How to Write an Internship Resume
Throughout my 20+ year hiring career, including my most recent role as VP Global Talent Acquisition at Amazon, I've reviewed thousands of internship resumes. Some were good. Most were not. I've seen what works for internship resumes. And what doesn't work.
Your internship resume is a unique resume that will be used only during your college years as you pursue internships as an undergraduate student. Yet it will also form the foundation for your future entry level resume. It will not get you the internship you are seeking, but a poor resume can keep you from getting the interview and ultimately the internship itself. So make sure your internship resume is rock solid before you begin your internship search.
Step 1: Use the right internship resume format
The foundational key to a successful internship resume is starting with the right format. It is important to understand the difference between format and content. The format is the structure and layout of your internship resume, including each section and how it is properly formatted on screen and on paper. The ideal format will work well both electronically (for submission both via email and online) as well as on paper (for use by the interviewer). And this format is usually where most college students struggle when they have to make a resume for their internship search. Or they end up using the wrong format, like the pre-formatted Word templates included with Word which are designed for experienced jobs, not internships.
The good news is that CollegeGrad.com provides you with the correct internship resume format to use for free. Our award-winning Quickstart Internship Resume Templates are pre-written Word internship resume templates that allow you to quickly and simply place your resume content into our format. They are available online for your free use. And our Quickstart Resume Generator tool allows you to quickly build your internship resume online and export to Word format. Use these internship resume tools as your starting point for creating your internship resume.
Step 2: Contact section
This is the easiest section of your internship resume. The only core requirements for you are to include your name, phone number and email address. For your name, use First Last as the format unless you have a common name, in which case you may want to use either a middle initial or your full middle name to help uniquely identify yourself. However, it's still acceptable to use just First Last as the format even if you are Jane Smith or John Jones, since your phone number and email address are both uniquely your own. I usually recommend middle initial as the standard, but it's your personal choice.
Including your physical address is optional, at your discretion. It does give the resume reviewer and interviewer and indicator of where you are presently located physically. You can include either your campus address or your home address, whichever is preferable. My recommendation is to use your campus address if you are looking for internships near campus or are geographically open, but use your home address if you are looking for internships near your home. Or you can include both by stacking one left justified and the other right justified. Your address would be listed directly below your name and before your phone number and email address. It is no longer a requirement to include "M:" or "C:" before your phone number to indicate mobile or cell, since that is now the standard assumption, so just listing your phone number in either (123) 456-7890 or 123-456-7890 format is acceptable.
For your listed email, make sure the email address you use is either generic to your name (i.e. First.Last@gmail.com or First.Last@college.edu) or at least broadly generic. If your personal email address is a funny or snarky name or phrase or even a personal nickname, now is the time to go to Gmail and get a new email address setup specifically for your job search. Then make sure you are checking your inbox regularly.
Step 3: Internship objective section
This is the hardest section of your internship resume. Because how you define your internship resume objective will drive both the content for the intern resume as well as the direction of your internship search. Your internship objective section should be broad enough to be inclusive of all potential internship opportunities for which you are qualified and want to be considered, yet specific enough to be exclusive of all intern opportunities for which you are either not qualified or do not want to be considered. This is where you need to finally put a direction stake in the ground on who you hope to be when you grow up and what you want to do with your college education in the world of work.
Do not skip this section or take the advice of a resume writer who tells you that you can leave it off your resume. I am speaking from the other-side-of-the-desk perspective as someone who has hired and, perhaps more importantly, not hired thousands of college interns. It is not my job to figure out what you want to do in your internship. That's your job. Take the time to get it right. Once you have your internship objective narrowed down, your internship search will become more targeted and focused. Your internship objective should be a combination of one, two or three parameters: 1) internship job type; 2) industry; and/or 3) geography. Do your best to get it right, yet don't let this keep you from getting started. Take your best shot at it now, knowing that you can further narrow or broaden your internship objective in the future. If you need more help with writing your internship objective, check out our How To Write a Resume Objective guide to walk you through each step in the development of your personal resume objective.
Step 4: Education section
Your internship education section can be as minimal as two lines or on the other end of the spectrum could potentially fill the majority of the page. The quantity you use depends on how much other content you have, especially in the experience section. You basically have 45-55 lines to spend on your resume. How you spend them depends on how you value each line of potential content. Or, more specifically, how the resume reviewer will value them. Spend these lines wisely. At a minimum, you need to list your future degree and the date you expect to receive it on the first line, then your college or university and location on the second line. I often see these two lines reversed, which is incorrect. Ask the question: Which is more important to the resume reviewer, the college you will be graduating from or the degree you will receive? Clearly, it's the latter and that's where the resume reviewer's eye will go first. So list it first. These two mandatory lines will continue in your professional resume for the remainder of your career.
However, for internships, you have the opportunity to list additional information. Specifically, your GPA and your coursework. List your GPA if it is above 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. If your overall GPA is under 3.0, but your major GPA is above 3.0, list your major GPA instead. And do not list your GPA if both are under 3.0. For coursework, you can list as many courses as you deem relevant to your objective, but remember that you are using up lines which could be used elsewhere in your resume. If you already have some internship experience, you may want to minimize this subsection. But for most internship resumes, you will want to list your most important classes in reverse order of importance in a one-, two- or three-column format. You can include all classes that you expect to complete by summer, but do NOT include classes you plan to take after your internship. You do not have to use the formal class name provided by your university. Use a descriptive name if it provides a better description of the actual class content for the resume reviewer.
Step 5: Experience section
The experience section is the most highly variable section for internship resumes. Most internship resumes tend to fairly consistent in the education section, especially for students in the same major at the same college. After all, your classmates in your major sitting next to you in class have usually taken most of the same classes up to this point. So the experience section is often the key differentiator and what makes a good internship resume. If you are still early in your college career, I cannot stress enough how important it is to work to build out your resume experience through internships and summer jobs tied to your major. You may wonder what to put on your resume when you have no experience. "Do I need experience on my resume in order to get the internship?"
Even if you do not have formal internship experience yet, any work experience which can be tied to your objective is important. Each job listing in the experience section includes three subsections: 1) title and employment dates; 2) employer and location; and 3) job description and/or summary of accomplishments and delivered results. Note that this last subsection is what is the most uniquely you. What you delivered in your role is the key overall differentiator. The job description is fine as an intro, but doesn't describe your performance or development in the role. A job description is a listing of the features of the experience. The benefits of the experience are what you actually delivered. The listing of the results you achieved. Not only is this information key differentiating resume content, it will also form the basis of your behavioral answering in your future interviews. This is what will set you apart from others in seeking your internship. If you don't have extensive experience yet, don't sweat it. That's what the internship is all about, building that resume experience section. But any summer jobs or jobs concurrent to your education you may have had to date will help to differentiate you from others in seeking an internship, so be sure to list them.
Step 6: Optional sections: Summary, Skills, Activities and/or Awards sections
If you have filled out a full page with the four sections above, you are finished. If not, and you are looking to add additional content to fill out the page, there are four additional sections you can consider adding.
Summary is a two or three bullet point summary of who you are and what you have to offer the employer. It goes immediately after the objective section and before your education section.
Skills is a section where you can list specific keywords that are relevant to your role. These should be keywords which indicate a level of proficiency in a skill or competency you can use to be an immediate contributor. This also is placed before the education section.
The activities section is often used by college students who are light on experience, but have notable activities during college which show leadership or proficiency in an area tied to the major. Another use of the activities section is to include notable class projects, especially cornerstone/capstone projects related to your major. However, note that if any of these activities are paid roles, they can and should shift to the experience section. Activities should be placed after the experience section. Awards can be used if you have two or more notable awards achieved which are not otherwise incorporated into other parts of the resume and would be placed at the end of your resume.
Each of these optional sections should only be used if you have the space on one page to further fill out the page. They should not be used to lengthen the resume beyond one page. For a variety of examples of content for these optional sections, review our QuickStart Resume Templates. Each template has a sample of relevant points for a different major.
Step 7: Save your internship resume using the right file format
Your baseline internship resume should be saved in Word file format for flexibility in making future changes. Use "First_Last.docx" for the file name. But then save the final resume you deliver to employers as a PDF in .pdf format using the same file name convention: First_Last.pdf. Do not make the mistake of adding additional qualifiers in the file name such as "Intern" or "Internship" or a job type, industry, geography, employer name or version number. It is acceptable for you to have multiple versions of your resume if you are targeting a specific subset, but the best way to practice version control is to save each different versions in a different folder, while retaining the same file name. Then make sure you keep each respective resume updated with any universal changes you might make to your baseline resume.
Last step is to save your resume in text format (.txt), but make sure you also preview your text resume for proper formatting. Most resume submissions will be in either PDF or TXT formats. PDF is the resume file standard for attaching to an email or online file submission, while TXT is the resume file standard for copy-and-paste of your resume into an online application.
Now that you have your resume completed, it's time to put it to work! Take a look at Internship Job Postings that are currently posted at CollegeGrad.com to begin submitting your resume for internships near you.
Congrats! You are now on your way!