The Take

The Internship Process15/03/17

It’s the time of year where internship applications have well and truly opened – those students out there who are dedicated may already have applied to several, while others might only just be looking into it now. While the graduate career pathway isn’t for everyone, doing an internship can certainly be a good option for many students to explore their future.

What is an internship?

An internship is a short term, full-time work experience program typically running from four to twelve weeks, aimed at students in their penultimate year of their degree. Although most internships begin in the summer holidays, applications tend to open between February and April, so you need to be prepared to apply reasonably early in your degree.

The program varies between companies and even between departments in the same firm, but usually you will have a few staff allocated to help train you in some of the entry level tasks, and will spend your time working on a variety of projects to help develop your skills. It is rare that any technical knowledge is required upfront for an internship as most places will teach you as you go, and the jobs you’ll be given are as basic or advanced as you feel up to. There are also usually plenty of chances to socialise and get to know the firm, and get a feel of whether it’s what you want to do once you graduate.

Why should I apply?

For young graduates, finding a job straight out of uni is not easy. Internships are an excellent way to gain professional work experience and give you a chance to apply some of your knowledge to actual jobs. Internship experience is very valuable as not only does it give you a chance to grow your network and develop your skill set, it can also give you a leg up for the following year when it comes to applying for graduate programs or other jobs. Completing an internship gives you exposure to a company and its people, and the opportunity to figure out if a certain job or field is really for you.

Unfortunately, there are only a limited number of internships available each year, so it is important when you apply to make sure you are putting your best foot forward, and doing everything you can do to stand out against other applicants.

The application process

The overwhelming majority of professional service firms offer internships. This includes accounting firms, investment banks, and various state and federal government departments. Websites such as GradConnection can help you narrow down places you might want to apply for. Once you know where you want to apply, go to the firm’s website and navigate your way through their application process.

The process varies, but generally begins with an online application, which may require a cover letter and resume. Before applying, make sure you have read up a little on the company – know what they do and why they do it, and if they offer different divisions, make sure you are applying for the ones you most want to do, or which match your skillset the closest.

Online applications might also ask you to submit answers to various questions, usually concerning leadership, conflict and teamwork. Being involved in student groups, charities or sports teams can really help in providing great answers for these questions.

Following the online application, you’ll usually be sent online tests which need to be done within a specific time frame. These can be a little time consuming and therefore when applying for multiple internships, I recommend spacing out the applications so that you don’t get bombarded with several online tests all to be completed within a few days. The tests generally include numerical, written and abstract reasoning portions. While the questions are not of a high difficulty for most university students, the time limit can seem relatively short. Some websites offer practice tests which may help give you an idea of the type of questions you’ll be asked.

The next step is usually a video interview. The best advice for doing these – be calm, be in a quiet room, be appropriately dressed, and know your story. Video interviews are automated, so without someone on the other end it can feel extremely awkward and take a little to get used to, but once again there are plenty of resources out there to practice with. Questions may be about why you want to work at the firm, why you would fit in at the firm, and other situational questions about yourself and your experiences.

Once that is complete, you may be invited to an assessment centre. Not all firms do this, but it will usually involve group activities with other applicants where you’ll be observed by staff and recruiters of the firm to help decide if you have the right personality and fit for the firm. I recommend reading up on the assessment centre process to get an idea of what you could be in for.

The final stage is usually a face to face interview. The main thing to show during the interview is your passion and interest in the field you applied for. You want them to be able to see that you are genuinely interested in the field you applied for. On this note, be careful applying for fields that you have no interest in, as your lack of interest will shine through in the interview, or worse – it won’t and you’ll end up working in a field you don’t like.

Make the most of your internship

Ask plenty of questions, meet as many people as you can, and work hard. Don’t downplay the social aspect – the people of the firm want to get to know you and see you get involved. You should use the internship as an opportunity to learn about the industry and the line of work, to learn about the firm, and to see if you are a good fit. If you do well in your internship you will often be offered a graduate role without having to re-apply.

The internship application process can be long, tiring, and in many cases you will receive numerous rejections at all stages. My best advice is to simply persist in applying and continue to refine your applications. Your resume will improve each time, and you’ll do better in interviews and tests each time.

Further questions?

If you have more questions about the intern process or applying for an internship, check out websites such as the Whirlpool Forums, many firms also have information about the application process on their site, or attend some of the events throughout the year hosted by QUT or QUTEFS, such as Fastrack.

Nate is the publications director for QUTEFS and completed a boutique, big 4 and government internship. Please note that QUTEFS nor the author of this article directly endorse any linked websites or companies mentioned in this article.