The Bad Advice of College Career Offices

Punchbowl hires a few interns every year, and the candidates usually come from job postings we’ve circulated through local college career centers. Our requirements aren’t crazy – we want someone who is thoughtful, a good writer, has some personality and wants to pursue a career in Marketing or Public Relations. However, the process of finding a person is often tedious. Most of the candidates that apply don’t get the basics right. And for this, I mostly blame college career services. Time and time again, we see ill-prepared students who don’t seem to put any thought into the culture of Punchbowl and how they might fit in. Punchbowl is a tech start-up, not a stuffy financial institution. The old-fashioned college career system just doesn’t seem to “get” how to prep their students for this kind of environment.

Danger Bad Advice AheadIntern candidates, listen up: If you’re applying for an internship at a tech start-up, don’t listen to this bad advice:

Bad Advice #1: Apply to everything While it may seem efficient to apply to every single internship posted posted, don’t do it. Every position is different and a generic response won’t get you very far with the company. Research the companies that are most interesting to you, and try those first. Focus on positions that will accentuate your strengths or seem really interesting for one reason or another. If you apply to everything, it’s more likely you’ll make a mistake and forget to update the company name, hiring manager, or some other embarrassing tidbit in your intro email. I’ve seen it too often.

Bad Advice #2: Send a cover letter  With the advent of email, the need for a traditional cover letter has been eliminated. No one types up all their strengths and attributes on a pretty piece of paper and mails it to the human resources department anymore. When you send your resume for an internship, include a nice (but short) email introducing yourself, with a few sentences on why you are interested in the position. It’s also helpful to include something that differentiates you from your peers. Give us your two cents about Punchbowl, make a joke, or send us a picture. Keep it personal, and help us remember why you are different.

Bad Advice #3: Include your GPA and a transcript Trust me, we’ll know if you’re smart within the first few minutes of speaking with you. There’s not much that sharing your grades or classes will do to increase the odds of getting the job. These days, your understanding of the marketplace and how our company fits into the overall ecosystem is much more important than your GPA. So don’t include it unless we explicitly ask.

Bad Advice #4: Put everything you’ve ever done on your resume For all positions at Punchbowl, we ask for a one-page resume. Why? Because we think it’s important to have the ability to boil down lots of information into something more digestible. We don’t care how many jobs you’ve held, we care about the real substance of your experience. Rather than a long resume, spend time beefing up your LinkedIn profile or make a website about yourself. By the way: it’s almost a sure thing that we’ll Google you, so make sure there aren’t any embarrassing pictures out there on the Internet for us to find.

Bad Advice #5: Prepare for an in-person interview We always prefer to meet intern candidates in-person but it’s not always possible to meet face-to-face. Given our schedules (and the schedules of busy students) most of our interviews take place over Skype or FaceTime. Preparing for a video interview is a lot different than in-person. First, make sure you know how to Skype/FaceTime, and test it with a friend. Be sure we’re going to be able to see AND hear you, and don’t waste our time with computer/phone problems. Second, make sure the background of the room you’re sitting in is appropriate. If we see empty beer bottles behind you, it doesn’t make the best first impression. Lastly, dress for the occasion. We are a casual company, and wear jeans and t-shirts. Even though it’s a video interview, be sure to be dressed appropriately (yes, that means no pajamas).

SWAMI SAYS: Applying for an internship at a tech startup is very different than at a bank or consulting company. Students: be selective when you apply, and learn the culture of the organization so that you can make the best first impression possible. Oh, and Punchbowl is hiring an intern for the fall semester. Get in touch!

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