There is nothing, and I mean nothing, more daunting as a college student than starting an internship hunt. I had no idea where to start, whom to talk to, what to do or how to move forward. I had parents, friends, professors, websites, Twitter handles, motivational speakers, baristas, carnies and hecklers all offering pointed advice. Somehow, I slogged through, but I’m here to try and help you break through the career clutter.

Step 1: Create a resume. Take stock of everything you’ve done and write it down, then sell yourself using one sheet of paper.

  • There is no reason a college student should have a resume larger than one page. Yeah, I loved working at Starbucks, but I would much rather a hiring manager know about my PRSSA officer role than my (albeit flawless) skills at whipping up the celestial nectar otherwise known as espresso.
  • Ask a professor for help pulling it together – that’s what office hours are for!

Step 2: Write a cover letter…and not just a generic one with fill in the blank spaces like, [Company Name] and [Skill]. This tip is deceptively short. A good cover letter will be skimmed by a hiring manager but appreciated for including relevant information about the company. If you didn’t take 30 minutes to research the company for your application, can you be expected to put that little effort into your work? No judgment, but think about it. Again, ask a professor for help.

Step 3: Be buttoned up, even if it’s the first application you’ve ever sent (palms sweating, heart beating, the scene feeling so momentous, like the grimiest dubstep beat drops as you hit “Send”) or the latest in a slew of hundreds.

  • Include your letter in the body of your email. Reducing clicks the hiring manager has to make is a nice gesture.
  • Make sure your resume and cover letter are attached and in PDF format. There’s no chance your precious formatting will be destroyed as it makes its way inbox to inbox.
  • Use the same font in all your materials. There is nothing more worthy of an eye-roll moment than when a hiring manager’s name is in Arial and the rest of the letter or resume is in Times New Roman. Sloppy, like a sloppy joe, except not at all delicious.
  • Never say, “Dear Hiring Manager,” or “To Whom It May Concern.” If the hiring manager’s name isn’t listed on the job description and careful research doesn’t turn it up elsewhere, politely call the agency or company you’re applying to and ask. They will not be offended (and if they are – do you want to work there anyway?).
  • Do what you think is necessary to convince the hiring manager that you should get an interview. As that hiring manager reviews ten applications for a position, let’s say five have the necessary experience and five don’t. Sorry, but only those five with experience make the cut, but how are those then qualified? A quick glance for consistency, formatting, sleek polish and proper grammar with absolutely no misspellings or misuse of proper nouns goes a long way toward getting yourself into the “Definitely call” pile.

Step 4: Show up looking professional, with multiple copies of your resume, a portfolio of some kind, and a notepad and pen. Hiring managers will probably have all of the above, but coming prepared speaks volumes for your ability to think ahead and take care of details.

A job or internship is never a “fill in the blank” operation, and your application shouldn’t be either!

Ryan Collins is Social Media Specialist at AKHIA.