There’s a frustrating Catch-22 facing students and recent college grads on the hunt for an entry-level job: you often need experience to get experience. One valuable way to get a foothold in any industry, particularly in the highly competitive tech space, is to find an internship. So we’ve come up with an eight-step guide to help you land a data analyst internship.
Step 1: Talk to Advisors and Career Counselors
If you’re paying for school, chances are you’re shelling out a significant amount of money for guidance services. Get your money’s worth. Schedule an appointment with your academic adviser. They often have connections, and can save you a lot of work. Plus, they’ll probably give you a glowing recommendation because they think you’re rad for stepping up.
Another option is to visit your career counseling office, if your university has one. (Even if you’ve already graduated, career counseling services might still available to you.) Nearby companies usually put out feelers for job candidates with universities and will have direct contact with counselors. They’ll most likely have a convenient list of companies that offer data analyst internships. While you’re there, they can give you advice on how to design your resume, how to conduct yourself during the interview, and much more.
If you’re enrolled in Springboard’s data science bootcamp, you’ve got a mentor who can guide you toward opportunities as well. These mentors work in the industry, so they can give you real-world insights about the field.
Step 2: Research and Compile Deadlines
Most of the time, you’re not going to be handed an internship after talking to advisors or counselors—not that it’s unheard of, so, you know, talk to them if you can. That means you’re still going to have to do some of your own research. LinkedIn, AngelList, and Glassdoor are great places to start.
The importance of thorough research cannot be overstated. Especially at this point in your career, when employers are judging you on your character and potential more than your experience, you have to show that you’re genuinely interested in the company.
Rajeeb Dey, CEO at Enternships.com, has this to say:
“We work with a lot of employers, and time and again the number one piece of feedback we get when they reject candidates is that ‘they didn’t seem to know, or care, much about our company,’” he wrote on Quora.
If you’ve been told which companies to apply for, or even have an interview set up as a result of your conversations, you’ll still want to visit the company website. Peruse the “About” page. Scan the blog. Figure out exactly what each company is and what they do.
Of course, make sure you’ve read and understood the data analyst intern job description as well. Take notes on your research, as you’re going to need it when prepping your resume.
While you’re researching, compile a list of deadlines. Internships, especially paid ones, are highly competitive. You’ll have an edge if you apply early, so make sure you know the expectations and that you’re going to exceed them, not barely meet them.
Step 3: Start Filling Out the First Application
Before you start prepping your resume, I recommend filing the first application, or, at the very least, starting it.
This is because many employers ask for many different types of resumes in different formats. In addition, while you’re filling out this application, you’ll get a better sense of what the company wants and what other companies looking for similar interns want. In other words, the process of filing the application becomes part of the research.
Most of these applications will be online. A lot of them will have their own application portals. Make sure that, if you’re filing an application that you intend to finish later, you remember (or save in a safe place) the credentials for the online portal they’re using. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to start from scratch on applications because I forgot the creds for the portal a week later.
I trust you know your way around these forms. They’re tedious, I know. (Is there anything more frustrating than providing your full work history on an application that also requires a resume complete with, oh look at that, a full work history?) You can ease your suffering a bit, though.
Autofill settings have become pretty handy. This first application probably won’t be the last. Sometimes interns file dozens of applications before they land anything. Plan for that. Unfortunately, Chrome’s default autofill settings aren’t exactly swole. They’ll help with excessively common fields such as name, address, and phone number, but they could use some enhancement.
Fortunately, autofill ‘roids are available on the Chrome Web Store. In addition, make sure you’ve got an updated LinkedIn and Indeed account. Often these will have 1-click application processes or will autofill forms for you.
Something important here: Make sure the information you provide is consistent across sources. What you provide in your applications should match, more or less, what you list in your resume, LinkedIn profile, Indeed, Glassdoor—everything.
Step 4: Prepare Your Resume and Cover Letter
At some point during the application process, you’ll be asked to upload a resume and you might also be asked to upload a cover letter.
You can imitate the process for a full-fledged data analyst resume, but there will be some differences in your own.
Of course, I’m guessing the biggest gap in your resume is experience, if you’re applying for internships. That means you might find yourself staring into an empty void of white space, panicking. Don’t. Employers looking for data interns don’t typically expect a lot of experience, at least not professional work experience.
Here are a few sections you can add to your resume to help fill it out:
- A professional summary: Normally, I am not a proponent of these, mostly because they’re inherently redundant. However, they’re not a bad idea for an intern resume, if you’re struggling to fill space (not that filling space is necessarily the goal). Show here that you’re reflecting on who you are and where you want to go.
- Coursework: Don’t be afraid to list some of the relevant courses you’ve taken. It gives employers a sense of where you are in your education and a talking point during the interview.
- Extracurriculars: Some of your extracurriculars can be listed as though they were job experience. For example, if you hold a position in student government, list it. If you’re head of a data science club, that would look quite good. If you work on the student newspaper, list that as well. The point is to show that you’re not just going through the motions with school work, doing the bare minimum. You’re the kind of person who looks for responsibility.
- Education: Be sure to list what school(s) you’re attending and your expected graduation date.
- Volunteer activities: If you’re active in the community, that can be a great thing to list on your resume. It shows work ethic.
This article has more information about line items for resumes light on work experience.
Of course, always tailor your resume to the job description and company.
As for the cover letter, sometimes employers will specifically ask you to upload one. Sometimes they won’t. That begs the question: should you always prepare one? The short answer is no, not always, but do so where you can and where required. I’m a writer, so I love cover letters. They give me a chance to demonstrate that I can write.
If you’re a good writer as well as a data nerd, try to include a cover letter. If you’re not going to put in any effort to make it a good cover letter, and it’s not required, don’t do it. A bad cover letter is a lot worse than no cover letter. Likewise, if there’s no place for it, then it’s probably best not to hunt someone down and thrust it insistently into their hands (or inbox).
Some tips if you do write a cover letter:
- Avoid making it too templatized; if it doesn’t add value to your application, it shouldn’t be there. Give it your own voice and your own personality.
- Clearly communicate who you are and what you want, beyond simply stating: “I really want this job.” Show that you want it, but also show why you want it and what will make you good at it.
- Match your resume design. This adds a bit of a personal touch.
- Make sure someone else reads it and gives you feedback.
- Triple check that you’re sending the right cover letter to the right company. Getting your application tossed because you left the name of the last company you sent a similar cover letter to in the address (or body) would suck. It happens, a lot.
- Tailor your cover letter to the specific company to which you’re applying. Demonstrate your research here. Make it clear that you are interested enough to invest your time learning more.
Here’s a list of mistakes to avoid with cover letters in general.
Step 5: Send Out Lots of Applications
It’s a good idea to cast a wide net and keep your options open. Did you know that some people on unemployment are required to submit a certain number of applications per week? In Arizona, the magic number is four. You have no such requirement, but it couldn’t hurt to treat the search for a data analyst internship this way. If you get multiple offers, you now have negotiating power.
Step 6: Prepare for the Interview
Let’s say you’ve scored an interview. Do a victory dance, but the work’s not over.
Nicolas Benavides, now a data scientist at Stanford, wrote about his experience landing a data analyst internship. The interview process started with phone screens. These conversations included behavioral questions, basically meant to determine whether he was a healthy, safe person. After that, sometimes employers would give him tasks to complete in order to demonstrate his aptitude for programming and communicating.
You’ll probably find yourself in the same situations. Run yourself through mock interviews to prepare. Here’s how:
- Generate a list of questions.
- Think about, or even write down, answers to those questions (I usually just write bullets).
- Practice performing them in a mirror.
- Evaluate yourself, and correct mistakes you make (“ums”, long pauses, grammatical errors).
- Repeat. Do it better than before.
I find doing this makes me infinitely more confident before interviews. It also gives you a chance to surreptitiously ease in your knowledge of the company, if you correctly anticipate the questions you’ll be asked. Here’s a list of data analyst intern interview questions people have been asked, compiled by Glassdoor.
In addition to anticipating their questions, you’ll want to develop a list of your own—questions you can’t easily get answers to online, and questions that are not entirely self-involved.
- An example of a good question: “How can I make my first few months on the job successful with your company?”
- An example of a bad question: “What will you pay me?”
Here’s a list of good questions from TechRepublic.
While you’re preparing, make sure you’ve got the appropriate clothes for the company (business formal, casual, business casual, etc.). Wash them and set them aside. Then print five copies of your resume to bring with you.
Step 7: Nail the Interview
Do everything in your power to arrive on time to the interview. I’ve been a broke student and understand this isn’t always as easy as it sounds. If you don’t have transportation, beg, borrow, steal. (OK, maybe don’t steal.) If you plan to take public transportation, practice taking the route beforehand. Making these sorts of preparations will put you at ease the day of the interview.
This is important. Practice relaxation before the interview. Your posture actually has a lot to do with your mood and confidence. Keep this relaxed too.
When you’re actually in the interview, try to be relaxed, without looking too relaxed (you don’t want to make it seem like you don’t care).
Remember what you practiced, but be present. Respond to the questions asked of you. Remain polite and courteous. Shake hands. Thank everyone afterward.
When you get home, thank them again via email and remind them how enthusiastic you are about the job.
Step 8: Wait and Negotiate
You could receive an offer immediately, or you could be made to wait.
If it’s definitely the job you want, and they make you an offer, feel free to accept it. If you have a few other companies you are waiting on responses from, though, ask if you can have time to consider. Usually, employers will give you this. I would honestly be hesitant to accept the offer if they weren’t understanding on this front. They should want the best for you too.
If you’ve got multiple offers, sometimes it helps to be transparent about it. If you feel comfortable talking it over with your would-be employer(s), that’s perfect. You’re in a good place. Let them help you weigh the options. Don’t play hardball. You’re not in that position. But lay out the facts, and let them know you really want to work for them, but there’s another great company at the table. In this way, you could get counter offers that improve your pay, or they could give you additional information that helps you make a decision.
If you don’t receive offers immediately, resist the urge to pester. Sometimes these decisions take time. If it has taken a couple of weeks, send one more note reminding them that you’re still interested, but be careful not to point fingers or cast blame for making you wait. Let them know you’re standing in the doorway, but don’t ring the bell furiously.
If you are one of the lucky few to get a rejection, rather than no reply, politely ask what went wrong. This can help you amend your tactics for the next time.
If you repeat this process, eventually, you’ll get a data analyst internship. All you need is a little patience.
For more career-focused guidance, check out Springboard’s Data Science Career Track. It’s an intensive, mentor-guided bootcamp with a job guarantee.