Academic Internships Office

The Application Process

Whether the employer requests a resume and letter of application (cover letter) or not, it is a good idea to prepare them anyway. If you have your resume prepared, it is easier to complete application forms. Be sure all your information is current and accurate. Dates must be accurate, typing must be accurate or handwriting must be neat.

Use the Resume and Cover Letter pages on this web site to help guide the preparation. Make an appointment with the Director of the Academic Internship Office to review your drafts, to proof read your documents, or for general feedback.

Jump to: Where do I start? | Submitting Your Application | After you've applied

Where do I start?

When you have found a position you want to apply for, analyze it carefully so you direct your application to the employer's needs. Study the job announcement.

  • What are they looking for?
  • What qualifications are listed?
  • What skills or abilities do you think would be important to be successful in the job?
  • What vocabulary do they use to describe the position and the qualifications?

List the skills, abilities, talents, characteristics, etc., that are clearly identified on the job announcement. Add those that you know are also important to be successful in this position. For example, customer service skills may not be stated, but knowing that this position interacts with customers, it would be an element the employer would notice, even though it isn't stated.

An Organizing Exercise

An easy way to list qualifications and compare them to your own skills is to divide a page in two columns. On the left list each specific qualification that is stated in the announcement, one qualification per line. Add other qualifications you believe would be an advantage, regardless of whether you think you possess these qualifications or not. Just list everything you can think of that the employer would like in the successful candidate. On the right side of the sheet, make a statement about your skill level or mastery of the specific qualification listed on each line. Be totally honest. Don’t be afraid to note where you don’t know something or have a low level of mastery. It will be important to be confident that you know this when you have your interview. If you are weak in an area, think about how you would overcome that weakness if you were hired.

Then go back and see if you can order these requirements as As, Bs and Cs. This is not a strict prioritization, but a categorization of the most critical to the least important. Now go back and see how you stand. Do you seem to be a really strong candidate? Do you seem to be a good candidate, but you know you could do the job well? Do you seem to be pretty far from the mark? What can you do to strengthen the areas that are in the As, critical, or Bs, important, categories? And how can you document that on your application? How can you show on your resume that you have the experience, training and education to do well? Think about the jobs you have had and how they have helped to develop some of these qualifications. Think about specific classes you have had where you have learned certain things that fulfill the qualifications. Think about your volunteer work and campus activities and how they have helped develop you to be a good hire.

With this information documented, you are ready to pull your resume and cover letter together. With these documents prepared, you are ready to complete the application or to contact the employer.

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Submitting Your Application

  • Although it might seem self-evident, follow application instuctions very carefully! 
  • If there is something you're not sure about, don't be afraid to ask for clairifcation.  
  • Have your resume and references ready so you can transfer information rather than trying to remember everything every time you complete an application form.
  • Do not write on the application "refer to attached resume."
  • If sending a hard copy, attach your letter, resume and any other documents to the application with a paper clip, never staple.
  • Make a copy of your entire application for your records.

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After you've applied...

Employers have their own timeline in responding your applications. If you have not heard from your employer two weeks after you have applied, you may contact them to ask about their selection process and when they will be making a decision. Use this contact as an opportunity to again showcase yourself as a professional in the way you talk with them. You may also mention one or two things that make you a good candidate. Let the conversation be your guide on what to say and how to say it. You can practice on a friend, if you are particularly nervous about initiating this conversation, or contact the Internship Office to arrange a practice session.

Employers usually respond to your application with a phone call to arrange an interview. Most larger employers do not notify candidates who are not selected. If your inquiring phone call (above) results in finding out that you were not selected, be polite and respond with a positive comment about their organization and maybe say something that you hope you will be a stronger candidate if you are able to apply in the future. You can ask if you can speak with the hiring authority for this position (hopefully you know that person’s name from the application process) to learn more about how to strengthen your skills and personal qualities for future applications. Most of the time they won’t talk about that with you, but you may be lucky and have someone who is interested in helping you out. You can’t loose by asking.

Most selection processes require an interview. Be prepared for this experience. Revisit the employer’s web site and learn all you can about what their company does, where they do it, who their competitors are, how long they have done it, who their clients or customers are, what they take pride in, etc.

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PLU is committed to providing equal opportunity in employment and in education for all members of the University community without regard to an individual's race, color, creed, religion, gender, national origin, age, mental or physical disability, marital status, sexual orientation or any other status protected by law.