How to improve your chances for getting an internship in the U.S.

Ville Aro

My name is Ville Aro and I am the current Trainee Program Outreach Intern at SACC-USA. My tasks are to match Swedish candidates with American host companies and to make sure we reach out to both parties. Daily, I receive plenty of applications. Some are excellent, some have room for improvement. I will share a few bullet points with you on what to think about when you write your cover letter and elaborate on why it is important to pay attention to these matters.

  • Why do you want this particular internship position?
  • What career are you planning to pursue and how does this internship contribute towards that aim?
  • What will you bring to the table?
  • Forget all adjectives and superlatives. Describe objectively what you have accomplished.

Why do you want this particular internship position?
Both the host company and I want to be sure that the incoming intern is coming here for the right reasons. If the reason is something that can be accomplished back in Sweden or elsewhere in the world, you might want to reconsider or think it through one more time. Your competition might have a stronger and more valid reason which might give them an edge in the screening process.

Ville AroWhat career are you planning to pursue and how does this internship contribute towards that aim?
As we are talking about internships now, we all know that you are not coming here to stay forever. To further convince the company why they should pick you and not someone else, you should elaborate on how this position will make you more ready for your long term goal. This ensures the company that you will be dedicated in that position as your interests are aligned with theirs.

What will you bring to the table?
Most often, we receive plenty of applications to each internship position. Most have or are working towards a degree in a related field and some also have relevant practical experience. How do you stand out from the crowd? Simplified, the host company wants to know how you will contribute during the internship. It is difficult to write about what you will accomplish at the company when you haven’t met with anyone yet. What you can do is describe what you have accomplished thus far. This brings me to the next point.

Forget all adjectives and superlatives. Describe objectively what you have accomplished.
Very often, people tend to use quite general terms to describe their personality. When looking for internships, you better believe that everyone is ‘flexible’, ‘positive’, and ‘outgoing’. Drop all the general terms. When the recruiter has read ten cover letters in a row with these words, they mean nothing to him and are thus overlooked. If you still want to express that you are those things, then you should describe it objectively. For instance, by telling a story of how you have engaged in different networking events and what that resulted in.
Telling someone that you are ‘highly experienced’ does not say anything either. What does ‘highly’ mean to you, what does it mean to me? Everyone has their own perception of that word. But saying ‘three years of experience’ ensures that the reader gets an objective view of your background which is far clearer than ‘highly experienced’.

Now, make sure you think of these points when you write your next cover letter. Then you might soon be sitting on an airplane on your way, making your American Dream come true.