How to Apply to Internships Online and Not Get Lost in Space!
A black hole is a region of space-time from which it is impossible to escape."-Stephen Hawkins
One of the biggest questions we hear from students is what happens to my application after I hit submit? Does it ever reach a college recruiter's desk, does it ever get read or is it simply launched out into space? In the HR world this is referred to as the black hole, because once you send an application online into it's very easy for it to disappear into space.
This problem exists for a number of reasons but the fact is that fewer than 5% of employers follow-up with every applicant they receive and even fewer communicate the real reasons about why they made the choice they did.
While it might seem easy to blame companies for not doing a better job of responding, the reality is that most HR managers receive hundreds of applications every week and are over worked reviewing them -- so it's up to you to stand out. By understanding a bit more about how the online application process works, you can figure out how to navigate this abyss and make sure you emerge on the other side with your ideal internship.
As you can probably guess, applications for internships rarely follow the same path. Some employers ask you to apply directly to their email inbox. Others ask for you to apply using a job website like Taleo or InternMatch so that they can save the applications in a database online and share them with other employees in the office.
Depending on the size of the employer and how they are accepting applications you need to think up the best strategy to make sure you don't get overlooked when it comes to decision time. For example, if you're given a contact name or email address, do some research on the individual and customize your application materials to them personally.
Building a better rocket ship!
The other important skill to develop when applying for internships online is to learn how to make your application stand out among the competition.
Here are 5 tips to help:
The biggest piece of advice we can recommend to avoid getting ignored is to follow-up consistently with an employer after you submit an application. This is an art not a science, but most students are way too hesitant to follow-up with employers even if just to ask what the time frame is on responding or to remind them that you have applied. For best practices see our guide on how to follow-up with employers.
2.) Remove all typos from your resume.
Another reason you may not hear back from employers is because they tossed out your resume at first sight. Even if you have one typo on your resume, it shows an employer a lack of professionalism and attention to detail. In fact almost 50% of employers stop reading a resume if they see just one typo! So double check your resume and check out our resume template and guide for extra help.
3.) Be unique.
As an employer who has hired many students I can safely say, my job is a lot easier when a particular student breaks the mold by standing out. Don't just spam employers with a standard cover letter, take the extra hour to write something and make a unique cover letter. If the employer has a twitter account tweet at them about how excited you are. If they are coming to your school for a career fair, go and introduce yourself to the recruiting staff and start building a relationship. Your hard work will pay off when it comes to decision time.
4.) Don't use scammy websites to apply for positions!
Top job boards like your Career Center website, Indeed, or InternMatch work hard to make sure every position that is online is up to date and is a high quality position. If you are finding positions by doing a Google search or on Craigslist, you may find some great opportunities but as a rule of thumb the further you go from trusted sites the more likely you are to be applying to a position that has either already closed or doesn't exist altogether.
5.) Don't get discouraged.
Last but not least don't get discouraged. A lot of employers are getting overwhelmed with applications in the current down economy, so even if you are over qualified for a position you simply might not hear back. If you keep at it and keep improving your application skills such as following-up, being unique, and using top job boards, you are going to start getting interviews and eventually find a position you're excited about.
If you have any questions about the black hole or how to avoid it, feel free to comment or send us emails to firstname.lastname@example.org and we are happy to help.
Cover image: write_adam via Creative Commons license
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