How to find and apply for Graduate Internships

You’ve found the perfect graduate internship and are all ready to apply, but what do you need to know before you do? How does it all work? Find out everything you need to know about how to apply for graduate internships. Get the full lowdown before you apply, to make the application process as smooth as possible.

How to apply for a graduate internship

Now you’ve deciphered what an internship is and decided on the one for you, it’s time to move on to the next step, find the right internship and apply for it. So, you may be wondering; “How do I actually apply for a graduate internship?”. Don’t worry, we’ll talk you through it, step-by-step.

Step 1: Research companies, positions and available internships

Think specifically about what you want to get out of your graduate internship and make a list of questions to check off when you’re looking for opportunities. Things like:

  • How hands-on do you want it to be?
  • What industry sector would you like to specialise in?
  • What company do you think aligns best with your values?
  • Where do you think you would be best suited?

Spend time speaking with university careers advisors, researching online and speaking with your friends and peers to determine a shortlist of suitable positions to apply for.

You should also aim to do this a good six months or more in advance of when you want to start, to ensure you are well aware of all application deadlines and so that you don’t miss anything. Preparing for this early puts you in the best position to have a well thought out and thorough application ready for the right role.

Step 2: Keep track of your applications

Applying for an internship is similar to applying for a job and should be treated as such. You need to stay focused and dedicate your full concentration to each application, as the competition for each spot is fierce.

It’s good practice to create a spreadsheet keeping track of every opportunity you’ve expressed an interest in, what the application requirements are and how far through the process you are. Below is a basic example of what this could look like:

It’s best to create this sheet ahead of time, so that you aren’t scrambling around trying to do it after you’ve already lost track of your applications. Making a sheet of the places you’re going to apply is also good practice as it allows you to go through and tick off each one as you go along, adding any notes to help you tailor your CV and cover letter before you apply.

Step 3: Tailor your CV and cover letter

Along with the above, it’s also good practice to have a master CV and cover letter. These master documents can be used as the starting point for any internship applications you are completing and tweaked to better align with the requirements of each role.

Analyse every role you’re applying for, as well as the mission and values of the company in question, to ensure your CV and cover letter is the best fit. Don’t forget to read our guide on tackling job applications for more information on how to best do this.

Step 4: Ask for feedback

If you don’t hear back, don’t be afraid to request feedback. It’s impossible to think students and recent graduates will be able to excel in what is a competitive market without constructive criticism, so be sure to ask and also sign our #FightForFeedback campaign to help others in a similar situation.

How to find graduate internship roles

Finding graduate internships may seem like a long and arduous task, but at Debut Careers we are here to help. We’re the number one place to search for graduate internships. But your search shouldn’t start and end with us, here are a few extra tips on where to look for graduate internships:

Be sure to refine your search, looking through different regions, roles and sectors in as detailed a way as possible. Our search platform can help you there.

The application process

There can be a number of different methods companies use when deciding who to hire onto an internship. Because they are so sought after and highly competitive, the hiring process can be tough and businesses are increasingly incorporating more stringent hiring processes.

Below are a few examples of the types of recruitment methods businesses will often use:

Online applications

The first stage is often an online application; this will require you to fill in some basic information about yourself and answer some extra questions about why you want the internship and think you will be a good fit.

Online assessments

This may well follow an online application. Assessments such as skills and abilities tests, and potentially even cognitive assessments, may be used. This will help strengthen your application if you are able to demonstrate the key job skills and personality traits they are looking for.

These steps are often done to filter out applicants before the interview stage, so that companies are sure that the people they are interviewing are right for certain aspects of the job that an application alone couldn’t show them.

Interviews – video, phone or face-to-face

There will almost always be a face-to-face interview for an internship position, but there may be a video or phone interview preceding that.

A phone interview will usually be first and can be informal – more so than a face-to-face interview, anyway. This will take place at a pre-agreed time and usually won’t be any longer than 30 minutes. This is simply a cost-effective way to screen for the right candidates. A phone interview likely won’t involve a task but you should be prepared for questioning.

A video interview is slightly more formal, so be sure to dress for the occasion and clean up your workspace. It’s worth testing our your mic, video image and internet capabilities with a friend beforehand too, so you don’t have any unexpected issues.

Finally, a face-to-face interview is almost guaranteed if you’re advancing through the application process. These may be one-on-one, as a panel or in a group with other applicants. Whatever the scenario, use our ‘Types of Interview’ guide to help prepare.

A day at an assessment centre

This is also often part of the internship recruitment process and usually takes place towards the end. Assessment centres usually consist of a day where all successful applicants, to this point, partake in a number of different tasks. These can include group exercises and presentations to showcase their skills, leadership abilities and knowledge.

This will generally take no more than one day and may be followed by a final interview with a company’s recruiter.

How to make the most of an internship as a graduate

Once you’ve been accepted onto an internship, don’t be afraid to get stuck in. You want to make the most of this opportunity, get as much experience as possible and make strong connections with others, especially if you want to try and turn the internship into a full-time job.

We’ve compiled a few tips on making the most of your internship below:

Be conversational

Try not to be shy, this is the perfect time to make a number of new and potentially key professional contacts. You never know what someone may be able to teach you, or whether they can help you down the line.

Be eager to learn

Take on any and all tasks that come your way. Be honest about your experience though, and offer help where you can. Sometimes saying you’re unsure about something is a good idea.

Engage with everyone

Don’t feel that just because you’re an intern you can’t speak to the big boss; make an effort with people from every level.

Take the opportunity to lead

Where you can, grasp this opportunity. Lead a mini-project or spearhead one section of a larger task to make a real impact and show your leadership skills. Even if it’s something as small as running a meeting, showing off your desire to lead can be a big bonus.

What to do if you don’t get kept on after an internship

While the above will no doubt help you stand out within the company in question, if you’re unable to secure a full-time job there you need to know how to leverage what you’ve learnt and the contacts you’ve made effectively in the outside world. Some internships simply aren’t designed to be turned into full-time positions.

Say thank you and remain in contact

Remember that the contacts you make may be highly important for your future, whether it’s in finding another job or other professional situations.

Add people on LinkedIn

Start building your professional network; you’ll be surprised at the number of connections that come up. Having an extensive network can be advantageous when looking for new positions or opportunities.

Work on building your personal brand

Remember, once an internship ends you still need to find a full-time job at the end of it, and the saying is that people buy people. This is a great time to take everything you’ve learnt, from the internship and before, and work on how you build your personal brand.

Update your CV with everything you did and learned

Take stock of what you did and ensure relevant elements are added to your CV. Also make a note of any notable projects or achievements that could be useful for future cover letters or interviews.

Begin searching for jobs

Now your experience is fresh in your mind, and new connections are coming in on LinkedIn, check out what jobs are out there and apply. Your internship will reflect well on you, plus your new connections may be able to help you find new opportunities.

Once you have all the above in place, you’ll be fast-tracked to internship success. Good luck Debutants!