by Alexander Oni
A few weeks ago I was invited by the HR boss at the company I work for to help him review the applications sent by students from across the country who had applied for the web developer internship position we had open for the fall semester. This was a very interesting experience for me because for the first time, I got to be the one reviewing people’s resumes and I must say I learned a lot from this experience.
Over the next 3 weeks we received exactly 42 applications. Out of these, only 6 candidates were invited for an interview; that’s an appalling 14%. Only 14% of the students who applied qualified for an interview. Not because the others didn’t have the required skills, it is because they made mistakes in their applications; simple mistakes that gave us the impression that they were either not professional enough or that they simply didn’t care about the internship they were applying for.
Below, I am going to give you some tips that will hopefully boost your chances of being successful the next time you apply for a job.
- Always write a cover letter: Even if the company you are applying to did not request a cover letter in addition to a resume, make sure you always write one. A well-written cover letter shows your desire to work for the company. In the cover letter, make sure you indicate specific reasons why you believe you will be a good fit for the company. Don’t just write, “I know I will be a good fit because I am hardworking”. This is very generic and just about everyone would say the same thing, and, as a result, you will not stand out. Instead, spend some time researching the company and some of the work they have done in their past and then try to indicate a part of your skill set or character that you possess that will be useful in doing similar work.
As an example, one of the candidates we called for an interview wrote in his cover letter that, by taking a look at our work portfolio on our company website, he realized that we built most of our websites using WordPress. He then gave an example of a WordPress website he had worked on and how this experience would help in building similar sites in the future.
- Only indicate the skills and qualifications that are relevant to the internship: There is a perception that the more general skills you have, the better your chances are of getting a job, but nothing could be further from the truth. Listen, while you might be able to speak 4 different languages and that is actually quite impressive, such a skill would be irrelevant if you're applying for a job that required you to use the English language at all times. Only write down the skills and qualifications that you possess that are relevant to the job you are applying for.
- Change your address: This is particularly important for international students applying for internships. Too many of the international students who applied for this position still had their home address from their respective countries written on their resumes. As a result, we couldn’t tell for sure whether or not they were in the United States or were still back home. Make sure you write down your place of residence in the United States on your resume.
- Proofread your resume: Make sure your resume is devoid of any grammatical errors. Such errors will make you appear unprofessional and lazy. Write your resume, read through it, read through it a second time and finally read through it a third time. Spending an extra 5 minutes to ensure that your resume is free of errors could be the key to getting you that internship.
There you have it. These are the 4 main mistakes that most of the applicants made and you must avoid repeating them.
Alexander Oni is a web developer, blogger, and world traveler who grew up in Russia and Nigeria. He came to the United States as an international student in 2012 and graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in May, 2014, with a Master of Science in Cybersecurity.