Writing a résumé when you are just starting out might seem like a difficult task. If you’re applying for an internship, you might be wondering how you are going to sell yourself without any experience to show. But don’t worry; internships are a valuable first step in your career and employers know that, and are not expecting you to have much, if any, professional experience.
Writing an internship résumé is about skilfully showing your transferable skills, strengths and educational qualifications to demonstrate that you will be a valuable employee. Take some time to think about your achievements, within and beyond of education, your best qualities, and anything you can demonstrate your suitability for the internship role.
Our guide is here to walk you through the process and help you create an impressive internship résumé.
What to include
Resumes are subjective so there really isn’t any ‘right’ per say to create one. That said, there are some important factors to consider as well as sections that must be included if you want to hit the mark and impress employers as an applicant.
Your résumé should include the following sections:
- Header: This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many people don’t include a proper header. Having your name and contact details at the top of your résumé is imperative.
- Summary/Career objective: This is your introduction to present yourself and why you are the ideal candidate in around three to five sentences. Summarise your goals and most relevant skills and strengths here.
- Education: This is important when you have little experience. List your educational qualifications starting with most recent first, along with any relevant projects, coursework and awards.
- Skills: This is an important section. List the skills and qualities which are most relevant to the internship with a short description.
- Experience: Experience doesn’t have to be paid. Use this section to mention any volunteer work, projects and any part time jobs even if they don’t seem directly relevant.
- Additional sections: You may have some further sections that are relevant for your application. These could be projects, awards, languages, publications, interests or similar and will be unique to your situation. Add whatever you think is the most relevant to the role.
How to write an internship résumé
Now you know which sections to include in your résumé, take a look at our top 10 tips to help you write the best internship résumé you can, covering everything an employer will be looking for:
Step 1: Tailor your résumé to the role
Your résumé is your way of showing that you have everything it takes to be selected for the internship you’re applying for, so it must be highly tailored to that role. A general résumé that you can send out to everyone just won’t cut it. Each résumé that you send should be tweaked so that it shows your interest in the specific role and company, and clearly outlines why you have everything they are looking for in an intern.
Look at the job description, check the company website and use the essential criteria for the role to make sure you cover all points. If they are looking for someone who is innovative, you need to have that in your résumé. If they want a good leader, include examples to demonstrate that you have this ability, and so on.
Step 2: Research the company
Doing some thorough research on the company you’re applying to will help you tailor your résumé and will give you a good idea of what is important to them, so you know what to focus on. There will be clues about work culture, mission statements and how employees are valued, as well as details about the application process and beyond.
Step 3: Write a strong career objective
Think of this part as your sales pitch. This is your chance to tell the reader that you are the person for the job. In around three sentences, you need to translate who you are, your strongest assets, relevant educational achievements and any relevant experience or attainments, whilst also getting across your career aspirations and goals.
Your summary is the door to the rest of your résumé. The employer will only read on if your career objective catches their attention, so spend time on this and make sure it is confident, professional and tailored.
Step 4: Highlight your achievements
A mistake people often make on their résumé is to list what they have done (duties and responsibilities) instead of what they have achieved. An employer wants to know what you have done that puts you above another candidate so don’t be afraid to demonstrate your accomplishments.
Achievements can be slotted into any section, and can span across education, experience, skills, extracurricular activities and anything else you’ve included. You may even want to include an achievements section if you are drawing from many walks of life.
The key with achievements is to use action words and to make sure they are measurable where possible. You may find the STAR method helpful: it stands for situation, task, action, result. You can use this to make sure achievements are clear by outlining the overall event, the task you were given, your own specific action and the result.
Step 5: Focus on your education
At this stage in your career, your education is crucial because it is the main factor an employer will use to determine your motivation, skill level, dedication and passion. Make sure to make yourself stand out by including relevant coursework, modules and projects, as well as any awards you have won, conferences you have attended and publications.
Step 6: Use your experience
When it comes to experience, don’t think you can only include relevant paid employment. Any experience is valuable when it comes to showing your transferable skills, business acumen and work ethic. Include any volunteer work you have done and absolutely include part time jobs.
Remember that experience can also come from extracurricular activities such as captaining a sports team, being a member of a society, fundraising, helping at an event and even ad hoc jobs such as helping in a family-run business, delivering leaflets or babysitting.
Step 7: Cut the fluff
Your résumé needs to be short and concise. There isn’t endless space so make that what you include is valuable and leave out any fluff. People often fill their résumé with buzz words such as “highly motivated”, “passionate” and “target driven” but if you don’t have evidence to back this up, it really is just words. Make sure everything in your résumé has a purpose and that any claims are evidenced will real life examples.
Step 8: Utilize keywords
To really tailor your résumé effectively, consider the keywords you’ll use. Go through the job description and company website and underline the words and phrases that they use and make sure to add them to your résumé. These are the words they will be searching for so using them will align you with the company and optimise your résumé for applicant tracking system screening.
Step 9: Get an opinion
If you want to be sure that your résumé is where it should be, seek the opinion and feedback of those in the know. If you have a network of people, such as professors, and professionals in the same industry, ask them to review your document and advice you on what else should be included once you’ve written it.
Step 10: Proofread
This might seem obvious, but it is a step that is often skipped. Once you’ve completed your résumé, proofread it before submitting. You may have created a great résumé, but if it is riddled with grammatical errors, it will not create the impression you’re aiming for.
For an insight into how to pull together everything we’ve discussed, check out this example.
This is an ideal résumé for an internship as it distributes the focus so that experience isn’t where you are immediately drawn.
The summary clearly outlines skills and experience as well as making the career focus apparent and the education section is comprehensive, including modules, awards and extracurricular activities as well as the name and outline of each course.
The owner of this résumé has added some sections to really highlight how they stand out including languages, interests and qualifications which build on the standard sections in a positive way.
You’ll notice that it is highly achievements-focused with measurable results added in percentages, rather than just listing duties under the experience section.
Internships will help you gain valuable experience but you will find that you have so much else to offer if you take the time to really focus on what you’ve achieved in other areas of your life. At this stage, education, transferable skills and an ability to tailor your résumé to the internship you’re applying for is key.
By pulling together all your achievements, strengths and skills, you are outing yourself ahead of the competition and you will also many examples to elaborate on when you land that internship interview!