In today’s competitive job market, many employers prefer to hire candidates with relevant work experience, even for entry-level or graduate jobs. If you’re a student or a graduate, this can make it difficult for you to get your foot in the door. One way to set yourself apart from other candidates and show employers that you have the necessary skills is to list your internships on your CV.
An internship is short-term work experience offered by companies, usually for a period of 3-6 months, to allow you to gain experience in a particular industry, field or position. However short they may be, internships can equip you with a range of transferable skills.
Whether you include your internships in your CV depends on the stage of career you’re at; however, in some situations, it can be particularly beneficial to mention them:
- You’re a recent graduate and you have little work experience
- You have recent internship experience and it’s relevant to the industry or position you’re interested in
- You’re considering a career change and your only practical experience is from internships
- You interned at a prestigious company
You have little work experience
- If you have little work experience, listing your internships on your CV could make the difference between your CV being overlooked or getting called for an interview. Internships provide ‘official’ work experience and proof that you have developed your skills in a professional environment.
How relevant and recent are your internships?
- If you have been working for more than five years, you may want to consider whether including your internship experience adds any value to your CV.
- Generally speaking, employers are most interested in recent work experience and won’t be impressed that you interned at a bank five years ago if you’re now seeking a role in content management.
- As a rule of thumb, only include internship experience if it’s directly related to the industry or position you’re applying for.
You have a lot of work experience
- If you have extensive work experience, you may choose to omit your internships from your CV. Given that the recommended length for a CV is 2 A4 pages, you save valuable space if you only focus on the last 10-15 years of your work experience.
- However, if you have recently completed an internship as part of a career change, it’s worth mentioning it in your CV. Internships can provide valuable practical experience and demonstrate a willingness to develop your skills on your own initiative.
You interned at a prestigious company
- If you interned at a well-known or prestigious company along the lines of Apple, Microsoft, etc., you may want to include your internship experience on your CV even if it took place some time ago.
- While your skills and experience will be the deciding factors in hiring decisions, mentioning that you interned at a prestigious company could lend weight to your application, especially if you’re looking to work in an international or large organisation.
How do you include internships on your CV?
- There’s no hard and fast rule as to where you list your internships on your CV; you could include your internship experience in any of the following sections:
- ‘Work Experience’
- If you have recently graduated or are new to the job market, you could list your internship(s) in this section as internships do count as practical work experience. In this case, include the name of the company, the job title, start and end dates and make it clear that the experience was an internship.
- This is a good choice if you have a lot of work experience and you want to draw a clear distinction from your internships or you have completed multiple internships.
- Avoid mentioning that you did the coffee run every day or that you ran errands such as sorting the post or creating PowerPoint presentations, even if these tasks took up the bulk of your time.
- While there’s nothing wrong with these activities per se, employers want to hear how you used your time to gain valuable skills such as managing social media communications, coordinating events, drafting company reports, etc.
- As a rule of thumb, make a list of all your tasks and responsibilities as an intern and exclude any administrative tasks such as the ones listed in the first paragraph. Instead, focus on tasks where you brought value to the company.
- If your internship experience was directly related to your degree or study programme, you could include your internship(s) in the ‘Education’ section of your CV. This way, you draw less attention to them and place the focus on your career history or skills.
Writing a CV for internships
- Internships provide a valuable opportunity to get practical work experience while you’re still studying. They’re also a way to establish connections and to determine whether you could see yourself doing a specific job full-time.
- If an internship is something of interest to you, it’s a good idea to research the position thoroughly and to tailor your CV accordingly. As competition for internships tends to be fierce, you’ll need to highlight the skills that make you a more suitable intern over other candidates.
- Here are some best practices for writing the different sections for an internship CV:
- CV header
- This may be stating the obvious, but you don’t need to include the words ‘CV’ or ‘Curriculum Vitae’ at the top of your CV.
- Contact details
- Make your name stand out from the body text with a larger font (14-16). Then, include your name, phone number, e-mail address and LinkedIn address If you’re applying for an internship outside of the city you live in, you may want to leave out your postal address, so that employers don’t exclude you because of your location.
- Personal statement or personal profile
- A personal statement or personal profile is your opportunity to explain to recruiters why you want the internship and how your skills are relevant.
- If you’re applying for a position in accounting, you could write:
- I’m an Economics student with comprehensive knowledge of all aspects of accounting and financial systems. I’m seeking an internship in the finance sector to further develop my skills in systems analysis.
- Unless you have a lot of relevant work experience in your field, you’ll want to lead with the ‘Education’ section.
- Start with your most recent qualifications and include the following information:
- The name of your university or academic institution
- Your dates of attendance and your expected graduation date (if you haven’t yet graduated)
- Relevant information about your degree that could help your application
- For example, if you’re applying for an internship in a financial institution, you could draw out the following points from your degree:
- University College Dublin, Ireland Sept 2000 – June 2004
- Business, Economics and Social Studies
- Modules: Principles of economics, Maths, Accounting and Finance
- Dissertation: Accounting Harmonisation in the EU
- Work Experience
- If you have no work experience, you may want to skip this section or consider including relevant part-time jobs.
- The same applies as for the ‘Education’ section: list your recent work experience figures and include start and end dates.
- A quick way to catch recruiters’ attention and to make your CV stand out from the rest is to list your key strengths in bullet points. This lets recruiters quickly see if you’re a good fit for the internship, e.g.
- Advanced Excel
- According to a study by Deloitte, employers are more likely to hire candidates who have volunteering experience. Using the accounting internship as an example again, you could highlight, for instance, how you managed the books for a charity shop.
- Extra-curricular activities
- As you most probably won’t have a lot of work experience, listing your extra-curricular activities is a great way to stand out from the competition.
- Extra-curricular activities demonstrate some of the key skills employers are looking for such as leadership, communication and teamwork. These can include being involved in your university sports club, students’ union or mentoring other students, for example.
Treat internships like jobs
- As a rule of thumb, it’s best to treat your application for an internship like you would job applications and only highlight skills, knowledge and experience that demonstrate to employers exactly why you’re the best candidate for the position.