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I'm an undergraduate student starting to look for internships. I understand a lot about how to embellish a real-world resume--emphasizing tasks done at previous jobs and whatnot--but I'm not sure if it will translate well to low-experience internship resumes.

Internship Resumes are marked by:

  • Few to no past Software-related full-time jobs or internships
  • Few to no non-school-involved Software-related activities

Obviously if you have no experience or activities to list, you're pretty well stuck. So let's assume we have one of each.

I'm basically wondering:

  1. What is a company looking for most from Intern candidates? Past work, GPA/coursework, Outside projects (Open Source, etc), certain skill sets (languages)
  2. Should I be emphasizing tasks, or jobs/positions when listing my experiences?
  3. Are skills important to list? If so, which ones in particular?
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closed as off topic by gnat, Bart van Ingen Schenau, BЈовић, Yusubov, MichaelT May 20 '13 at 11:58

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4 Answers 4

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I'd say that companies understand that interns will not look like seasoned employees. That's part of the basic contract. It's understood that the intern is doing what is probably a first CS-related job.

To answer the specific questions:

  1. What is a company looking for most from Intern candidates? Past work, GPA/coursework, Outside projects (Open Source, etc), certain skill sets (languages)

Please put on ALL of these. Especially in an internship, it is unlikely that you will daunt the reviewer with your huge, long, expansive list of technology past and present.

In coursework, stick to the stuff in the CS program or the stuff related to the job (for example, if you happen to apply to a firm making architectural software, and you have a minor in architecture, you might want to highlight that... but otherwise, skip the architectural coursework).

Even if the past work is working as a teller in the local grocery store - put it on there. With dates, and any evolution in responsibility.

  1. Should I be emphasizing tasks, or jobs/positions when listing my experiences?

Highlight whatever you've done that comes close to the job you want. Generally:

  • development work/previous internships
  • team work - paid or unpaid
  • work requiring some degree of independance and responsibility

Interns typically take a certain investment up front. They need a bit of mentoring, and the company should expect to give you a hand as you start out. So anything that shows you are fairly independant and capable of doing work on your own and using good judgement in the process is a win.

  • Are skills important to list? If so, which ones in particular?

Personally, I'm a fan of knowing that the intern can take on responsiblity. And doesn't need to be supervised 24/7. The difference between the internship and possible previous positions is that you won't really be all that supervised, you'll be trusted to use your judgement to get the job done. So knowing that someone can work carefully but independantly is key.

A big trick (probably for anyone, but specifically tuned for the intern) is to gear the resume for the people who will make the decision. Here's my redaction of how that goes (Joel's "Smart and Gets Things Done" is even better, but possibly less intern-centric):

HR Filter The resume hits HR. The HR people have been given a list of projects that could take on interns and a list of project technologies that would be preferred. They may also have corporate policies regarding GPA and schools and whether they will hire 1st year, 2nd year or 3rd year students. So the HR algorithm is going to look something like this:

  • Do we know this school? Do we get good students from this school? If YES - move to next step. If NO - see GPA - if outstanding, may proceed. If NEVER HAD STUDENTS from here before - continue if school has good rep.
  • What is GPA? Companies may have a lowest bar. They may have a low end zone which may be overcome if the student has great experience or a great GPA in their major (if your GPA is weak, stick on both the GPA and GPA in major). There may be an unacceptably low point. Also, if you are overcoming a school that has previously given the company bad experience, then you may have a higher bar.
  • Does coursework/language experience match target projects? Usually there's no perfect, if a few peices of jargon fit... proceed to hiring manager. If no jargon fits, but good school and good GPA - may proceed to hiring manager anyway.

Hiring Manager

Someone with a team trying to do things. This person would like the cheap labor of an intern, but wants to make sure that the intern will, in the end, pay off in productivity, becoming a strong part of the team. Ideally, the intern is also a potential future hire after college.

Challenge - this person will probably get booked for an interview with you and will spend a very short time actually looking at your resume. It has to be honed for this attention deficit impaired individual. This is where organization is really important.

Things the person is looking for:

  • How much about the project's technologies does this person know? Any major languages should be on the resume, close to the school and GPA. Sub-components are a guessing game. For example, if you've used popular libraries or frameworks - should you put them on there? At least leave some breadcrumbs so that the person can ask logical questions - for example, a class in web development in Java will tell me to ask about JEE jargon?
  • How much about the context of the work does this person know - for example, a big database driven project is going to care that you had a course in databases. They may be open to the fact that you used MySQL and they use Oracle, but if you've never had a DB course, there's a problem.
  • How well will this person fit with my team? Will there be any problems with the typical norms of the work place? Having had a job will help tell employers that you are capable of working. Even a job in a restaraunt tells your potential boss that you will show up on time. Best is having dates, since it also tells them how long you kept the job - knowing you were camp counselor at the same camp for several years tells me that the camp liked you enough to have you back. Working the same campus job for several years, while moving up to asst. manager tells me that you were responsible enough to be trusted.
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Thanks for the (very verbose) answer. The mindset and process of the hirer is probably the most important factor in creating a resume. –  ProdigySim Mar 7 '11 at 23:57
  1. All of these. Most companies that get internship applicants understand that work experience won't be as prolific as with other transfer employees. If you have real-world tech experience, you are probably ahead of the curve. If you don't, try not to focus on your past work experience, unless you think the skills that you acquired somehow transfer over to the business's needs. For example, being a cashier at a local supermarket isn't really necessary for a tech resume'. However, if you had a job where you moved into a leadership role or acquired further education due to your perseverance (maybe became an EMT for a summer camp), that may show traits in an individual that they would be interested in working with. In general, stick with tech knowledge, even if it is just school projects.
  2. This kind of goes back to #1. Focus on the tasks and accomplishments.
  3. Skills can be the determinant in whether you get the position. For an internship, spin-up times generally need to be quick, so listing your skill set (especially languages) is a great idea.

Some companies use interns to just get small work done. The smart ones use it to screen future employees. They tend to look for leadership skills, and "think outside the box" attitudes that will complement their seasoned veterans' knowledge.

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There is nothing wrong with including one or two major school projects if you have been involved in any. I'm not talking about individual assignments, but if you have worked on any major group coding projects that took several weeks, highlight those on your resume and clearly summarize what it was for and your role in the project. Be prepared to discuss them in an interview and highlight the problem, the technologies used, the approach to solve it, how you worked together as a team and so forth.

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Use a different type of resume that makes you look better. Obviously you don't want a chronological one:

You also should list what you're interested in learning.

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Which resume type do you recommend based on the OP? –  Despertar Jul 23 '13 at 5:42

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