In today’s job market, it helps to have a lot more on your CV than a BA or BSc. Understandably, many graduates are keen to introduce themselves to prestigious companies and organisations before they even get their certificate at the end of 3 or 4 years.
But whether they’re paid or unpaid, internships are often tough to get. If you’ve already faced a few rejections, here are 4 possible reasons why – and what you need to do to your CV to get shortlisted:
1. Your CV doesn’t match the internship
Every application should be treated individually. Internship places are usually few and far between (some businesses will only take on one at a time!), so recruiters will be looking for specific candidates with the right kind of skills, interests and ambitions.
Reread the description and make sure your CV demonstrates why and how you’re a good fit. For example, if they’re looking for a good communicator with a positive attitude, highlight where you’ve shown this quality in previous part-time roles and volunteer positions.
One change to make right now: Research the company you’re applying to and find out as much information about them as you can. If it’s particularly popular, you can learn from past interns, too. Then, use your findings to inspire your application.
2. You’re not selling yourself enough
Selling yourself is hard when you’re just getting started in your career. What have you got to sell yet? Actually – quite a lot.
Interns are expected to fit into an organisation where needed and help out while they’re learning on the job. Therefore, your uni job behind a bar or part-time role in a supermarket are far from irrelevant. They will have taught you many transferable skills, including flexibility, taking initiative, problem-solving and working with different people.
One change to make right now: Add a ‘Skills’ section to the top third of your CV, underneath your profile and contact details. Refer back to the internship advertisement and match your skills up to what the employer is seeking.
3. You need more extracurricular experience
Internships are generally aimed at current undergraduates or recent graduates, so it’s expected you’ll have (or are soon to have) a degree. The rest of your CV should include previous part-time jobs, work experience, any volunteering you’ve done, university societies you’ve been involved with and anything else that positively fills up your spare time.
If you haven’t got much to add to your CV, and you’re running out of time before graduation, focus on gaining the key experience that’s missing.
One change to make right now: Apply for work experience and internships that are less in demand. You’re more likely to get a place and build up your CV. The BBCs and IBMs of the world might have to wait for a couple of years.
4. It’s too generic
The most popular internships will receive thousands of applicants. Rather than let that put you off, think of it as an incentive to make sure you stand out.
Some unusual work experience, a self-starting university project or a YouTube channel or podcast can really make a difference. Even if it’s not directly relevant to the internship, it will make you more memorable.
One change to make right now: Add one small, interesting detail to your CV. It should be something they’re unlikely to see in another candidate and something you’re happy to talk about at interview.
Developing your CV now will make job and internship hunting much easier in the future. Fix these 4 common internship CV problems and you’ll be able to compete with the best candidates!
Andrew Fennell is the founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV – he is a former recruitment consultant and contributes careers advice to websites like Business Insider, The Guardian and FastCompany.
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