Revising resumes to capture summer internships

March 27, 2012 at 8:00 am | Posted in Advising interns | 2 Comments
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Coach Susan Sandberg

Susan Sandberg

The unemployment rate is down to 8.3%, and the number of available internships is soaring. Internships.com now has 63,235 internships in over 18,000 companies in nearly 8,000 U.S. cities. But many students are complaining that they are facing an “internless” summer even though they’ve applied for lots of internships. One student recently told this writer that he had applied for 40+ internships and didn’t even have one interview to show for his efforts. As it turned out, the problem was not only the huge volume of resumes competing for the same internships, but also the poor quality of his resume. However, as a career services professional you don’t have time to rewrite all your students’ resumes. You can refer them to Internships.com for resume samples and tips, and you might pass along the following suggestions:

  • Be aware of resume screening:  Your resume is probably being initially scanned by a computer that is searching for matching words between the internship posting and an applicant’s resume. Try sending out fewer resumes, but customizing each resume for the internship posting by integrating key words. For example, if the posting description says it wants “motivated, high-performance interns who have excellent communication skills and are familiar with social media, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter,” then you’ll add those same words into your resume. The Summary of Qualifications is the perfect location for the terms, “motivated, high-performance, excellent communication skills.”  Think about adding a Skills section to incorporate “LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter” or any other required skills.
  • Add achievement sub-sections:  Check the section in the internship posting that describes the duties of the intern. Then, break your activities down into those achievement areas. For example, if the posting says the assignments include, “research, customer service, and business development,” you can review your job from last summer or during the school year and then divide those activities into 3 sub-sections titled, “Research achievements, Customer service achievements, and Business Development achievements.”  By using this format, you demonstrate that you’ve read the internship posting, have taken the time to create a relevant document rather than a mass mailing, and are sincerely interested in the internship.
  • Use distinguishing factors:   Try to introduce some accomplishment or unusual activity to create a “Wow” factor that makes your resume stand out from the pile.  Do you speak several languages? Studied or traveled abroad? Started any new groups on campus? Volunteered to help disadvantaged populations in the community? Launched an entrepreneurial activity, such as starting your own lawn service or babysitting business? Won any awards? Perform on any sports teams, run marathons, or play the violin or any musical instrument? Raise funds for nonprofit causes? Play in a band or write music? The same type of distinguishing factors that helped get you accepted into your school can help you get the internship you want—only now you have more of them.
  • Keep it short:  The current trend is a 1-page resume because each internship opening usually has lots of resumes, so you want to keep your resume short but strong. The most important item is your name in bold-face and all caps. Your contact information can go in one line. Your Summary of Qualifications should only be a few lines, emphasizing your achievements and soft skills. Start every bullet out with a dynamic verb, such as lead, manage, drive, increase, initiate, innovate, create, analyze, achieve, etc. Try to use primarily nouns and verbs in your writing, deleting all articles, such as “the, a, an.” Keep the format simple without borders or colors since such elements clutter up the resume and take up valuable space that you need to describe your activities. Remember that many resumes are read online, so colors often fade into unreadable copy. Feel comfortable giving little space or even deleting older items that go back to high school unless they’re Wow factors.

Understanding how new technology sorts resumes

February 23, 2012 at 8:00 am | Posted in Finding internships | 1 Comment
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Coach Susan Sandberg

Susan Sandberg

The Wall Street Journal recently had 2 articles in the Marketplace section on how companies manage the huge volume of resumes sent to them.  Google Inc., which hired about 7,000 people in 2011 after receiving some 2 million resumes, says the resumes were individually read by hundreds of recruiters. However, the major trend is utilizing technology systems to sift through applications and resumes for both internships and permanent employment.

Here’s what you and your students could expect in the future at more and more companies:

  • Technology systems:  The new applicant-tracking systems to search resumes for the right skills and experience cost from $5,000 to millions of dollars. One expert from IBM puts the proportion of large companies using them in the high 90% range, saying “it would be very rare to find a Fortune 500 company without one.”  The systems screen out about half of all resumes, according to a management professor in California. Both Starbucks Corp. and Procter and Gamble use the system to handle the deluge. Starbucks Corp. attracted 7.6 million job applications in the past 12 months for 65,000 openings. Procter and Gamble Inc. got nearly a million applications in 2011 for 2,000 positions.
  • How they work:  Today’s systems are programmed to scan for keywords, former employers, years of experience and schools attended to identify candidates of likely interest. Then, they rank the applicants. Those with low scores generally don’t make it to the next round. The screening systems cut the cost of hiring a new employee, which now averages $3,479. But tracking software has its pitfalls. It may miss the most-qualified applicant if that person doesn’t game the system by larding his or her resume with keywords from the job description. Experts say that the best method of getting a job still remains a referral from a company employee.
  • Company practices:  A restaurant operator with 350 locations, Texas Roadhouse plans to adopt a tracking system this year to handle the flow of applications for hourly jobs. The company gets as many as 400 resumes for a job opening within 24 hours after listing it online. The company used to hand-write a postcard to every applicant, but now the company sends an automated email. Allowing applicants to check the status of their resumes online is another major trend. At PNC Financial Services Group, which has used tracking software for 15 years, an applicant for a bank-teller job is filtered out if his resume doesn’t indicate that he has 2 to 3 years of cash-handling experience. PNC email rejected applicants within a day, suggesting they search its website for jobs for which they are better qualified.

Advising students on how to create resumes that land internships

December 12, 2011 at 8:35 am | Posted in Intern Advice | Leave a comment
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Coach Susan Sandberg

Susan Sandberg

Resumes are more important than ever before in getting internships. The competition is fierce not only from students seeking multiple internships but from unemployed persons who want internships as a way to get a foot in the door and update their aging resumes. The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows unemployment still hovering at 9%. The Internet has also made resume submission easy, resulting in an overwhelming deluge of resumes for every posting. But the average amount of time spent on reading a resume is only 12 seconds.

So how can you help the students lined up at your Career Center for Spring and Summer internships create resumes that will compete in this tight market? Here are a few tips to share with them:

  • Maximize the Summary of Qualifications, the area right under your name and contact information, by highlighting your soft skills to showcase a more in-depth profile of yourself and create a bond with the reader. These skills, such as leadership, communication, problem solving, and team building, should relate to skills listed as desirable in a targeted internship posting. The language in the Summary should align with the same language in the internship listing, incorporating key words that match.
  • Emphasize positive personal traits. Since this Summary is the first item a reader sees, make sure to present a positive image of someone who would make a great intern. Some examples are “dynamic, decisive, energetic, focused, highly ethical, team player, innovative, creative, accurate, high-performance, results-driven, solutions-oriented, and detail-oriented.” Look for distinguishing factors that will make your resume capture the reader’s attention. Do you speak several languages, travel internationally, hold important campus offices, or have won special scholarships or honors?
  • Utilize powerful language, such as “keen problem solving, negotiating, and decision-making skills” or “expertise in customer relations and new market development.” Other phrases could include “high achiever and honors student with outstanding presentation and communication skills.”  Introduce each resume bullet with a strong, active verb, including “Spearhead, orchestrate, lead, manage, analyze, improve, increase, achieve, initiate,” etc. Keep the resume to nouns and verbs, deleting articles, such as “the, a, an.”
  • Develop entries in Additional Information to stimulate the reader’s interest in meeting you. This section, informally called talking points, can contain items that don’t fit anywhere else in your resume, but reflect good character or drive. Entries can range from hiking the Appalachian Trail, playing in a band, winning marathons, raising funds for charities, volunteering for Habitat for Humanity or other groups, or starting a small business, which could be anything from a lawn mowing service to computer repair.
  • Maintain a professional image in both your Summary and Additional Information. Keep your entries short and refrain from mentioning personal items, such as marital status or religious affiliations.  If you belong to any professional organizations on campus, such as the student chapter of Public Relations Society of America, be sure to list them. For hobbies, list only unusual ones rather than the mundane ones like reading or traveling. Try to market yourself as a multi-faceted person with much value to bring to a Spring or Summer internship.
  • Click on Student Resources in internships.com and find out more about how to market yourself. You’ll find articles on how to write a resume, resume examples, editing resumes, and proofing resumes, which will help you refine your resume.

How Can Students Stand Out Among Internship Applicants?

May 11, 2011 at 11:35 am | Posted in Finding internships, Intern Advice | Leave a comment
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Joyce Domijan

Often when students create their first resume to apply for their initial internship, their background and experience are lacking due to their youth, and they struggle to find appropriate information to include. I’m sure that you’ve reviewed a few anemic resumes in your years in career services. How can students with little business experience create resumes that will entice employers to call them for an interview?

Employers don’t expect interns to have lots of business experience, so what do they look for in a resume that will differentiate applicants?  Employers want to see indications of prized qualities such as:

  • Creativity
  • Hard work
  • Motivation
  • Dedication
  • Leadership
  • Loyalty

But with little business experience, how can students illustrate these qualities? Students need to think outside the box to unearth examples from their life experience, school experience, extracurricular activities, volunteer efforts and any other area where they can illustrate that they exhibit these qualities.  A few examples might include:

  • Ask a teacher/professor/instructor from a ‘favorite course’ where the student excelled, to write a recommendation and include a bullet under coursework quoting the instructor’s praise.
  • Student’s with a background in athletics, music, or other ‘practiced arts’ should include bullets, describing their workout or practice regimens; their years of dedication; their achievements within their craft; etc. These illustrate their motivation and dedication. Also, include any awards they may have earned (e.g. qualified for state tournament; played first violin; etc.).
  • Most young people are involved in some type of volunteer experiences. Always include these types of activities on the resume. They show a concern and empathy for others and a dedication to their community.
  • A student, who has encountered adversity and overcome it, has built character. This is another area where a student should include examples. If you helped to raise siblings or contributed to the household through odd jobs, it speaks volumes about your character.

Remember – resume content, especially in the early years, should contain information that speaks to the student’s accomplishments, regardless of where they occur. In the end, students need to be creative with their resumes and find ways through their life experience to differentiate themselves from the pack!

Q. How can I explain to students that unpaid internships can be priceless because they are investing in their own futures?

June 1, 2010 at 11:48 am | Posted in Intern Compensation | Leave a comment
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by the Intern Coach

A. This is a hot topic in the news right now, so it’s important to address it with your students immediately, whether they are currently doing internships or looking for fall internships. Consider sending an informative and reassuring email out to all your students involved in the internship process, explaining why unpaid internships can be priceless. You might want to send them a link to the Wall Street Journal article, May 18, 2010, “Creating Internships Out of Thin Air,” to validate your explanation. Here are several reasons you can give as to why unpaid internships are excellent investments: 

  • You receive letters of recommendation, which will help you get future internships, which may be paid. Count on having multiple internships, each one better than the previous one.
  • You may earn school credit, which will free up space in your academic program to take other courses (or more internships) or to concentrate on those time-intensive classes with long labs.
  • You could follow the advice of Colleen Sabatino, career coach at internships.com, who was quoted in the above Wall Street Journal article. She suggests that you ask the company about any options for pay, such as a stipend or even a part-time job at minimum wage. You may have to cut back your hours if you have to work in another job.
  • You could ask the Career Center if it has any funding available or knows of any government-related monies for internships. New opportunities come up all the time, so check federal and state sites often.
  • You also have career-related experience to strengthen your resume. Remember, it’s your resume that gets you the all-important interview. After a few unpaid internships, you can drop your high-school entries and add impressive professional experience, which will get you the interview.  Investments usually take a while to pay off, so start investing in yourself now.

Own the internship process

March 19, 2010 at 9:24 am | Posted in alumni, career center, networking | Leave a comment
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by Beverly T. Lorig

Q: Which student gets the great internship in this competitive market?  

Choose one — The student with:

    A) Highest GPA
    B) Study Abroad
    C) Family connections
    D) Technical Major
    E) Determined Persistence

A: Without a doubt, it is E) Determined Persistence. Couple that with a well prepared resume/cover letter/application and it’s sure success. 

I spoke with a CEO this past week, and she emphasized that the student “must own the process”  with a determined and well-organized internship plan-of-action.  Many students turn their internship search over to the multiple mega job boards.  After submitting the tens or hundreds of resumes, the student believes he/she is done.  Next step?  Sit and wait.  And wait and wait.

So, in this day of keen competition and limited opportunities, challenge your students to get active. Define the prospect pool.  Develop a list of connections and networks that enhance the application. Write and telephone and meet with the contacts with the goal of gaining knowledge and advice.  Write an informed cover letter and resume focused on outcomes.  Follow-up with the internship coordinator and ask for an interview.

Bottom line:  Own the Process. 

Consider your own business or career center.  I don’t know about you but I find the very best candidates are the ones who are HUNGRY to work with me in the Washington and Lee Career Services program.  In my book, the candidate who actively pursues the position ultimately wins!

Getting the perfect internship

March 16, 2010 at 5:08 pm | Posted in Internship offers, Job market | Leave a comment
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by Troy D. Nunamaker

It’s no surprise that competition for internships, full-time jobs, and even part-time summer jobs is at an all time high right now. We’re working with our Clemson students, edging them to ramp up their internship application efforts—apply early and use superior materials.  

This year, there are a number of seniors and recent graduates who are applying for the same internship positions that a sophomore or junior would typically go after. At my institution, we have even seen some seniors extending graduation dates by applying to do an internship at the end of their academic career. This gives them more resume-building material and provides additional time before entering the full-time job market. On the other side of this influx in internship applicants, we have seen companies require those traditional training and skill sets at a higher caliber. Just having the basic knowledge, skills, and attitude is no longer enough to get the internship offer. Students we are working with now need to show that they can exceed the knowledge, skills, and attitude requirements of the position.

Thus, our younger students looking for an internship have to distinguish themselves from their peers and from older students and recent grads–showing the recruiter on resumes and in interviews that they have the skills, training and an overall good attitude about the position and their professional career. These things seem to go a long way towards getting an internship offer even in a rough economy.

Lastly, we have been telling students not to stop the search process after the resume has been submitted, or the interview has occurred. We coach and re-coach our students to: follow up. . . find a phone number to call to make sure the company has their complete application on file . . . go to an information session . . . ask for a shadowing experience. . . consider volunteering/interning for free.  In short, we want our students to get a name or face in front of potential employers as much as possible. The better an applicant can position themselves to market their skills, the more successful they will be in securing that perfect opportunity!

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