Is the Internship the New Job Interview?

eHow Money Blog

A lot of companies — especially in these tough economic times — want to “try before they buy,” so they’re looking to their intern pool for potential hires. Nearly seven in ten large companies and four in ten small companies made full-time job offers to interns in 2012, according to a survey of more than 300 companies by

Plus, more companies are hiring interns than before, likely thanks, in part, to the rough economy: 36 percent more companies offered internships in 2012 than in 2011, and more than half say they will hire more interns in 2013 than the previous year. They’re also having interns do more “real” work. “Internships aren’t about busywork anymore,” says management consultant and executive coach Marc Dorio. “Companies are using interns for real things, not just for making copies or getting coffee.”

That means that in many cases, “the internship is like a lengthy interview,” says Dorio. “Many companies are watching you to see if you’d be a good hire down the road.” For college students this means big-time job opportunity (and probably relief, since unemployment and underemployment for recent college grads is hovering around 40 percent).

That said, landing the right internship isn’t always easy and unless you handle it like a pro, you likely won’t be offered a job. Here are some tips to help you through the internship process.

1. Start early and search smartly
While many people wait until late fall or spring to score a summer internship, Dorio says this is a mistake. “You may even want to start the year before to get a jump on the crowd,” he says.

Even though internships may not be listed on a job site at that point, Dorio  suggests that students surf the web for companies they might want to intern at.  Look for companies in the right geographic region and that have jobs in your field that you might want to work at when you graduate.

Then look for the right contact person at that company. So, for example, if you want to work in marketing, look for the email of the VP of marketing and send him or her a note about why you want to work at the company and your qualifications and a copy of your resume. (Have the career counselor at your college or alma mater read through your cover letter and resume before you send.) You could also reach out to the company human resource’s department, but Dorio cautions that your resume may then “get lost in the shuffle” of all people applying for vacant jobs.

2. Build relationships
Once you score an internship, build relationships with myriad employees within the organization, says Dorio. “Ask people to lunch so you can learn what they do, go to social events, join the softball team,” he suggests. You never know who might be in the position to hire you later on — even if they end up moving on to another company — so try to impress everyone that you can.

3. Go above and beyond
Everyone knows that they need to do a good job at an internship in order to get hired later on, but in this economy “good” might not cut it. “You have to go above and beyond,” says Dorio. “Ask for work, ask your boss ‘what else can I do for you’,” he says.  Interns may also want to get to work before the boss and stay later, join committees, attend training seminars and watch company webinars.

* Image courtesy of Getty Images.




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