5 Unsaid Rules for Following Up on Your Internship Applications
So, you’ve applied to every internship you can think of and are now checking your phone and email obsessively waiting to hear back. It’s worse than the three-day waiting period after a great first date—it’s been almost a week now and you’re dying to find out what that company thinks of your stellar résumé and solid references.
Job hunting can be a lot like dating — sometimes, you’re not quite sure if you should wait to double text them or not. Well, wait no longer. It’s time to actively seek the internship opportunity you’re vying for, and we’re here to show you how!
Network before you apply
In the professional world, who you know matters. Whether you make connections with peers or professors in the classroom or with an employer during a summer job, it’s well worth making the most of your connections to get the internship you’re gunning for.
Ali, a junior at the University of Florida, recently landed her dream internship at Conde Nast. It started with a personal connection who set up an interview with an HR representative for her, but she had to lay some of the groundwork herself, as well.
“I think it’s important to remember that although you may have a personal connection to help you, your application and personality must still stand out,” she says. “I felt more pressure than ever to prove that I was capable and deserving of the internship.”
Just hours after the interview at the Conde Nast building, Ali sent a follow-up email to her interviewer to thank her for her time. On the flight back to Florida, she wrote thank you notes by hand to her interviewer and personal connection to emphasize her appreciation. “I think this is a special touch that a lot of people forget,” Ali says. “This can show how much you genuinely appreciate someone, and it also demonstrates your manners. I also ended up getting the internship. I’ll be headed to New York at the beginning of June!” We know how much you want this internship, but your prospective employers are going to be faced with a stack of applications and if you don’t prove to them how serious you are about this position, you will be lost in the crowd. Gratitude also counts, and showing appreciation to your personal connections will only strengthen them in the long run.
Play the waiting game
Unfortunately, there is no golden waiting period after you turn in an application, but experts suggest waiting about a week after you submit an application to check back in. Especially if the position has a rolling deadline, there’s a good chance the company is still wading through multiple applications and hasn’t had time to look at yours yet.
“Depending on the timeline of the hiring process, I always advise interns to follow-up once a week for three to four weeks,” says Heather Huhman, founder and president of Come Recommended. “If you’ve applied before the deadline, however, do not follow-up until after the deadline has passed. Patience pays off when it comes to the internship application process.
Checking in too soon may make you seem pushy. “I typically wait a week before following up, as they are most likely experiencing a flood of applications,” Jess Corry, a senior at the College of New Jersey, says.
Jessica Pawlarczyk, a junior at Vanderbilt University, waits a bit longer to pursue her applications. “I have waited to email about the status of my application when it has been two weeks past the date the interviewer told me that I would be notified,” she says. “When writing this kind of email, I start by saying that I am ‘still very interested in the internship position’ and would like to check on the status of the position.”
Jess recommends being forward when it comes it following up.
“This fall, I had an interview in New York City and so as not to waste a full day in the city, I touched base with the places I had applied to and asked if by chance they would like to schedule an interview for that day,” she says.
“Sadly, in my case, it didn’t work out for that specific day, but it gave me an excuse to remind them I existed underneath that pile of resumes without being annoying and we were able to schedule an interview at a later date.”
Huhman does not advise following up in person. But Cathy Marquez, Assistant Director for Employer Relations at the University of Maine’s career center, sees it a bit differently.
“If you are applying with a local employer (near to where you are living) there is nothing wrong with stopping by in person to check on the status of your application,” she says. “However, when doing so, the applicant should be wearing the same type of clothing she would wear for an interview.”
Showing your interest in the position by seeking out opportunities to meet with the companies you’re applying to will set you apart from other applicants.
Keep it simple
Apply dating rules to the internship follow-up process. After a date, would you call, text and email the other person incessantly to check-in? We hope not. Instead, try sending one professional email to remind the company that you are still interested in the position. How you do this is important, though. Don’t use your phone to dash off an email that could be filled with typos or use your high school email account—that means you, MrsTiMbeRlaKe4ever@yahoo.com.
“Emails of any kind to a potential employer should always be composed as one would any business letter, with a formal salutation (Dear Ms. or Mr.),” Marquez says.
Marquez warns against using “To Whom It May Concern.” Instead, she recommends using “Dear Human Resource Manager,” or “Dear Manager” if you are not applying through a human resource office.
“Better yet, write a formal cover letter, using Word, with a heading (name, title, company name and address), with the applicant’s address and the date in the upper right-hand corner. Attach this to an email. The only text in the email needs to be Dear… and a note that you are attaching a cover letter and resume to apply for their internship,” Marquez says.
Jess has her own ideas for striking a balance between interested and obnoxious.
“The key is staying firmly in the ‘I’m super interested in the position’ and far, far away from the “I’m going to harass you every day until you accept me!” Don’t be annoying, or they will definitely pass you over!” she says.
Ask questions as they arise
Almost every internship you apply for will require a résumé and cover letter. But after applying, asking follow up questions or for a time frame of when the company will be making their final decisions will help you stand out.
“First of all, when you follow up, I always say ‘Thank you for the opportunity to interview with you—I really enjoyed our conversation!’ or something like that,” Jessica says. “Then I ask if by any chance he/or she know when he/she is making a decision.”
Asking important questions about the process will show your potential employer that you are excited about the position and are eager to move forward in the process. But before you ask, check the company’s website and job listing to make sure you’re not overlooking any obvious information.
“If you’re inquiring about an internship program, be sure to read through all of the information available before asking any questions to the hiring manager,” Huhman said. “Same goes for the application process — make sure to follow all instructions.”
As summer internship season rolls around, keep the faith! With these tips, you are sure to score your ideal internship.