Have you ever been ghosted by an internship?
You start by pouring your heart and soul into a word-vomit cover letter and a resume that exemplifies your can-do spirit and your superior efficiency in Microsoft Office. Finally, you press “send” on the application to your dream company, and then you wait—it’s like patiently waiting by your door 10 minutes after buying something online. It’s all so new and exciting in the beginning. It’s your time to grow up and start making your mark in the professional world. For the most part, you feel like the most accomplished person in the world. Congrats! You just completed the most taxing, yet basic requirements of applying for a job! Why wouldn’t you get the internship?
Even if you feel like you rocked the cover letter, mistakes are extremely easy to miss on your own resume. A “trash can resume” is a resume that has immediate errors in the eyes of hiring personnel and hiring managers and automatically gets thrown out. It can be a grammatical mistake, location mistake, or even just a formatting issue. Although it’s easy to write a trash can resume by accident, you can avoid getting your resume tossed out with some easy fixes.
Indicating your proper location is one of the most important parts of your resume. Many people make the mistake of denoting the location where they currently live, but not where the company actually resides. If you reside in Boston but you’re applying for an internship in New York City, you shouldn’t indicate that your location is Boston—but rather in New York. Yes, it’s obvious that you may commute or just so happen to be staying with a friend in New York City, but the employer doesn’t know that. How is the employer supposed to know you have a place in the city where you can crash if you’re hired? Always indicate the location in your resume as the location of the current company you’re applying to. If you don’t, don’t be surprised if your resume ends up in the trash.
The status of your education is an important factor in a company’s decision to hire you. Some employers have to sift through thousands of resumes at a time, and no one has the time to spend over ten seconds looking for when and where you graduated. It’s your job to put your highest accomplishment and your biggest identifiers at the forefront of your resume. If you’re currently a new undergraduate or a graduating student, this piece of information should be the first thing they see. The only point in which you would showcase your education at the bottom is when you’re more than a year out of college.
According to the Forbes article “11 Secrets of Hiring Managers”, “A typo, a poorly formatted resume, or a low GPA will often get you placed in the “no thanks” pile.” If you’re currently graduating and your education is at the bottom, do you think your future employer is going to do a whole FBI search to find out when and where you were educated? Absolutely not.
Last, but certainly not least, is the relevant experience section—the meat of your resume, illustrating your value as a prospective candidate. This is the most important part of your application since this connects the dots for the employer. Let’s say you’re applying for an internship in fashion. You outline your experiences on your resume and this consists of your roles as a representative at Primark, a sales associate Walgreens, an ice cream scooper, and a poop scooper. If I’m an employer, and I’m looking for someone experienced in fashion, why would I hire someone who scooped poop? Jokes aside, it’s easy to think that word-vomiting all of your experiences, no matter how irrelevant they are, will get you the job because it shows determination and hard work toward a role. What it actually shows is that you have zero experience in the position they’re searching for.
Depending on the job you apply for, no employer will care how many positions you had flipping different types of burgers if they’re looking for a marketing savant. They’re going to care if you’re experienced in the field of the company. Employers want to see positions relevant to the requirements listed in the application. If you do not have enough professional experiences that are relevant, indicate any personal projects you might’ve accomplished, roles on campus that are relevant, or even any shadowing experiences. This is usually the most common mistake for students who never hear back from their prospective employers. Avoid this mistake and make it easy for the employer to see why you’re perfect for the role.
The struggle is real when applying for internships. It’s a competitive and discouraging process that can humble you faster than you think. It homes in on your due diligence and, believe it or not, that one piece of paper or application reflects your value to an employer—even the format of your resume can showcase your knowledge or skills. A simple resume mistake can make a bad impression on your prospective employer. Do a quick double-take on that application, tell a story that best represents you, breathe, then hit submit.