The Internship Application for the USA
Internships in the USA are very much sought-after and therefore there is a higher number of applicants than open positions. Like many of you have probably already noticed, it is very difficult to find reasonable positions on the online jobportals or on the recruitment sections of corporate websites for internships abroad in general. It is important to develop a detailed application strategy. It is very advisable to directly apply at the subsidiaries in the USA instead of going through the domestic headquarters. In doing this, competition will be lower and one has the possibility to establish direct communications with the future employer. Through the sitemaps of websites of the targeted companies one can mostly find the person in charge for the HR department at the local subsidiary and apply directly. Apart from that, the second part of this guide is made up of several hundred contact addresses of attractive employers.
Moreover, it is an advantage if one can demonstrate an international orientation in the CV, e.g. through former internships or semesters abroad, or the future career planning in general. It goes without saying that you should be able to communicate on a basic level in English. That does not mean that language skills must be perfect, for many international students it is also an aim to improve these through an internship in an English-speaking environment. Apart from that, the local variation of English can also not be described as perfect.
Thus we arrive at the core question: "Why exactly an internship in the US?". As you are holding this ebook already in your hands, you obviously have some first reasons for doing your internship in this country. Arguments like "to gain international exposure" or "improving my language skills" are most frequently mentioned. They are obvious, credible and logic. However, the same goals could be achieved in many other countries as well. "Affinity to the American culture", "The Silicon Valley as the most vibrant ecosystem for the latest information technologies“, "high economic growth in many industries" are pointing towards the right direction. In your application, it is very advisable to use some of these US-specific arguments. Obviously this can be done in combination with regional and international aspects.
Usually it is best to start the application process as early as possible (up to 12 months beforehand). However, many companies do not plan their intern positions for such a long time ahead and welcome your applications 3-6 months before the desired start date. Initially, one can send an email which contains the covering letter content plus attachments for the CV and possibly also references and academic scores. Please make sure that the attachments do not turn out to be in the 5 MB + size region, this is not very beneficial as it could take some time for the HR person to download that and it clogs up the mail system. It generally looks most professional when the attachments are sent in PDF format. Most likely you will receive a reply from the company within 1 to 2 weeks. If there has not been a message until that time, you can send a short follow-up reminder email or give the company a call.
If the application has been successful, chances are high that the company would like to do a telephone interview with you. In rare cases, interviews can also be given in the office of the company in your home country (in case it is a multinational). It is also possible that your written documents will be enough to get the job.
Generally it is advisable to write an email with the application documents to the contact person in the company. Application documents in the USA include: Covering Letter and Curriculum Vitae (CV, resume). The text of the cover letter can be copied into the email text field. Alternatively, a short paragraph can be written that points to the attached application documents. Usually no additional documents should be sent in this first step. In case the company is interested, it will usually ask for further documents, such as certificates or references. Often it is an advantage to initially inquire via phone about open positions and then send the application documents.
Usually the covering letter consists of four parts. Initially the summary paragraph of your academical background followed by the most comprehensive paragraph, relating to how the acquired skills can be of benefit to the desired position or company. In the third paragraph you should mention some facts of the company which you have researched and why it would be so attractive for you to intern directly in this organisation. The fourth part forms the end with the obligatory end note. Generic applications (i.e. same covering letter for tens or hundreds of companies) will mostly not work. It is very recommendable to do a little research on the specific company over their website before sending in the application. The cover letter does not particularly differ from that in e.g. European countries. However, choosing a self-confident and career-ambitious style without sounding arrogant, goes down well with Americans. If you already have a visa for the USA, you should definitely mention that also.
The CV differs from the European model. No photograph and no signature are used. Besides that, the structure is slightly different, as the following example illustrates. One should realize that certain Europeam degrees (except for Bachelor and Master) and the grading system are widely unknown in the USA. Thus it is advisable to give a short explanation. The CV should not exceed a length of two pages.
Practically proven templates for CVs and Covering Letters for applications in the US can be found in the Internship Guide USA.