Six Tips to Help You Prepare for Your A/E Summer Internship

It’s never too early to start thinking about your summer internship. While most students complete an internship during their junior or senior years in college, in the architecture and engineering (A/E) industry you can apply, and intern, as early as your freshman year in college. 

An internship can help you build critical, real-life experiences. They can also help shape your career interests and increase your chances for a full-time position after graduation. You might be asking, “What does it take to get an internship, and how can I best prepare to get one of these coveted positions?” We have identified six tips to help you land the perfect internship.

Tip 1: Make your resume standout

Employers often receive dozens, and in some cases hundreds, of applications for their internship positions. Often, they have two minutes or less to review your submission. It’s important you make your resume stand out from the pack. The challenge is that most students don’t have a lot of workplace experience to draw from. With that in mind, you will want to:

  • Include an objective summarizing what you want and aspire to do.
  • Highlight your favorite college courses or projects; include and summarize the course/projects and dates completed.
  • Clearly highlight your college or university, major and anticipated graduation date.
  • Add any relevant or applicable work experience you have. Be sure to include the company name, job title, a summary of your responsibilities and employment dates.

Once you have this critical information outlined on your resume, make sure to minimize distractors:

  • Remove items not relevant to the position. While it may be tempting to add your personal interests and activities, they can serve as distractors. 
  • Avoid adding pictures or graphics because they can interfere with uploading a resume into an application system. Remember: recruitment teams have a few minutes for each resume and they are looking for critical information – not your pictures or graphics.

Tip 2: Company research – do your homework

This is key to gain an understanding about the companies you are applying to. Make sure you have learned basic yet important information about the organization, such as:

  • The company’s mission, core purpose, values and history
  • The services/products they provide
  • The customers they serve
  • The company culture 

Don’t just rely on the company website; explore and connect with other company platforms like, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook. You can glean a wealth of information about company culture, mission and its people through their social media accounts – so don’t hesitate to check them out! 

Review internship job descriptions carefully. Ask yourself, “Does the position align with what I’m interested in?” Be able to speak about how your career objective aligns to the company and/or position you are applying for.

The industry. Learn as much as you can about the A/E industries. The companies within these industries often vary depending on their focus. Review them and come prepared with questions you may have. Don’t be shy about asking questions, it shows you are curious and interested in having a good experience. 

Tip 3: Interview preparation

Your resume is ready and homework is completed. It’s time to apply and hope you move forward to the interview stage.

When you receive a request for an interview, it’s important to prepare and prepare the right way. Here are six preparation tips to consider:

  1. Spend time researching the interview team. These are people who you will potentially be working with and shaping your internship experience. It’s important to know who they are.  Remember, it’s okay to ask for the names and titles of the individual(s) with whom you will be interviewing. Look them up on LinkedIn, see if you can learn where they went to school, what other jobs they may have held, when they joined the company, how many roles they’ve held and whether you share any mutual connections. Plus, LinkedIn tells people when someone visits their profile—it may bode well, showing you’re doing your research.
  2. If they haven’t provided you information about the hiring process, ASK!  You’ll want to know what to expect.
  3. Make a list of your strengths and developmental areas, and don’t shy away from speaking to both. You will be asked about them so it’s best to be prepared. Knowing what you are good at and recognizing where you need to grow are important. This shows you are self-aware, recognize that you need to learn and are open to opportunities for professional growth.
  4. Consider your work and school experiences and reflect on what went well, what could have gone better and what you learned from those experiences. It’s common for managers to ask about them, so make sure that you can speak to these things clearly. You may also want to consider how you approach your work and how you engage with others. Work is tough and you will have to work with others often to get things done; managers want to know how you collaborate and engage with others.   
  5. Make a list of the things you want to know more about; hours, expectations, manager style and learning objectives are good places to start. You may also have unique needs and interests that are specific to you– this is your time to ask! This is your opportunity to showcase your interest and motivation. Don’t hesitate to speak up!
  6. Most importantly, be yourself. Don’t be something you think the manager wants to see. The most important aspect of an internship is to ensure you have a good experience, gain real-life experience and position yourself for your career ahead. To truly achieve this, you need to be you.  

Better Your World: Check out our Careers Page

Tip 4: Practice

The more you practice for an interview, the better your interview skills will be and the better prepared you will be. Rehearsing is one of the best ways to prepare for a job interview.

  • Check with your college/university to see if they offer interview classes or workshops to help you prepare.
  • Recruit family and friends to set-up and walk through mock interviews. 

Tip 5: Make a good impression on interview day

When that exciting day arrives for your interview, make sure to consider the following:

Be professional. It’s important to dress professionally for an interview. It’s better to overdress than underdress, so don’t worry if you seem more professional than the other candidates or the interview panel.

Arrive on-time. Arrive at least 10-15 minutes early. If you feel you are early, consider waiting in your car or a nearby café; being too early can place unnecessary pressure on your interviewer.

Bring materials. While you don’t need much you may want to bring the following:

  • Additional copies of your resume (one for each interviewer)
  • A list of questions you want to ask
  • Note pad and pen to capture important information

Tip 6: Follow-up

While it may seem “old school,” hiring managers still appreciate an acknowledgment of the time they took out of their day to meet with you. An emailed thank-you note is the perfect way to thank everyone for their time and to communicate your interest. Ask for business cards from the interviewers to get their appropriate spelling of name, title and email address. 

Related Content: What My Internship Taught Me

Getting an internship doesn’t have to be an overly stressful experience. These six tips can help you not only obtain the position you want, but also achieve the experience needed to help kick-start the career you seek.

About the Expert

Michelle Johnston

Michelle Johnston, PhD is an industrial and organizational psychologist who specializes in talent selection and development and is the recruitment manager for SEH. Contact Michelle

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