Hiring managers share their advice for applications
Older students and professors are a great resource for internship applications, but no one knows the process better than the people reading hundreds of applications each year. Five intern hiring managers shared their advice, the most common mistakes they see and the things that make an application stand out.
Be open-minded about where you apply. The Minneapolis Star Tribune’s internship program is designed for journalists who have some daily news experience, editor Colleen Stoxen writes. “If you’re looking for your very first internship, be open-minded about small-town dailies or a community or weekly paper — a place where you can work on a bit of everything,” she said.
Explain why you’re passionate. Your cover letter is a chance to use your storytelling skills to tell your own story and connect with editors. The Charlotte Observer asks for a short autobiography as part of its application, and editor Gary Schwab advises spending time thinking about the story you want to tell. “A compelling autobiography tells me who you are, why journalism, why The Charlotte Observer — and shows me the kind of writer you are,” he said.
Do your research on the publication and city. In a cover letter or interview, explain what interests you about the publication and the issues it covers. “This shows that you can take initiative and come up with story ideas,” Baltimore Sun editor Andy Green said. “If you talk to someone and it’s clear they’re not familiar with the site and don’t know what we cover, that’s not impressive.”
Pick your best work and offer context. The most valuable clips show your personal initiative and how you write, Green said. “If someone’s sending a great clip from the Boston Globe, we wonder how much was this person and how much was the editor rewriting something,” he said. “The college paper isn’t as prestigious, but we’re pretty sure you did that yourself.” Schwab suggests offering context with your work samples, too, especially if you broke a story or used public records in reporting.
Show a variety of skills. Even if you’re applying for a reporting position, editors want to see that you have multimedia skills and are willing to do some of everything. Public records knowledge, data analysis and digital presentation are also important in reporting, Stoxen said. “For copy editing, being a great headline writer gets you noticed, as does ability to edit for clarity, accuracy and fairness,” she said. “Our visual interns must demonstrate a strong sense for page design, illustration, photography, video and data visualization to tell stories.”
Follow instructions. Every hiring manager said the most common mistake they see is incomplete applications — if the application asks for a cover letter, five clips, a resume and references, you’ll be disqualified if you don’t include all those pieces. Present your work in a way that’s easy for editors to read, and meet the application deadline. “If you have questions, ask — but do so before deadline,” Boston Globe hiring manager Paula Bouknight said.
Proofread everything. “Don’t send an application to The Washington Post saying how much you’ve always wanted to work at The New York Times,” Post managing editor Tracy Grant said. Read your own materials before sending them, and even better, ask a roommate or parent to read them too.
Follow up politely. Even if you’re not selected for an internship, making good contact with editors will help them remember you for openings down the road, Green said. It also doesn’t hurt to send a note if you publish a piece of work you’re especially proud of after you’ve applied, Schwab said.