Thursday, 25 October 2018

Nailing Your Internship Cover Letter & CV

Since uploading my comprehensive guide to interning in London (which you can read HERE if you haven't already), I've received a lot of requests to share more about the process of securing an internship and putting forward the best version of yourself to potential employers. In my initial post I've given the full low down on the best websites to find fashion and beauty internships, plus tips and tricks for making sure you're always first in line when a new opening is posted, but what about the application itself?



YOUR CV

So. You've found your dream role online and are itching to apply. First things first, ensuring your CV is up to date and looking it's best is probably the most important step you can take. Whilst it's frustrating that one document is make or break in terms of getting your personality and skills across to potential employers, if you can nail the layout and content to begin with then making little tweaks along the way as you gain more experience becomes super easy. 

If you're looking to break into a creative industry or role then I highly recommend making your CV a reflection of this. Whilst an application for a law firm or bank may not go down as well with colour and photos, I truly think a key way to make your application stands out in fashion is by focusing on the layout as much as the written content! When I applied for a role at ASOS, the team shared during the interview process that they had received nearly 3,000 applications for one internship role- if that's not proof enough that your CV needs to stand out from the crowd I don't know what is! Below I've shared a copy of my CV for you to get an idea of the layout and style; Pinterest is also a great resource for this sort of thing and if you were to search for 'creative CVs' you'll be inundated with inspiration! 


I've divided my CV into sections so that the most relevant information is easily accessible and immediately eye catching for an employer at first glance. The main sections that I feel are important to feature (and were also advised by the placement team at my university) include a personal profile, education details, experience, skills, interests and achievements and personal details. Within my CV I've combined some of these sections together, for example I feel my skills are shown within the experience and interests section of my CV, but feel free to use your creativity to highlight these in a way you feel is more suited to you and roles you're applying for! For example, if you're a graphic designer looking to showcase your Adobe Suite skills, I've seen some really clever ways of showcasing proficiency on each platform in a bold way which will immediately show an employer how competent you are in each area.

I've included my education history and grades in a timeline format, mainly as this saves some space on my CV (I try to keep it to one page if possible!) but also because I think this layout is a little more interesting in adding a less wordy element. Unless there is a grade or subject that you think is especially relevant to a role, it's often not necessary to list every GCSE grade you received- to keep this section shorter on my CV I simply stated the main grades of English, Maths and Sciences and then mentioned I had 10 qualifications in total! If an employer really wants to know this information, they can always ask further questions during an interview! 

Moving on to previous experience, I made sure that under each of my previous roles I listed the responsibilities of each, mainly because there were clear differences between them (I moved from styling to PR to social media) and wanted to share details of my roles with potential employers to demonstrate a varied skill set. Be really mindful of not making your CV too wordy (something I'm still working on) but whilst also including all the important and relevant information. It's a fine balance but getting a friend or family member to look over it once you've finished is always a good step to 1) point out any spelling or grammar errors and 2) to get a fresh pair of eyes to look over the layout and give any feedback! 



YOUR COVER LETTER

When applying for roles they often ask for a cover letter as well your CV because when receiving so many applications, it's often the only thing that employers can use to differentiate between applicants! NEVER APPLY FOR A ROLE WITHOUT A COVER LETTER. Even if the company hasn't explicitly expressed that a cover letter is required, including a few paragraphs laid out in a similar style to your CV won't take you long to put together but WILL go a long way in impressing the company in question. I've shared an example of a cover letter I used to apply to Birchbox as part of my placement year and it encompasses pretty much the same format that I've used for all my cover letters. It may seem lengthy but I've secured a number of interviews from letters in this style and I think it's super important to come across as passionately as possible when ultimately persuading a company to give you a chance! 



As you can see mine is displayed using the same colour palette as my CV for continuity and professionalism, however I've used a traditional letter format so that the information is easily accessible! The general format I use for a cover letter is:


Salutation:
E.g. Dear Emma Smith 
(Always use a name where possible! Websites such as LinkedIn, FashionMonitor or even just Twitter and Instagram are great resources for finding the correct department or name if you're applying via email and not the company website).

Introduction:
Introduce your current situation e.g. student, what year of study you're in, if you're about to embark on a placement year or your summer break etc! Indicate whether you're applying for a specific and advertised role or are just emailing speculatively to see if there are any available opportunities you can fill.

Top tip: Numerous interviews I've had and even my role at Marie Claire came about through me finding company contacts online and emailing with my CV and a cover letter outlining who I was and what I hoped to seek from an internship. Take a risk and be a bit ballsy- it often pays off!


Your Strengths: 
SELL YO' SELF. This is the time to let loose and basically tell the employer what an amazing/enthusiastic/dedicated/punctual and all round bad ass worker you are (maybs using more professional language) to convince them you're right for the job. 

Emphasise the best skills and expand on impressive areas from your CV!

Give examples of times when you've put your amazing skills into practice either in previous roles or during education to give context to your claims and show how you could apply this to their company. 



Express Your Knowledge of The Job:
Showcase your knowledge of the company and the role! SHOW OFF A BIT. If it's a company you really adore- mention previous campaigns you enjoyed or engaged with. Talk about recent marketing emails/tweets/competitions that they've shared (whichever is applicable for the company) and speak passionately about them. I'm always quite enthusiastic in this part but I do think it's important to share how excited you are about the opportunity rather than being blasé. 

Describe how you would be an asset to the company by looking at the required skills of the job role and linking these back to your CV or aspects of your degree/studying. Always relate what they're asking for back to you and make it clear that you would be capable and enthusiastic about fulfilling the role! 

If you're hoping to enter an industry that you've had no previous experience in, hopefully you'll have some 'extra curricular' activities that you can reference instead. For example, when applying for my Social and Content role at Birchbox, I had never worked in the industry before however had been uploading to my own blog and social media for 5 years previously. Sell yourself with the skills you already have and make it clear that you're keen to work on any areas you aren't as competent in. 

Positive Ending: 
Restate your interest and suitability and express that you hope to hear from them soon!

It all sounds very formal and technical but I've written dozens of cover letters in the search for my different internship roles and once you've done it a couple of times it becomes super easy to keep the same format and just personalise it for that specific role or company! 


THE INTERVIEW

Although this post was originally focused on the application stages of internships, I thought I'd just mention a few tips for the interview stages if you're lucky enough to secure one! Each interview is of course different, but there are definitely some hints and tips I've picked up along the way that I think apply to most roles and are good to bear in mind when doing your research beforehand.

Below are a few foolproof questions to prepare answers to and are likely to come up in the earlier stages of a telephone chat and also as part of the in person interview that will follow if you've been successful!

1. What do you know about X brand?
2. What was it about this role in particular that attracted you to it?
3. Tell us about your previous experience / tell us a little about X on your CV ...
4. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
5. What are you hoping to gain from the experience?
6. Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
7. Tell us about a recent campaign of ours that you liked ...
8. What could we do to improve X, Y, Z?
9. Tell us about a time you worked well in a team/under pressure/worked through a problem?
10. What motivates you?

These are just a few of the most commonly asked questions that I've come across in internship interviews that may be worth bearing in mind and considering answers to! Of course all brands are different and have various requirements for potential candidates so preparing your own answers to questions along these lines is a great starting point!

I really hope this post has been helpful and the combination of this information along with my guide to interning in London has equipped you with all you will need to succeed in any applications you send out! It's a tricky industry and rejection comes as part and parcel of that, but hopefully you'll be feeling positive and empowered about tackling it! Good luck!   
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