How to land the internship of your dreams

Business office
Business office

Despite the fact that the school year seemingly just began, internship application season is upon us once again. Whether your dream job involves canvassing for local politicians or observing animal behaviour at a marine biology lab, you’ll benefit from these tips.

You’ve probably heard about the bevy of internships offered by companies such as P&G and TeachFirst, as well as top banking and consultancy firms. The number of summer opportunities available, however, goes far beyond these popular choices.

A quick search on the University’s Careers Centre website yields positions nearby (take the Laidlaw Programme, for example) and further afield (you could serve as a United Nations political affairs intern in Austria or a research intern in Shanghai). To find your perfect job, use tools offered by the University, such as Going Global, Internships USA and Careers Centre Online, as well as websites like and

Paul Brown, director of the Careers Centre, advises students to look beyond widely advertised internship opportunities. By “following the direction of your interests rather than what arrives in your inbox,” you will be able to take full advantage of two key elements of the job search: networking and speculative applications.

Oftentimes, the key to landing your perfect internship is knowing the right people. St Andrews’ rich network of alumni connections, which you can tap into via LinkedIn, SaintConnect (the University’s version of LinkedIn) and Careers Centre advisers, will help you meet those people. If you can’t find a relevant alum, simply reach out to major players in your chosen field. You’ll find out what working in the industry entails, and the show of initiative may land you an internship offer.

Another option is speculative applications. Even if your dream employer doesn’t advertise summer opportunities, it doesn’t mean there are none available. Send in your CV to indicate interest in the company, and you could end up with an internship, a work shadowing opportunity or a new contact.

Once you’ve decided where to apply, it’s time to fine-tune your CV, cover letter and interview skills.

Your CV needs to present evidence that you fulfil the requirements for the job opening and offer a wider impression of who you are as an individual. Try tailoring your CV for every application so you can show how you meet the exact requirements outlined. Mr Brown suggests creating a grid with requirements on one side and your relevant experience on the other side. For example, if a job requires you to have experience with computer programming, list your computer science module grades and skills covered in those courses.

Once you know what information to include in your CV, consider its visual presentation. Choose a clear, easily skimmable design, and remember to account for space constraints. In the United States, a one page CV is the norm. Mr Brown says that this allows employers to have a complete vision of you with one sweep of the eye.

In the UK, there is more leeway for a two page CV, and some professions such as law, even encourage it.

Your cover letter offers the chance to discuss the elements of your CV in-depth. Explain why you would like the specific opportunity you are applying for, and show why you are suited to the role.

Mr Brown warns against being too abstract. Don’t say you are attracted to the job because it’s challenging; instead, list specific facets of the role that will provide evidence of your in-depth research into the company.

The last essential element of your application is the interview. This is your chance to communicate your enthusiasm and knowledge of the role. To prepare, go over the research you’ve conducted. It should be clear that you didn’t simply look at a brochure and send in your application on a whim.

Consider how successful the company is by reading through annual reports, or look at the business from the perspective of a client.

Your interviewers will ask questions that measure your competency for the job, as well as your strengths. Brainstorm specific pieces of evidence to back up your talking points, and be sure to practice beforehand.

Mr Brown emphasises that 90 to 95 percent of your interview success is determined before the talk actually takes place. As long as you communicate effectively, the research and preparation you have already completed will help you ace the interview.

If you have additional questions about the internship application process, contact the Careers Centre. Advisers are available to look over your application and offer constructive criticism.

You can also check the Careers Centre website for online resources such as an interview simulator that allows you to record and playback practice interviews, formatting guides for CVs and cover letters, and internship search tools.


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