3. Cover letters, CVs, and Final Interviews

Welcome to the final blog on the application process to become part of the Saltire Foundation. If you have read the two previous enthralling posts, I’m baffled as to why, but thank you. This one is going to be about the Candidate Pool cover letters, CVs, and final interviews. This is where many of the applicants were whittled away, so congratulations on making it this far. This year, 1,500 students applied with 170 going on internships that summer. If you’re at this stage, I estimate that you now have a whopping 20-30% chance of getting a scholarship!

You’re going to be receiving lists of internships via the Saltire website. In my case, there were four lists, the first three of which had internships abroad. The fourth may have had one or two abroad, but generally the last list doesn’t due to visa timings. You may apply to three internships per list maximum, and you usually receive feedback from your top preference on the list should you not make it to the interview stage.

I don’t have any wise advice on how to choose your internships. They should certainly be what you want to do and what you see being most beneficial to you. I mainly have advice on writing your cover letters and CVs, and for approaching your interviews. Here goes.

  • Write different CVs for each internship, even if the internships only vary slightly.
  • Write different cover letters for each internship. You may splice paragraphs from previous cover letters that work.
  • Research the company you are applying to heavily. Really heavily. If you have never heard of them, you’re going to need more than a restructured wikipedia introduction to make them believe you’re interested.
    • I didn’t get an offer until the third list, despite having applied to three internships on list one - I didn’t apply to list two. The feedback I received from my first preference on list one said the following.

“Connor conveys his enthusiasm for the position and experience well. However, other applicants performed more research into [Trading Company] as an organisation and aligned this to their future goals and aspirations, which showed a clear fit between the role and their ambition. In future cover letters Connor would do well to assign 50-100 words on research about the company he is applying for, which would show a greater correlation between his goals and the company he is applying to. “

  • Demonstrate your passion in their industry.
  • Demonstrate your social skills by looking to experiences outside of the technical role. You could be the best engineer in the country, but if you are unable to empathise or be open-minded your application will be discarded.
  • Importantly, when you make it to the final interview stage, do everything in your power to speak to previous interns at that company. Even speak to employees if you can. Bringing up the fact that you went down every path you could will pay dividends in your interview.
    • I mentioned in my interview that I had spoken to a previous intern, Stuart, and I’m fairly certain the big smile on the interviewers when I said it won me the position. If you’re reading, thanks, Stuart!
  • Finally, because you’ve made it to the interview, they are already fairly certain you have the technical skills for the job. There may be technical questions, usually verification ones about your CV, and maybe some on work you may take on in the summer. What they will be looking for is you as a person. Try not to ramble, have fun with the interviewer, and just relax.
    • Upon arrival on my internship, my interviewer, Bryan, said he literally hired me because I seemed like I could be the most fun. Poor guy didn’t know what he was getting himself into.

After all the above was said and done, I was offered an internship at Envision Solar in San Diego, California as a UX/UI Engineer! I’m here now, have been for three weeks, and having a fantastic time. If any of you reading this are looking to apply to Envision Solar, I’ll be available to talk more about my experiences. Just send me a message on LinkedIn or leave a comment on my website. Best of luck to you all, and thanks for reading. Please follow my future posts, where it will be not-so-humble brags about my time in California.

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Written on June 5, 2018