When it comes to bagging a good internship of one’s choice, one faces several obstacles like where to intern, how to approach the organization, how to apply for an internship. The most vexatious question which has been boggled the minds of almost all law school students at some point in their lives, is how to write an internship application which is so perfect that the organization will not be able to refuse it. While many are of the opinion that such a ‘perfect application’ is a utopia, there exist some extremely useful and effective guidelines or tips which enable one to come as close to the ‘perfect application’ as possible. This article aims to provide the average law student handy tips on how to write a hard to refuse internship application. Though these tips are not guaranteed to work in all situations, following them will certainly boost the quality of the prospective intern’s application and will enhance chances of being selected by the organization.
Psychology is a subject taught in many law schools as part of the integrated policy science course, little does one realize how important the application of this subject is in practical life. When a student applies for an internship and communicates his desire to be selected for an internship with the organization, he is essentially trying to convince the recruiter why he should be selected. Psychology plays an important role here, in order to write convincingly, one needs to analyze the situation from the eyes of the recruiter. The words used in the application, the structure of the application and the writing style are key determinants of a good application as the recruiter’s impression of the candidate is primarily built by reading this application. Reading an ambiguous, poorly worded and haphazardly structured application along with incorrect grammar and repetitive and monotonous content is sure to put off any recruiter especially in the case of competitive internships where several students are fiercely vying for a few coveted vacancies. In such situations, it becomes even more pertinent to distinguish oneself from the others and make the recruiter believe that he has something more to offer than the others and that he shows remarkable aptitude in the field.
It is true that meritorious achievements and erudition play the most important role in securing a good internship. Indeed, in the absence of an objective evaluation criteria based on determinants such as CGPA, mooting achievements, publications, prior internships, etc. it becomes very difficult task and one tainted with inherent arbitrariness to select a few interns from a sea of applications. However, these are not the sole factors which determine an internship application’s success. As mentioned earlier, drafting an application is an activity which requires skill, tact and a basic understanding of human nature; a well-written application immediately bolsters the value of an intern’s candidature. So, here are a few tips which are effective and also easy to follow.
How to structure and write an internship application or a cover letter:
Introduction- This part is the preface to your application and should be no longer than five lines. Before starting the paragraph, always start off the application letter with “Dear/ Respected Sir/ Ma’am” in case you do not know the name of the person who will be reading your application, if you do know their name simply substitute Sir/Ma’am with Mr./Ms. XYZ. Though this might sound obvious, you will be shocked to see how many applicants forget to add this line at the beginning of their letter and get rejected as a consequence. Being courteous and diplomatic is extremely important. The first paragraph of your application letter/ cover letter should provide an introduction of who you are. Now, this does not mean that you need to write all the details about your address or your family background or about your personality. You should introduce yourself with your name and with the name of your institution and details about the course you are pursuing such as year of study, etc. The second part of the paragraph should state that you are keen on interning at the organization. Here, it is pertinent to write the full name of the organization without abbreviations (you may use abbreviations in the later part of your application though) along with the branch at which you would like to intern and also specifying the internship duration (dates) which are convenient to you. Example- XYZ and Co. Kolkata office, April 1st to April 30th, 2015.
The body of the application
This is the most important part of the application as it portrays your worth. But restrain yourself from writing every single achievement or qualification you may have and limit yourself to only the relevant particulars and keep the description concise. How to determine what is relevant and what is extraneous? In order to do this, you should keep in mind the organization you are applying to. You should do your homework and read up as much about the organization from their website as possible in order to ascertain what they exactly do, what are their areas of specialization, what they are looking for, what sort of people work for them, etc. Knowing these background details about the organization goes a long way, not merely in helping you write the cover letter, but also at the time of an interview (if any).
Once you know about the organization, it becomes easy to sort out the relevant portions from your C.V. and paraphrasing them into crisp sentences. For example if you are applying for an internship at a corporate law firm, you should generally not mention details of NGO’s you have interned at previously and how well you have scored in the unrelated subjects such as criminal law. You should instead mention any corporate work experience you may have, achievements in competitions such as moots, negotiations, etc. especially if an element of corporate law is involved, scholarly publications in the domain of corporate law, high marks secured in subjects like business law, tax law, etc.
Previous internship descriptions should include details like name of the firm, duration of the internship, the nature of work, specific details of work done such as cases, areas of law exposed to, drafting, etc. In short, you should tailor your applications to the needs of the organization and make it specific and not general. Also, while mentioning your candidature, focus on your strengths and do try to avoid mentioning any weakness.
For example, if you have participated in an essay writing contest and not secured any distinction, then it is best not to mention anything about the competition in your application or in your C.V. because in such contests, participation is not considered an accomplishment.
Once you have written about your relevant achievements and qualifications appropriately, the next thing to do is to convince the organization as to why it should recruit you instead of others similarly situated by giving a snapshot of the unique qualities which you possess.
Now, in addition to briefly mentioning your virtues like hard work, sincerity, etc. you should also mention details of the work you have done in the similar field and your level of performance. For example if you worked on abuse of dominance in competition law, you should mention any particular cases you have worked on and how you have helped the previous organization in achieving their goals.
In your C.V. include the contact details of some of the organizations where you have previously interned so that the recruiter can cross check your performance with them. Be careful about who you add to your referees and always make sure that you add people who are in charge and people who you have worked with and who are familiar with your work and appreciated it. Also mention any unique knowledge/ skill you possess which is relevant for the internship and any special course you undertook which makes you a better candidate for the internship. Once this is done, your application is almost complete.
This is the last paragraph of your application., just write an sentence thanking the recruiter for reading your application and that you would be extremely grateful if selected and also inquiring whether any other documents etc. need to be sent for internship purposes from your end. Finally sign off on a positive and respectful note indicating that you are awaiting a reply. Finish with an appropriate signature head.
While attaching other documents along with your application in an email such as C.V., photograph, recommendation letter, certificates, etc. it is important to mention that you are attaching the said documents in the mail for the kind perusal of the recruiter. Also, please do not forget to attach a document once you have mentioned it and make sure it is in the right format. Before sending the email, double check all the documents and ensure that they are all legible and properly labelled.
Also make sure you are sending all the documents required by the organization and not missing out on anything vital.
Some general things to keep in mind while drafting your application letter are:
- Avoid grammatical and spelling mistakes as these create a bad impression. Use good and appropriate vocabulary and punctuation but do make sure it is straight, clear and simple to comprehend and not written in a superfluous way using metaphors, ambiguous words, idioms, etc. which may confuse the recruiter.
- Structure is the key. Follow the above mentioned general structure and incorporate required modifications as per requirements and make sure that your application is tailor made to suit the organization’s needs. Aim to have a logical flow and consistency throughout your application as it will facilitate easier reading and better understanding of the contents.
- Follow the Golden Rule of never lying or misstating credentials on your application or on your C.V. as this might lead to disastrous consequences. Conversely make sure that you have evidence of all the qualifications and accomplishments mentioned in your application such as certificates, mark sheet, etc.
- Write succinctly but comprehensively, your application should be comprehensive enough to allow the recruiter to form an impression of you after reading your application. However brevity should be observed and the writing should be crisp and you should be choosy with your words. Very long applications become monotonous and uninteresting and the recruiter may even ignore such applications which are extremely long and wordy.
- Your signature head should be your full name along with your qualifications and your current post/ position of responsibility. Ex- John Mills; B.A.L.L.B (Hons.); Semester IV; National Law School XYZ; Editor in chief NLSXYZ Law Review; Convenor Moot Court Committee.
In addition to this, another seemingly small but effective ways to bag an internship is to follow up the application with a phone call to the office and a word with the concerned person, usually the H.R. personnel and checking whether he has received and read your application or not. If you do not receive response within a few weeks after sending the application, try following up with a few reminder calls and always remember to be polite while doing this.
Always have your application proofread before sending it.
While the above-mentioned steps and tips will certainly come in handy while writing an internship application and could even affect the outcome, they are merely indicative and by no means scientific theories which always guarantee desired results. Nor should a well drafted application be considered as a substitute for accomplishments and qualifications. Both are equally important to secure a good internship and should be developed. Much depends upon the qualifications and accomplishments of the individual and the policies of the organization. An organization which does not hire interns from law school below their fourth year as a matter of policy will not hire a second year no matter how well his application is drafted. Also, many organizations have a minimum requirement criterion which must be met. Not meeting this strict criterion will disqualify an intern regardless of his prowess in drafting cover letters.
Sources referred to:
http://www.wisegeek.net/what-are-the-best-tips-for-writing-an-internship-application.htm (Last visited on 23.04.2015)
http://www.lawctopus.com/cover-letter/ (Last visited on 23.04.2015)