So, you’ve decided that undertaking an internship is the next best step for you, but now you’re wondering what the best way to go about producing a stand-out application for an internship.
Applying for internships can be a daunting task, but it’s really not as scary as it seems! If you’re not quite sure what an internship entails, then you can learn about internships first. If you’re fully clued up, then here are our top internship applications tips…
Important things to remember before starting your application for an internship
Things to do before starting your internship application
How do I apply for an internship?
What are online application forms?
Sending an application form via email
What is the right tone to adopt for the application form?
What questions are they likely to ask on the application form?
Examples of internship application questions
Examples of difficult application questions
How to answer these challenging questions
How long should my answers be?
Internships have become a very popular option for young people either during the university summer holidays or for recent graduates, meaning that it is increasingly competitive to get an internship. It’s important to keep this in mind when completing your internship application. When up against potentially hundreds (or more!) other applicants you need to ensure that your application is engaging, interesting and stands out from the others.
It is also important to take your application seriously in order to be considered as a credible candidate for the internship, treat it as if you are applying for a full-time graduate job. Applying for internships is a great way to practice answering different questions and getting the tone right for future applications, for graduate schemes, and full-time roles.
Allow your personality to come through as much as possible, don’t regurgitate answers you have used before or have seen online and most importantly. Apply your own experiences and interests when completing your internship application.
Before starting your internship application, it’s vital to read up on the role you are applying for and what being an intern for that particular company entails. Internships will vary from company to company even within the same sector so make sure you have read up on the job descriptions and person specification.
It’s important to thoroughly research the companies you are applying to intern for so that you can draw on specific values or goals they may have as a company and make reference to work they have done in your application if relevant. That way, you are demonstrating that you are familiar and engaged with the company and their work.
Take your time to plan what you want to say in your internship application and prepare some question answers before you start.
For internship applications, some companies may require you to send them a copy of your CV and a covering letter and then will take things from there, however most companies now have online application forms that you will need to complete.
What are online application forms?
Most employers now use online application forms rather than paper forms as a more efficient method of recruitment. Online application forms can either be downloaded and sent to an email address or filled out and submitted online.
Often online application forms can be incredibly time consuming as there are lots of questions to complete so make sure you allocate enough time to complete it. Do not rush yourself as your answers will suffer!
Often when asked to complete an application form and return it via email, you will be given the email address you need to send it to and the name of the contact so you can address the email accordingly.
If the email address given is a generic company one, contact them and ask for the name of the recipient so you can address them properly in the email.
Before you send the email, double check for any spelling or grammar mistakes and make sure the relevant documents are attached! You do not want to have to send an embarrassing second email with the attachments you forgot in the initial email.
You should write in a polite and formal manner, do not use colloquial phrases or abbreviations. Remember you are talking to a potential employer and not one of your friends!
However, do not fall into the trap of adopting a tone that is too formal or using ridiculously complex words that you do not know the meaning of. This will simply make the application sound unnatural and contrived, the aim is to come across as natural and personable as possible.
The questions on the intern application form are all designed to determine whether you are compatible for the intern role, whether you have the skills and qualifications to succeed in that role and if you would be suited to that specific company.
Therefore, the internship application form is likely to include questions on your education and qualifications, skills and interests, previous work experience and competency based questions.
Competency based questions usually ask you for examples or instances where you have demonstrated a specific skill.
Typical competency-based questions are:
- Give an instance of when you have shown leadership skills?
- Give an example of when you have overcome a challenge?
- Give an example of when you have resolved a difficult problem?
- Give an instance of when you have worked in a team?
These questions may seem challenging and are difficult to answer on the spot. That’s why it’s important to take some time to think about what aspects of your life you could apply to these questions.
When recruiting for an intern, employers take into account that the candidate is likely to be younger and have less experience. Therefore, their expectations of intern applications are different than if they were recruiting for a senior position.
What employers are looking for from your answers to these questions is your ability to reflect on your past experiences and pull out positive skills you have learnt.
You can use examples from academic projects/group activities, extra-curricular activities and sports teams or independent travelling/volunteering projects. Previous work experience is also a great talking point (yes, that week in Year 11 does count!).
Usually, intern applications will include a couple of slightly more difficult questions that may leave you scratching your head. These questions are not designed to catch you out, but instead employers are testing how you deal with being challenged.
Questions that feature on intern application forms frequently are:
- What is your biggest weakness?
- What sets you apart from other candidates?
- Why should we hire you?
- What is your biggest failure?
A lot of care needs to be taken when answering a question about your weaknesses. Do not pick anything that reflects badly on your personality or work ethic. For example, saying ‘I have a tendency to be lazy’, ‘I’m late for everything’, or ‘I struggle to get on with other people’ are all terrible answers because you cannot draw something positive from them. It’s good to be honest with your answer, but not that honest!
Instead, suggest a weakness that you can then offer a solution to, e.g. ‘my weakness is x … however I have learnt the best way to improve on that is z’.
Good examples to use would be:
- A tendency to become too focused on one task
- Being too self-critical
- Struggling to delegate tasks
The biggest mistake you can make with a question about weakness or failure is to say that you don’t have any. Employers are looking for a human and not a robot, saying you have none will not come across in a positive way..
The length of your answers will vary from question to question. Usually in the answer boxes provided there will be an indication of how much you are expected to write. For example, it may be that it says ‘(maximum 200 words)’. Use this as a guide but do not feel pressure to write exactly 200 words. If you can say what you want to say concisely in 100/150 words then that should be sufficient. However, if it gives 200 words as an estimate, you should try and write roughly that, it would be foolish to write two sentences.
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