Preparing for internships: How to be a successful candidate 

Preparing for internships: How to be a successful candidate 

As the end of the fall semester approaches, it is time to begin the search for the seemingly elusive summer internship.

Job postings are appearing on LinkedIn, career fairs are in full swing and anxiety is taking a front seat. While the stress that comes with internship searches is both real and palpable, it can be transformed into a manageable process. Here are some key tips on how to be a successful candidate for any position.


Before the interview:

1. Submit a grammar-proofed resume that highlights relevant skills and experience for the job

Before applying to a position, make sure your resume is a product of clean copy — absolutely no grammatical errors. Additionally, resumes should be formatted according to the job, meaning that your resume may need to be tweaked according to the nature of the different positions for which you are applying. If you are applying for a position that involves graphic design, make sure your experience and skill set is emphasized. Likewise, if you are applying for a position as a salesperson, include relevant experience such as being a sales associate or working in customer service. Your resume as a whole should reflect the experiences that arguably make you a strong candidate.

Because many job applications are reviewed digitally, it is a good idea to scan your resume for keywords and phrases that will match what Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are looking for. The reality is that often your resume will not be in the hands of a real person. Programs like JobScan help you optimize your resume with the right content that helps you stand out as a qualified candidate. 

2. Create a convincing cover letter

Next to your resume, your cover letter is of equal importance. If you have a connection with an employer — such as if you spoke with a recruiter at a conference, or know someone personally — make sure to address that in your opening lines. In addition to introducing yourself, make sure you demonstrate knowledge of the company and give a specific example of why you would be a good candidate for the position. Lastly, close in a way that suggests you want to discuss this position further in person, and provide your contact information: both  and cell.

3. Create —or update — your LinkedIn page

If you’re not already on LinkedIn, it’s advisable to make a profile. It’s a free social media platform for the professional world that allows you to highlight your professional experience and employable strengths, connect with colleagues, follow companies and find jobs. Your LinkedIn profile acts as an online interactive resume. Make sure your LinkedIn profile uses a professional headshot and includes all of your relevant history, from education, activities and volunteer experiences to summer jobs and previous internships. Finally, don’t forget to connect with fellow Clemson Tigers! Our alumni network is ranked one of the best in the country by the Princeton Review.  


During the interview:

1. Dress the part and show up early

Business trousers and a blazer are the standard professional wear for any gender. If you do not have a suit and are worried about costs, Clemson has a business wear Career Closet located in the student union. In addition to dressing appropriately, make sure you show up early. For an interview, five minutes early is considered on time. Make sure you allow plenty of time to get to the office, especially if you are not familiar with the area or traffic is bad.

2. Have an idea of three core things you want to bring up

Before entering the office, know three core things you want to bring up. This can take the form of a question, a story or a specific skill set you want to highlight. Whatever three things you choose, make sure they are distinguishable and explain why you are the best candidate for the position.

3. Know the company you’re interviewing for well and know why you would be a good fit

This corresponds with writing your cover letter, but make sure you are extremely knowledgeable of the company. Have a list of questions to ask the interviewer and bring a pen and pad to the interview. This shows demonstrated interest and that you are invested in the company and the position.

4. Turn your weakness into strengths

A common question that interviewers ask is ‘what is your greatest weakness?” While a well-known question, many still find themselves stumped during interviews when faced with this challenge. The key to answering this question well is stating an actual weakness of yours, such as time management, and how you have worked to improve this weakness. Doing so shows you are adaptable and self-aware.

By following these seven tips, the interview process will seem much less intimidating. As long as you prepare accordingly and enter the room with confidence, you will end up where you are supposed to be at the end of the day. Happy internship searching! 


Written by Carter Smith


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