Mastering the Application Process for Internships

Jul 5, 2012

by Nancy Giges ASME.org

When it comes to engineering internships, the big draw for undergraduates and entry-level job seekers is a brand name company in the engineering space. But that's not enough in itself, say some experts. It must offer training in various elements providing keys to career success such as analysis, design, and manufacturing.

According to Yair Riemer, vice president of global marketing of Internships.com, "We have thousands of new employers posting internships every month in all 50 states, so students always have plenty of new inventory to search."

Larger companies do fill their quotas within a few weeks after application deadlines, he says. Although student demand is high and competition is fierce, there are always opportunities for good matches because of the sheer volume and new inventory being posted. At any point in time, engineering is always among the top 10 searched industries for students, he adds.

The chances are good for students who perform well in internships to be hired, says Riemer. In fact, seven out of 10 internships do turn into full-time jobs. "I like to call it 'the new interview,'" saysReimer."Essentially, employers can test drive talent over the summer or during the school year and then bring someone on full-time after they have seen how they fit into the culture and team, as well as how competent they are in that specific line of work. Eighty percent of employers actually hire interns with the stated goal of hoping they will find full-time employees."

Here are Riemer's tips for success in the search and application process:

Research, Research, Research

Students should know the company inside and out before applying, and know the company even better before interviewing. Check out the company's careers site and set up Google alerts a few weeks before a phone or in-person interview. The more you know about the company, the better prepared you will be. What makes Lexmark different from Kelly Engineering different from Boeing? What formal training programs are in place? Research will lead to insight and that translates into a confident cover letter and interview.

Keyword-Rich Resume

Make sure your resume contains keywords that relate to the internship description. Many companies scan resumes for keywords and you want to be sure that your resume has them all. Study the wording in the requirements and internship description listed in the posting and use as many of them as possible in both your resume and cover letter. If the posting asks for knowledge in CAD, then make sure that's a part of your pitch.

Follow Up

Make a phone call or send an e-mail to the human resources department and the department head, asking if your resume was received. Always re-state your interest in the internship.

Find Your Values and Interests

Take advantage of free tools that help identify the types of industries and roles that are a good fit for your skills and interests, such as Internships.com's "Predictor." You may find that your skills draw you to a marketing role within an engineering organization or perhaps to a technical role at an organization that advocates for engineering, but you'll never know until you evaluate your personal preferences.

Network

Before, during, and after the interview and application process, build a professional network to help you in your career. You can get referrals through friends or friends of friends, find mentors, connect with professors or family members, on social networks online or offline through engineering conferences. The more people you meet and stay in contact with in the engineering industry, the more you'll know about new opportunities that become available.

Specifically for the Sciences

Make sure you have a well-presented portfolio of projects. Often in engineering, a company is looking for some example of direct project experience, either with CAD or some other software or even a bridge, building competition, or some example of success in a lab. If you can convey these successes either in writing, through the interview, or a visual presentation, it could go a long way toward showing practical expertise.

Nancy Giges is an independent writer.

Eighty percent of employers actually hire interns with the stated goal of hoping they will find full-time employees.Yair Riemer, vice president of global marketing, Internships.com