Internship Application Mistakes That Make Us Cringe

Every semester, the internship committee reviews a couple dozen applications, cover letters and resumes. When we look at a pool of candidates, the stellar applicants very quickly rise to the top, mostly by virtue of their attention to detail. For too many others,  the smallest mistakes can look like major blemishes, especially in comparison.

Here are five frequent mistakes we see on application materials that come across our desks, and truth be told, they that make us feel sad inside.

Mistake #1: Misspelled (or improperly used) words

During a practice networking event at my time in PRSSA at East Carolina University, I showed my resume to one of the business representatives, and she called me out for working as an office “manger” instead of an office “manager.” Spell check won’t catch mistakes like this. But a peer editor can, or just more time proofing your work.

Mistake #2: Attempting to stand out, only to blend in

Yes, we want creativity in applications, but thanks to tools like Canva, it feels like all of the resumes – even the designed ones – are the same. I would also bet that if I dug through our archives, I’d find some of Canva’s dummy text left in. Also, can someone tell Canva “no” on including photos within resumes?

I’m sad to say, I think we’ve seen resumes with this dummy copy left in…

Mistake #3: Burying the lead

There have been times we’ve interviewed students who maybe weren’t the most qualified, but they had potential – only to find out that they had perfectly relevant experience but failed to put it on their resume. If you had a personal social media post that went viral, we want to know about it. If you worked with a local nonprofit to develop a strategy for your campaigns class and that nonprofit executed your plan, we want to know about it. Remember, you’re trying to get an interview, so you need your resume reviewer to move the paper version of yourself to the in-person interview pile.

Mistake #4: Style errors

The content of your resume is definitely the most important factor, but making blatant style errors can speak volumes about attention to detail and even your work ethic. Our interns pitch reporters, post events to community calendars and assemble packages that are geared to putting our clients in the best light. Details are the name of the game.

Don’t just review your copy. Make sure your styling is consistent.

Mistake #5: Sending in generic materials

Every single job you apply to should have its own cover letter and resume. When we get cover letters that say, “Dear HR Manager,” it makes us wonder what kind of career advice the candidates are getting. Even if you don’t know who exactly is leading the charge, a quick phone call or some additional research goes a long way toward showing us you cared enough to make your application stand out. If nothing else, go on our website and pick a name. 

So, now that you know some of our application pet peeves, we’re going to go ahead and throw out there that our internship deadline is July 15. Who knows, maybe we’ll throw out interview pet peeves later this summer…

Casey Prentice

A self-proclaimed organizational junkie and data geek who confesses to a secret desire to be a professional organizer, Casey enjoys account management, writing, editing and digital content strategy. Her agency work has helped clients like Virginia’s Community Colleges, VCUarts and Swedish Match.

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