Don’t Be a Robot: 10 Tips for Landing an Internship

By Will Simon

At Big Spaceship, we receive a ton of internship applications each week (our internships), and we read every one of them. We’ve seen everything from the one-word cover letter to borderline-creepy care packages. To make it easier for those of you on the hunt, we thought we’d share a few tips from what we’ve learned along the way.

1. Keep it casual

This isn’t a legal academy, so don’t be too professional — it can sand the edges off your personality. By all means be respectful, just don’t forget to be yourself. If you’re applying to a small agency, address your cover letter with a name, even if it’s the company’s name. Starting a letter with “Hey Big Spaceship” trumps “Dear Sir or Madam” any day.

2. Show, don’t tell

If you make awesome stuff, don’t just tell us on your resume, give us a link to something you’ve made — we want to check it out.  Then we can see your work for ourselves and learn about what makes you, you. Instead of telling us that you’re “a hardworking, analytical people person,” give us a story that proves it. We’re all ears.

3. Be human

Don’t be a robot. Email is impersonal enough as it is, so look for ways to make your application sound like it was written by a human. Put yourself in the shoes of the person on the other side—the person who has to read hundreds of letters that sound remarkably similar. This doesn’t mean doing something over the top; you know how you remember certain websites and apps that give you a small, unexpected moment of delight? The best intern applications do that, too.

4. Don’t be creepy

If you wouldn’t say it in person, don’t say it in a cover letter. Being quirky is good, but don’t be strange just for the hell of it. There’s a fine line between “confident” and “arrogant.” Likewise between “eager” and “obnoxious.” If you’re going to digitally stalk the crew –  don’t be weird about it. Do your research, but don’t email us asking how our dinner at [Brooklyn restaurant] was last week.

5. Be aware

We stalk you too, so get your online presence up to date – Google yourself and you’ll see our first impression of you. Put yourself in our shoes and take action accordingly. We don’t need to hear things about our industry that we already know – we’ve heard about social media and don’t need to read nine paragraphs about where our CEO went to college.

6. Make it a conversation

Try to walk the line between talking about yourself and talking about the company you’re applying to. We get a lot of applications that read like this: “I am… I will…I did…I want….” It’s best if you talk to us, not at us, which is why the best applications are authentic, conversational and a little idiosyncratic. Tell us in your words why you’re a good match for the position. If email isn’t your strong suit, ask to have a chat about the job without any strings attached.

7. Don’t ramble

A cover letter isn’t a college essay. Be concise. Write the way you talk. Enjoy the white space. For designers – there’s no need to overload your portfolio with every project you’ve ever done. Keep it to the projects that exemplify your skills, show that you can solve problems, and frankly, look the best.

8. Be yourself

Try not to be gimmicky — but by all means be memorable. You shouldn’t sound like every other applicant. Be personable and pleasant. At the end of the day, we’re looking for someone who we’d enjoy hanging out with for three to six months.

9. Don’t sound desperate

It just makes things awkward. Don’t send a video pleading for a job — in fact, don’t beg at all. Forget about the other applicants — the best way to distinguish yourself is to be confident and aspirational. That said, don’t take your confidence too far. We receive loads of applications from students who are trying to convince us that we-the-agency would be lucky if you-the-student chose us. Nope.

10. Use common sense.

Get the company name right. Avoid typos like the plague. Keep it relevant. If you’re a poster designer with no intention of doing digital work, it probably isn’t going to be a good fit. Your Tumblr full of cat .GIFs won’t be a game changer either. A good place to start: take a look at some of our recent work and tell us what you think about it. Trust your instincts — they’re usually right.

Bonus Tip: Don’t forget, it’s just an internship

No one expects you to be perfect.

If you’re curious about our culture, have a read of this: How to structure your culture for innovation.

Header image via La Boite Verte

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