The Observation Deck

How to Score an Internship at a Startup

Applying for an Internship

Working at a startup, I’ve found there is always a need for interns.  We pretty much have an open call for applicants, which means we get a lot of resumes and hold many interviews.  The tricky part is, while the resume tells us past experience, it doesn’t tell personality and fit, which means the interview is pretty important.  From interviewing many, many interns for positions at Uplifted, here are some tips I have for applicants when coming in for an interview.

Please, Present Yourself Nicely.  Yes, we are probably way more laid back than your corporate internship, but no, that doesn’t mean you can look like a slob.  I’ve seen way too many tight shirts and inappropriate outfits while interviewing interns, which just says to me ‘I don’t take this seriously.’  I’m not asking for a suit, but dress nicely and presently yourself cleanly.

Explain How You’ll Fit with the Team.  Personally, it’s fine if you don’t have that much experience, what’s more important is that you fit in the team – that you play a role and can match our culture.  Startups are very small teams, so having a very dominating intern come in, is not going to be a good thing.  You must be able to give the team something they don’t already have — how can you help this startup? Why are you a good fit for the team? Be prepared to answer that in the interview.

Tell How you Went Above and Beyond.  The great thing about interning at a startup is you get to do many tasks that corporations won’t let interns do.  You may go to client meetings, help with pitches, etc, so your job will probably not be running errands.  But you will be expected to go above and beyond – doing things outside of anyone’s job description.  In the interview, come with an example of how you went above and beyond in your past experience – this will show dedication.

Show you Adapt.  Maybe your experience has all been very structured internships.  While that’s all fine and well, but it’s important to show the startup team that you can adapt to any changes – whether its team members leaving or the product changing, startups always have to adapt to newness, so showing you can do this is a definite plus.

Show you Want It.  I really look for dedication.  I want to hire someone who wants to be here everyday, not someone who wants something for their resume.  Even if you have absolutely no experience, if you can really show that you want it — by researching the company, proving you’re a fit, and telling how you can make a difference — you have a great chance at getting the job.  In the end, I really look for people who want to be on the team and will try their hardest on a daily basis.

Follow up.  Don’t forget to follow up!  Again, just because we’re a startup, doesn’t mean we don’t like some corporate practices.  I really value when interns follow up with thank you emails that don’t just follow the typical protocol.  In your email, discuss points talked about in the interview, why you really want this position, and of course timelines.  Also include a writing sample in case your interviewers are on the fence — maybe this will tip you over.

Interning at a startup is a great way to gain experience that you probably won’t get at a larger company.  Working with a close-knit group, you can really make a difference in the company, but you have to really want it to get in the door.


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