Strategy

You Want to Be an Intern? Read This.

Psst! Hey there. Yeah you. I’m just going to jump right in and say this: I really hope you are not here to interview for an internship wearing those jeans and Converse high-tops. That would be bad. Because, sadly, when it comes to job interviews (and that is what this is), appearances matter. A Lot. So let’s start over.

This is going to be mid-length and sweet — your handy-dandy guide on how NOT to get an internship (stick with us until the end, if only for entertainment purposes). These are all based on true stories, sad, but, well, you know, true.

Dress for the Job You Want

It is so much better to be over- than underdressed for an interview. First impressions matter. When you show up wearing something that looks like you picked it up off the floor and your hair is tied in a messy bun, that basically tells the interviewer that you don’t really care about getting this job. Because, if you did, you would have put a little more effort into it. For example, I don’t show up to class with a handwritten presentation and expect to get an A. Same principle.

Be Yourself

I cannot emphasize this enough. You are interviewing the company as much as the company is interviewing you (learn this now — it will relieve so much anxiety in future job interviews). Don’t be anyone but who you are. You don’t want to get in under false pretenses, and then find out that:

  1. You have to keep up an act (exhausting)
  2. The job is not at all suited to you
  3. And you now hate your life

Not worth the time. Your time is valuable — make the most of it. Make sure that you are signing up to do something you want to do and from which you can gain valuable skills, tools, and connections.

Keep That Resume to One or Two Pages — Max

People are busy. When hiring interns or employees, we get so many resumes and cover letters and writing samples, so please do not send us a resume in the spirit of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. No one will be laughing, and no one will read and absorb a five-page resume.

And let’s face it, most interns haven’t had enough jobs to justify it.

But don’t be so circumspect that you leave out something super important. For example, one applicant dropped, mid-interview, that he had been published by a major newspaper, yet it wasn’t on his resume nor included as a writing sample. Dude, seriously? You are applying for an editorial internship; I couldn’t care less if you were an altar boy for 18 years and helped to raise awareness for homeless shih tzus. 

And bring some resumes with you. Sometimes we’re too overwhelmed with work to print it out before an interview. But mostly, it just shows that you care about making others’ lives easier (a valuable trait in any future coworker). 

Don’t Get Too Creative

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Like this little humdinger of a D Custom anecdote. Creativity is awesome, and we love it. It will get you far. But there are limits, and make sure you know your audience.

Therefore, take heed, some things are off-brand for a D Custom resume — like, I don’t know? Prosthetics. Yup, you read that right, prosthetics. We once received a zombie hand in a box, full of moss, sheer regret, and broken dreams. Not cool. We aren’t casting American Horror Story over here. So, if you want to get creative, make sure it is appropriate and tasteful — and doesn’t distract from the main attraction: you. (Or at least send food like this guy. Food is always good.)

Have Someone Proofread Your Resume

Have someone proofread your resume. For the love of all things holy, have someone proofread your resume.

List of things people did not catch because they didn’t (say it with me now) have someone proofread their resume:

  • Are you the sole proprietor of a business? Make sure your company’s name is spelled correctly (really) — this includes the URL (really, really).
  • Are you currently a journalism student? Homonyms and grammar should be your jam (and so should AP style, if we’re being honest).
  • Are you proud of your attention to detail? Typos should make your skin crawl — a fresh set of eyes is always better.

Name Your Files, Please

As mentioned before, we get a lot of resumes. First, brevity is beautiful — but we have covered that already.

So, now that you have removed unnecessary pages and fun facts from your resume, and it is one or two pages long with any relevant published works listed, and all the copy is proofread … we get to the writing samples (and any other extra files you are including with your application).

I have one thing to say and one thing only: Put your name on every file. We don’t know your filing system and — hang on to your hats, this is a shocker — many other people use the resume.doc, writingsample1.doc, naming convention. So, no. Put your name on every file you submit. Every interviewer ever thanks you in advance.

Convert! Convert!

Convert all of your Word docs to PDFs. PDFs prevent any of that glorious formatting you spent so much time on from getting all messed up. That way you know that when your prospective employer opens your file, it will look the way you want it to and not like a stream of Matrix code. Oh right, college students may not get the ’90s Matrix reference. So sad — click the link, enlighten yourself, it may save you in Trivial Pursuit one day (oh shoot, click that link, too).

Write Your Prose on Your Blog — Not Your Resume

Please do not write your resume or questionnaire in the literary style of George R.R. Martin. Reminiscences of slaving over the grindstone at Best Buy while awaiting your true calling — your vocation, if you will — sweating like the army of Genghis Khan as it marched over the long dusty Mongolian plains. Your parched soul thirsting for a drop of meaning or purpose … blah, blah, blah. You get the point. It’s bad. Don’t do it.

Do Your Research

You are the only one who is going to feel foolish when you have no questions to ask, and you don’t know where you are, and you have no idea what these people even do! Save yourself the flop sweat — your clothes and your dignity will thank you. The barest minimum:

  • Read the website and visit the company’s LinkedIn page
  • Check out the interviewer on LinkedIn
  • Stalk all applicable people on Google and all forms of social media
  • Research competitors’ websites
  • Visit Glassdoor.com and get all the unvarnished dirt from ex-employees

Take a Good Look at Your Social Media Feeds

The flip side of this is that your interviewers are going to be doing the same thing to you.

Ahem, yeah, let’s talk about your social media feeds. That pic of you out last weekend, mounting a statue of a guy on a horse while chugging Wild Turkey that you posted on your Facebook profile (which is public, of course), and the Boomerang you posted on Instagram as you jumped on the mechanical bull at Billy Bob’s — I think you get the point.

Nothing you ever post on the internet ever goes away (Google Wayback Machine; it will destroy your vision of image control). So lock it down or clean it up. And don’t use your spring break boozing photo as your LinkedIn profile pic. GTs.

Thank Your Interviewers

This is a topic of some dissension in this office. I couldn’t care less about receiving a thank-you note. But apparently, I am in the minority. So good form is to send a thank-you note. It is pretty much universally accepted to do it via email, but if you want to go the extra-charming route, send a handwritten one. A few things to include:

  • Thanks
  • Interest in the position/s
  • A personal note about something you discussed with each interviewer
  • Salutation

Lie to Yourself, Not Your Prospective Employer

Let me reiterate, these are inspired by true stories.

Do not lie on your resume, your cover letter, your application, or during your interview. Lying is always a bad strategy — partially because you have to keep up with all of the lies (super hard and taxing) and, more importantly, you will most likely get caught. Plus, duh, no one likes a liar.

So let me dig back into the D Custom anecdote trunk. We have twice had people in an interview who went in-depth about particular pieces on websites or in magazines that they had written. Great, right? They were following my rule about including relevant information about published works. What they weren’t doing was following this tip, the one about honesty. Because, big reveal, they were talking about content that we had written. Small world … you don’t know our lives, but we sure as hell do. 

So, 1,500 words later, I am done pontificating. If you want to intern with us, you now have lots of inside tips — and my email. Please drop me a line so I can offer unrequested advice on how to run your life — just like your mom and dad do. And check out D Custom’s social channels hereherehere, and here. Like! Share! Spread the gospel! Just talk to us; we like rando conversations.

P.S. — if you’ve made it all the way to the end of this blog and are applying for a job at D Custom:

  1. Good for you!
  2. We look forward to seeing your (ahem) proofread, two-page or less, honest resume.
  3. Mention this blog in your email to us for EXTRA great brownie points.
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