. Sure, a few lucky candidates may have the connections, or the perfect collection of experiences to make companies come running to them… but for most of us, that’s just not happening.

Lucky for you, this two-part series on “How to Land Your Dream Internship” series will level the playing field! Now, let’s begin with what to do before you even can THINK about applying…

1) Think About the Internship You REALLY Want

This should be the hardest and most time-consuming part of the entire process. If it’s not, think about taking a little time to really consider all of your options. Angie Hicks of Angie’s List says that internships are a great time for you to test out different careers, so take your time and think what about you really want to do.

Are you a finance major with your passion for fashion blogging? Try that out! Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box.

2) CHOOSE Your Company

You’ve picked the industry, now pick the companies you want to work for. Google “top internships” plus your desired industry and make a list of your top 10 choices from the results. Don’t just include “realistic” options, either—aim high!

According to a recent Accenture study, 46% of graduates don’t end up in their field of study anyway, so this is one of the few times in your life where you’ll have the opportunity to live out your fantasies and have someone compensate you for it.

3) Do the RESEARCH

Now that you’ve made your list of top companies to work for, research each of them and gather as much information as you can. For startups, CrunchBase and AngelList can be great places to start. For more mature companies, go to Yahoo Finance or Bloomberg.

Dive in deeper by letting search engines do the longtail dive for you. Notice that when you search for a company, like, say, Conde Nast, more suggestions for further research will come up as you’re typing. You’re busy living life, after all, so let technology take the load.

Tip: Setup Google Alerts and Indeed job alerts to notify you when companies are mentioned in the news or have new openings.

4) SPY on Some Employees

Use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Quora etc. to find people that work for the companies you’re interested in.

Take notes of their interests, look at their resumes, and follow any links to recommended people. Take note of the bullet points on resumes that sound really good in your head, and look for ones that are quantitative, i.e. “John Smith added X amount of revenue by Y.”

5) REFRESH Your Resume

Speaking of which, resumes are all about spin, so be sure to spin yourself the right way. Which sounds better to you: “I scheduled sales calls for managers and other team members” or “Developed SEO strategy that led to a 500% increase in conversions”?

The first example was from an intern at JP Morgan whose calls led to deals ranging in the millions; the second was for a now defunct fashion blog whose conversions led to $0. But the way each sentence was written told a much different story about the applicant. Remember: use strong verbs and phrases to talk about what you accomplished, not just what you did.

Tip: If you have limited work experience, start some social media accounts and learn some growth hacks. Include stats related to growing your audience on your resume.

6) CONNECT with a Current Employee

You’ve updated your LinkedIn profile, now connect with one of the people you were spying on. Flattery will get you everywhere, so request a connection using a subject line referring to a project you notice they worked on, or a university connection you may have.

Once you’re connected, keep messages brief and to the point: “Your X campaign was [Positive Adjective], and I’m a college student who’s very interested in the type of work you’re doing with [Name of Company]– could you give me any pointers on how to get an internship in your department?”

6) COMPARE Your Resume

Now, compare your resume to the bullet points in the internship’s job description. Do you see any similarities? If you don’t, you need to tweak your resume to incorporate what they’re looking for.

The problem with most candidates is that they take the blanket approach to the resumes they submit with job applications. ALWAYS make sure to tailor your resume to each individual company, and you’ll have a much better chance at getting the interview.

7) CUSTOMIZE the Cover Letter

WAITWe havent applied yet? No!

Were you planning on writing the same cover letter to each company you’re applying to? If so, PUT… THAT LAPTOP… DOWN.

Cover letters are all about making the best first impression possible, so start strong by making a cover letter that each company will be excited to receive. Include specific and individual solutions to problems you’ve noticed, or gaps you anticipate the company may have in their business model, and think about how your experience or skill set could fit in. Additionally, consider finding each company’s logo and put it on the cover letter somewhere.

Again, if you tailor your approach to a select amount of companies, five to ten unique cover letters will take less time than 100 slightly altered ones.


The moment has come. Proofread all of your materials then go ahead and apply!

Tip: Try to avoid submitting your application during extreme hours (12AM to 6pm eastern for NY).

Congrats! You did all of your background work and you applied. The journey is nowhere near complete, though, so be sure to check in for part 2

Featured image by William Iven courtesy of Unsplash.

Profile photo of Hwan Hill


Hwan Hill

Hwan comes from US and non-US heritage and loves that his name and appearance confuses people. After years of post secondary life outside of the US, he returned to do his part in moving the HR and recruitment professions forward. When he's not advocating for servant leadership, he can be found asking for maximum level spice on pretty much everything and laughing hysterically at memes.

One comment

Leave a Reply