Applying for Internships: Resume, Cover letters, and Interviews
This episode will focus on the application process for getting an internship. From writing your cover letter and resume to acing that interview.
(upbeat music) - [Voiceover] This is
Buffalo State Data Talk, the podcast where we introduce
you to how data is used and explore careers that involve data. - Hello and welcome to the
Buffalo State Data Talk,
summer 2021 mini series. All about internships. I'm your host, Heather Campbell. And our summer episodes
explore the process of finding and making the
most of your internship.
We'll be focusing on field
data science and analytics, but many of these tips will be applicable to numerous fields. And also if you're searching for a job. Networking to Acing that interview,
our experienced panel of guests will provide excellent
tips and tricks to land you your next internship. Today's episode will be talking about
the application process
for getting an internship. From writing your cover letter and resume to Acing that interview. Let's introduce you to our speakers. Today we'll be talking to Claire Petrie,
a talent acquisition and
HR expert from Buffalo. Thanks for joining us today Claire. - Thanks for having me Heather. - Dr. Ramona Santa-Maria,
the internship coordinator for the computer information
at Buffalo State College. Thanks for joining us today Ramona. - Thanks for having me Heather. I love talking about CS and data. - I'Jaz Eberhardt, a journalist
and a Buffalo State College
data science and analytics alumni. Thanks for joining us today I'Jaz. - Thank you so much for having me. - We will be welcoming back
to the show today Bill Bauer, the education and diversity
director at the BioExpo,
NSF science and technology center at Hauptman-Woodward Institute. Thanks for joining us today Bill. - Thanks for having me. Denise Harris, the director of
the Career Development Center
at Buffalo State College. Thanks for joining us today Denise. - Thank you so much.
I'm excited to be here. So if you've found an internship you're interested in applying to,
can you maybe give some suggestions of common application
mistakes and resume mistakes that you see and how to avoid these? - Sure. So I think by far the most common mistake
is just not finishing the application. We have a lot of applicants
that will fill out most of it, but then won't send their transcripts or are missing one part of it. And there are otherwise
a very good applicant,
but we can't accept
them because they didn't follow through with all the steps. So make sure you do that. That's the very first thing to do. Sometimes though it's also not their fault
if they ask someone to write
a recommendation letter and they don't actually do it. So it's really important to
make sure that you follow up not just with the recommendation writer, but also with the program
that you've applied to
and make sure that they have
all the parts that they need before the deadline. - Yeah, something that's really simple. Making sure that everything's
there but extremely important. - What are some common
application and resume mistakes?
- The biggest one is using
the templates in Microsoft. Those are not real. That's not what companies are looking for. It's a good place to start if
you wanna organize yourself. But what you really wanna do
is find a simple resume template, put in all your information in
it and then take your resume and go to the Career Development Center. - So speaking of a resume, do you have any advice
for making a good resume
or any bad things to avoid? - My advice for making a great resume is communicate your impact and results. So a lot of students'
resumes I see list tasks. So, you know, if you're a
cashier, you're closing the drawer
or you're providing good customer
service or taking orders. So say you work at Panera. For example you train 10 new employees. That's amazing. So definitely say you
train 10 new employees,
but try something like you
trained 10 new employees which led to no customer
service interruption during peak time or something
like that that shows you see the connection of your
work to the bigger picture and how you're contributing
to the goals of the company.
- So when you're describing your position, say kind of what you
did and then the result. - Yeah, so on my resume,
I literally have my task and then I put a comma and
say which led to X, Y, Z, whatever type of impact
or result that was.
- Absolutely, so for your
resume, you definitely want it to be, I usually use like the four Cs. Like you want it to be
clear, super easy to read, understand, no crazy fonts,
make it super simple. Correct.
So you wanna make sure
you're giving yourself credit for everything that you've done. All the information is accurate. You don't want to even round up a GPA. If you have a 3.8 GPA, you have a 3.8 GPA.
You don't wanna round up to a 3.9 or you wanna be as honest
as possible in that. You want it to be very concise. So this is not a five-page resume. A lot of times people ask me
like is a two-page resume okay?
Yeah, I mean, if you're a grad student or you have tons of experience or maybe you are a returning
worker into a different field, you may have a two-page resume. But you wanna make sure
everything on your resume
is directly related or relevant to the position
you're applying for. And then last you want it to be concrete. You wanna be able to
quantify your experiences as much as possible.
So you wanna put a number to something. Even if I don't understand
what you've done, if you can say, you know, I was at the 30% or I improved this by 15% or, you know, I was responsible
for managing over $2,000
while I was working at Ann
Taylor loft or whatever it is, those experiences mean
something to employers rather than just regurgitate
your responsibilities. And again, try to stay away
so much from the soft skills. I'll see a lot of provided
exceptional customer service.
You know, can you quantify that for me? How do you prove that to me? Well, that's something you can talk about on your cover letter, but
on your resume, tell me, you know, did you have
a return customer base?
Were you able to identify
those key structures and those key points? - You know, we've all heard
that you're supposed to tailor your resume to the position. What does that actually mean?
We're supposed to do it, but how? - So, when you are
applying for a position, you wanna do your homework, you wanna make sure that you know everything there is to
know about the company.
You wanna make sure that you're also looking to see what language they use. So let's say you're
going to apply for maybe an analytics position at Roswell Park. Roswell Park is really clear
on providing exceptional care,
putting clients first. And so what I would actually
ask students to do is mirror the language back to the employer. So if they're using holistic
care, you say, holistic care. If they say exceptional service,
then you say exceptional service. So that's what I'm talking about. When it's like, make it super intentional or super targeted or
tailored to that position. You wanna use the words,
you want to make sure that
you know what their mission
and vision statement is and then say it back to them. Like, don't just say, "I
looked at your mission." Say, "You know, you value
exceptional customer care as do I and this is how I do that."
If they're looking for
10 specific qualities and characteristics, make
sure in some capacity, those characteristics
or qualities or skills are included in your resume
and list them appropriately. If the number one thing
they're looking for
is a certain computer
program or a certain skillset that you have, list that first, because that's what's
gonna be important to them. Not what you think is important, but what they think is important.
So list it even in the order
that they put it in because again, they may be looking
through these really quickly or a computer probably
will be looking through it and they're gonna type in certain words, and if you don't have those exact words
that's on the job description, that you're gonna be
kicked out of the system. Also making sure that when
you're reading your cover letter in your resume, if you've done anything
that's super specific
to the organization that
you're applying for, make sure that you change it for the next position you're applying for. I can't tell you how many times I read
someone's cover letter
that really wants to work up upstate and then the last paragraph they're like, and thank you so much Niagara University. Oh, you know, that resume and cover letter unfortunately didn't
make it to the yes pile,
because again, you have
to do your due diligence. - So that seems like
definitely one of the, maybe more common resume's
mistakes you might see, but could you tell us maybe
some of the other ones so that we can make sure
we're avoiding them?
- Absolutely. People that put their headshots
on their cover letters. Again, we don't wanna necessarily
display what we look like. It's all about our abilities. You wanna use a regular
Microsoft Word document.
You do not wanna use a template. A lot of companies that
you're gonna be applying for are gonna, again going back to ATSs or Applicant Tracking Software where a computer's gonna read
it before a human being does.
And because of the comprehensive
ATS that you may have, you know, it may be able to scan anything, but some of them are
actually homegrown systems. Also you wanna spell out information like your bachelor's degree
or an associates degree
or your masters degree. A lot of times on resumes
I'll see M.S or BS. And again, a computer might not read that. And so these are just some small mistakes that kick people out of the applicant pool
and they know that they're qualified. And that's so extremely frustrating. So keep your resume
targeted, keep it specific, adapt it to each and every
position you apply for and make sure you're
spelling out common acronyms
or spelling out your degree. And again, adapt to each and
every position you apply for. - Perfect. Everyone should be able to go home and write an amazing resume now.
- Absolutely, I love it. - So a lot of the time
students specifically don't have a lot of experience. If you haven't had a job
that's specifically related to whatever position you're
applying for or the internship,
what should you include on your resume? - That's a great question. And I think we think about, all we just go to school or we come home, but think about all the wonderful things
that Buffalo State has to offer. You know, think about the
service learning projects that were embedded in the school. Like, so you had to do them. But that's community engagement.
That's you stepping out and putting into practice what you've learned. So highlighting those type of
experiences on your resume. Also awards and honors. Go ahead and put those on there.
Language skills. So all of those skills would
definitely be something that I would encourage
to list on a resume. And to be honest, you know, you may not
have had a lot of time
to be involved in clubs or
organizations or study abroad or whatever, but now
it's a really great time to look at your resume and say, okay, so where are those holes? Where are those gaps?
And then take on projects or
internships or volunteer work that can kind of supplement
some of that space. - So potentially you could list projects. It's not just jobs. - Exactly. Projects, accomplishments.
You know, things that you've
done actually in class. Those are all great opportunities especially because it's directly related to what you're applying for. - Most or even all jobs and internships
ask you to submit of course a resume and then also a cover letter. So, can you kind of explain
the purpose of a cover letter and how can you make one that's not just restating your resume because
when you're starting off,
it kind of seems like when
you're writing a cover letter you're like, okay, I'm supposed
to talk about my skills. Isn't that what's in my resume? - Yes, this is one of my
favorite questions too because I will be very honest with you.
When we work with employers we hear that some of the employers love cover letters and some of them do
not read cover letters. And again to be very honest,
who are you gonna get though? I don't know.
So you wanna make sure that
you're always submitting a really strong cover
letter with your resume. What does that mean? So basically the
difference between a resume and a cover letter in what you include
and not include is this. A resume is a snapshot of
your skills, responsibilities and most likely accomplishments. Like what can you do? It is your proven track record of success.
Where your cover letter is basically how you're
gonna take those skills and apply them to be
successful moving forward. So I kind of want you
to look at it that way, like one's your past and
one's kind of your future.
So the cover letter I love because that I can showcase
your writing skills, you can showcase what you
know about the company. So let's say you're applying to, again, going back to M&T Bank,
you can know their mission, their vision, who their main competitors are, what projects that they
want you to work on, what computer systems
they want you can work on and you can talk to those
strengths and those skills
in that cover letter. But you don't just wanna
say, as my resume says or as per my resume. You wanna maybe highlight
some of those soft skills or some of those non-tangible items
that are on the application. So let's say they want you to talk about your time management skills or the fact that they need
someone that's very organized. You can say on your cover letter,
you know, I have a 3.8 in my major GPA. I'm involved in the data analytics club and I'm also a student athlete. You know, throughout these experiences I've learned how to manage
my time effectively,
work on projects and prioritize. And I'm really excited
to bring these skills to M&T's internship. That's a great way to kind of highlight how you can apply your skills
to what they're looking for.
The biggest mistake
students make is they say, wow, I really want this internship 'cause I'm gonna learn a lot. Well, that's great, but
what can you bring to them? What's unique about you
and cover letters allow
you the opportunity to you for you to provide that narrative. So, I want you to think of them
as two standalone documents, one's your past and one
you can bring to the future of that organization.
- So, let's imagine you have
written this stellar resume and you turned it in and
you got an interview. So, do you have any suggestions of how to prepare for that interview? - Yeah, so my first thing I would say is
study that job description. So certainly read the
company website as well. You might get asked just
those generic questions about, you know, what resonated
with you about our values or what do you know about us?
So you don't wanna be stuck
not having looked at that, but I would then definitely
study the job description. So for example if it states usually under the qualifications
or knowledge, skills and ability section, specific
keywords will be there.
Things like teamwork or detail
orientation, accountability, things like that. So expect that you're gonna get asked about those key skills
that they're looking for and be ready to discuss examples of each.
So, as a recruiter when I'm
interviewing someone and I ask, what are your core strengths
and personality traits that you're gonna bring to the table? And they'll tell me,
oh yeah, multitasking, detail orientation.
And then I'm like, great.
Let's get into that. Tell me about a time where
you demonstrated those skills or used those skills. And there can be a little
bit of silence there. So I think just being
prepared with those examples
of the skills that you possess
that they're looking for. - What is proper interview etiquette? You know, like when you first
show up, walk in the door, what should you do? - This is such a fun question.
And normally my answer would
be so different, right? Because we would be, I would say to you, as soon as you step out of your car, you know, the interview starts. Well, nowadays more than likely
your interview is going to be virtual. Couple of different things you
wanna take into account here. The first thing is, again,
you wanna do your homework. If you've gotten the
opportunity to get an interview, it's really closer than you think.
So this is such an exciting
opportunity for you. So do your homework,. Even go further into the company's
organization and website, make sure that you know
everything that you can and also be thinking about who you are
and what you can bring
to the organization. I can't tell you how often
and how difficult it is for students to talk
about their strengths. I want you to highlight
six of your strengths and then back it up with six experiences
that you can tell to an employer and how you know that
those are your strengths. So stories, examples, experiences
that you can highlight. You wanna make sure that you have, if you are Skyping or
Zooming for your interview,
you wanna make sure that you
have an interesting background. You don't wanna make sure
that there's a big light behind you or your cat flies over you. You know, you want us
to make sure that you are able to really be in a
private, quiet environment.
You may wanna make sure that you're actually
looking at the cameras. But again you wanna be
calm, cool, collected. It's a great conversation for you to have. If you are in person, again, do a dry run,
but do a dry run at the
time of your interview. 7:00 am in Buffalo is very different than 3:00 pm at Buffalo. So make sure that you know how
to get there, where to park. Do you need a credit card or quarters
to be able to park in a parking
garage or on the street? You wanna make sure that you say hello to the admin assistant or
the person that has been coordinating with you
regarding your interview. You don't wanna bring your cell phone in.
You wanna ask questions? My favorite thing when students ask me this
question is they're like, what if I'm offered water or coffee? Should I say no?
I'm like, well, not if you want it. Like, you're gonna be talking more than you ever probably
have in a long time. And you're gonna get dry. So a glass of water is always,
I always ask for or appreciate when someone offers me a glass of water, but kindness, thoroughness, and again, making sure that you're dressed to impress are all great tips and techniques
as you approached the interview process. - How early should you arrive? You know, you don't want to
be sitting there for forever waiting because you're not
supposed to go on your phone. So, you know while you're waiting.
So how early should you get there? - So 15 for in-person
and about five for Zoom. - What should you have prepared? Should you bring your resume? Should you print off and
bring your cover letter?
I mean, I'm assuming you would
think they would have it, but what are the rules? - Definitely. So you would assume, yes,
probably they do have it. They probably have it on file somewhere,
but world things happen, right? So sometimes, you know, someone gets pulled into the last minute because the person that was
supposed to interview you got sick and they don't have
your applicant materials.
So I always encourage students to bring a couple fresh copies, printed nicely and resume
paper of your resume. Again, two or three, you
don't need to go crazy. Also I encourage students to bring
the list of references that they have. That includes their name,
contact information, phone numbers. Believe it or not, sometimes employers still
want you to fill out
an old school application and to not have that information
ready to go is frustrating and kind of embarrassing. So go ahead and bring that with you, have all of that information
with you as well.
- Can you tell us maybe
what some of the most common interviewing mistakes are
and how you can avoid them? - Absolutely, I would
say the biggest mistake that students make is they do not rehearse or do not practice before
they go into an interview.
That's the time where they're like, I'm just gonna wing it. And it breaks my heart when
people say that to me because you've worked so hard up to this point that really, if you get an
interview there at this point,
really interested. So it's your job almost
to lose at this point, you're usually one of three candidates. And so it's a really great, the odds are in your favor, right?
And so practice, practice, practice. Thinking about your strengths. There's two components to
really doing well in interview. One, how well you know the organization and two, how well you know yourself.
And that includes strengths,
weaknesses, areas of growth and what you can bring
to the organization. But my number one tip is make sure you go into the interview being able to answer the
question, tell me about yourself.
That will always be the first question or some type of combination of that with, and what do you know
about our organization or why do you wanna work here? But you have to know the answer
to tell me about yourself.
And this is where students tend to unfortunately set a very negative
tone for their interview, but you can really set
a very positive tone if you follow little quick tip. I want you to think of this
question like a triangle.
And there's three things that you want an employer to know about you. So let's say it's the fact that you have the exact skillset that
they're looking for, you want them to know that you are
able to relocate or travel because that's a part of
the company or the position. And let's say that you're
really excited about the mission and vision of the organization. So as you're answering the question,
those are the three things
that you're gonna highlight. Thank you so much for allowing me to come and interview today. I'm really excited to talk
to you about my strengths and my skillset and,
so excited about the opportunity to travel for this position. I'm very flexible, I'm
very culturally competent and I know that that skillset
would be on my skillset. And I'm really excited about being able
to have the opportunity to
interview for an organization that mirrors my passion because I'm also very committed
to community engagement or whatever the mission is. By saying something like that
when you first come into an interview, really does set the tone like, wow, this person is serious and
they really know what they want versus
- I was impressed. - It's so different than
like, my name is Denise.
I'm a Buffalo State grad and I love, you know, I did my master's
here or my bachelor's here or, you know, I for Buffalo
and you're just like, okay. And then you have to get into
the meat of the interview. So it's really important for you
to really kind of go in there
knowing what's your triangle. What do you want them to know about you? Because if you don't know,
they're not gonna know. - Sometimes jobs in data
science or computer science have technical interviews
in addition to your
typical interview format. So could you explain kind of what exactly is a technical interview and how do you prepare for that compared to preparing for a regular interview?
- Excellent. Yes. So basically if they're asking you for a technical interview,
they want you to showcase the fact that you actually know the skills that they're asking you to do.
So they may give you a
sample project, right? So here's, you have 20
minutes to do this assignment. And literally it's going
to be nerveracking, but they're gonna put you in a room, they're gonna shut the door
and they're gonna allow
you to work on the project. Or they're gonna ask you
to bring a project forward that you did and they're gonna want you to walk them through exactly what you did using the technical language,
using your professional framework and be ready to articulate why
you made the choices you did and how you were able to
again, take these projects and apply them to the
organization moving forward. - So at the end of the
interview, people typically ask,
oh, do you have any questions? And of course we know
we're supposed to say yes and we're supposed to have questions. So what are we supposed to ask? - Well, you never wanna ask
something that you should already know. So don't say something like, so can you tell me what you guys do? Tell me what the company does. Nope. Tell me what the mission is. No.
We should already have
all of that information. You also don't wanna ask
anything that's self serving. So how many days off do we get or what's the compensation package like? Again, that's not the time or the place.
So my favorite question to ask is about the culture of the organization. You know, can you tell me a little about the culture of the organization? Why do you like working here?
How long have you been here?
What was your path to get here? Tell me about a project
you're currently working on. Tell me some of the things
that make new hire successful. Because these are all
interview information that you can then kind
of take in your mind.
And again, when you're
writing you're thinking about, or you can reiterate, I have these skills or I'm excited to be a
member of this culture of this organization. And again, it really does
give you a sense to know
what type of organization
you're going into. And believe it or not, they'll tell you a lot
about the company culture. - So you mentioned
writing a thank you card. Is that something that
you absolutely have to do?
Should you write an email? Do you have to write a physical card? What should you be doing? - I always think a
handwritten note card is nice, but unfortunately with
everything moving as fast
as the world is moving, there's gonna be a delay there, right? So I absolutely think
it's important to at least send a thank you email. And you really wanna think individuals
on the search committee. That's the people that
have been talking with you, probably the people that
you start the day with or maybe end the day with. Those are the individuals
that will really get together
and make that hiring decision. You also wanna send a note
card to potential bosses or anyone that's pretty
much interviewed you throughout the day or
throughout that timeframe. And finally, I always like
to thank the individual
that was coordinating my travel or coordinating with me because that is usually a
gatekeeper of the office, the admin assistant. And they really do have a lot of say
in who comes into that environment. So always treat that individual
with respect and dignity. And I always like to say thank
you because they're the ones that are coordinating a
lot of the work for you. - I think it's a great thought
to make sure that you're not
leaving anyone off your list because any person that you
meet during this experience could end up having a say in
whether or not you get hired. - 100%. And they will compare notes. So don't write the same
note to everybody else.
Like they would literally say, I got a note, did you get a note? And then it's funny, then they'll say, oh, well the last
candidate didn't write one, but this candidate did.
And it really is something
that does set you apart because a lot of people don't do that. They don't think it's important. They don't think it's necessarily. And trust me,
it's those little things
that make a difference. - So finally before we let you go, is there anything else you'd
like our listeners to know that we didn't get a
chance to cover today. - Every little thing that
you do, put it on a resume
or write it down and write the things that you learned down and put it in the shoe box so that when you're
ready to do that resume, you've got everything
together in one place
and you don't really have
to think about it too much. - That is excellent advice because if you haven't been
keeping track of everything and you now need to write a resume, it's gonna take you a long time.
- It takes too much times. Your resume should be an
active document on your desktop and keep putting things in it. Don't stop because once you
stop developing yourself, the opportunities for you end.
- So finally before we let you go, is there anything else that
you'd like our listeners to know that we didn't get
a chance to cover today. - Don't be so hard on
yourself because again, you know, there's been so many
jobs that I didn't apply for
or so many internships
that I didn't go for or positions I didn't
because I just self doubted. And I wish I could go
back to myself and say, you're gonna be fine,
you got this, just try. And I wish someone would have
said, it's okay to not get it.
It's okay to fail. It's
okay to make a mistake. Because I think so often
we're so hard on ourselves that it's sometimes okay just
to know like you can try, as long as you learn from it and grow. And don't make the same mistake twice.
Don't hesitate to come to the
Career Development Center. We're on the third
floor of Cleveland Hall. You can contact us by emailing,
email@example.com, but know that the team is
here to help and support and we're here in any way that we can
to kind of really ensure that
again, this is a hard process. If applying for internships
and jobs were easy, I wouldn't have a job. So I just wanna validate that
this is tough. We get it. And we're here to make it
hopefully not as tough.
- Thank you so much for
listening to this episode from our mini series,
all about internships. If you liked the episode, make sure you check out
our previous podcasts, wherever you listen to podcasts.
And if you prefer to watch,
podcast videos are now available on the Buffalo State DSA YouTube channel. For more information
about starting your career as a data scientist, go to
dataanalytics.buffalostate.edu. And don't forget to subscribe
so that you get notified
each time we release a new episode of Buffalo State Data Talk.
Back to Top
Some content on this page is saved in PDF format. To view these files, download Adobe Acrobat Reader free. If you are having trouble reading a document, request an accessible copy of the PDF or Word Document.