Not Ready for Prime Time Players

Joe Gagliano · November 18, 2010 · Short URL:

Feats and blunders of intern applicants

Recruiting and selecting internship candidates is never dull.

Along with the applications of overachievers and emerging moguls come the sometimes rather comical actions of what I call the “Not Ready for Prime Time Players” – those who think they want to reach the next level of  their career progression… but clearly don’t.

Let me share with you the feats and blunders of intern applicants that will make you shake your head in disbelief.

Dropping the Ball – No Follow Through

I have had overwhelmingly positive conversations with seemingly great intern candidates. The interviews routinely end with me saying "Give me a call in a day or two and let me know that you’re interested…” And then I never hear from the candidate again.

In the immortal words of ESPN's NFL Monday Night Countdown: "C’mon man!"

Unacceptable. The world is much smaller than you think. Remember, your behavior during your internship search will reflect on you – either positively or negatively.

Not following up in a situation like this is unprofessional – period. Even if you’re not interested, be professional in how you decline offers. Always view a hiring manager as a potential network connection who can possibly help – or hurt – you in the future.

Edgy Posts on Your Personal Blog (Too much information…)

You are a hip college student, maybe a business and marketing major, with an amazing resume and professional network. You have a tremendous amount to offer a small growing company. And you have this really cool, edgy personal blog online that would be right at home on Adult Swim... accessed directly from your LinkedIn profile.

Not a good idea. Unless, of course, you’re looking for an internship with media outlets that produce similar content, or the advertising agencies that promote them.

If you're looking to get a professional position with more traditional companies, however, keep all links to your edgy blog (and other social media pages) far away from your LinkedIn profile page!

It is now standard operating procedure for recruiters to immediately check out a candidate’s online profile; through a simple Google search, the recruiter can find out an awful lot about you. Make sure your online presence reflects how you want to be perceived in the professional world.

No Public Portfolio (Too little information…)

On the other end of the spectrum: the intern candidate applying for a social media, web development or public relations opportunity... with no significant public profile or online influence.

A college student serious about online related positions needs to have an established body of work, and probably an online portfolio. Class assignments, side projects, freelance work – even drafts and concept ideas show you’re serious about your work – and career.

The same can be said for public relations, marketing, and many other categories. Start-up and small growing companies looking for interns in these categories seek someone who already has a track record of drafting successful press releases and articles.

In our highly competitive environment, building an online portfolio that reflects your chosen career field is mandatory!

Cover Letters – Part One

Nothing says "Not Ready for Prime Time" more quickly than addressing your generic cover letter to the wrong company, the wrong recruiter, or – worse yet – the antiquated “To Whom it May Concern”.

C’mon Man!

Look, we all know that as a budding rock star you're looking at several opportunities at the same time, and that there are a number of different companies and organizations that value your skills and passion.

However, don't shoot yourself in the foot by sending a generic cover letter, or not taking the time to update your cover letter template. Screwing up something as basic as writing the wrong company or recruiter name may have just been an oversight, but is perceived as the inability to pay attention to details. Either way, you’ve just lost an opportunity.

Impress each recruiter: In your template, write something unique about the company, and the specific discussion that occurred during the interview!

Cover Letters – Part Two

I have hired interns for roles for which they did not actually apply – strictly because of their unique combination of experience, skills and networking contacts they brought to the company. This is a good thing!

What isn't good? Taking the opportunity in your cover letter to communicate emphatically (intentionally or not) that although you’re applying for a position as a marketing intern, you really don't like writing very much and you're really not very creative. This “self-deprecating” practice achieves just one result: getting your application thrown into the "do not call" pile.

You can avoid this mistake by make sure you're applying to jobs you really want – and for which you are qualified. And for the positions you choose not to explore further, do not be tempted to downplay your experience or talents in the rejection letter. Say it like it is: “I am exploring other opportunities…"

Well before your internship search begins, make sure you’re ready for “Prime Time”:

  • Follow up… interested or not – the recruiter could be a networking ally
  • Carefully monitor your online profile
  • Build your online influence and portfolio
  • Pay attention to the details
  • Write cover letters (and other correspondence) with a specific company in mind

With these mistakes avoided, you will find a great internship – and ensure you are employable!


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