6 Steps to Landing an Ad Agency Internship

Our copywriting/account service intern, Hailey Chivers, impressed us from day one, so we asked her to write up her best advice for landing an internship. We may have weighed in a little, too.


So, you want to be an intern at an agency? It’s definitely not easy, but an internship is the best way to prepare for the working world. Of course, before you can get that invaluable experience, you’ll need to score the interview. Let’s skip the obvious things, like dressing appropriately and having a firm handshake. Try these six secrets to standing out.

Oh, and don’t forget to breathe. Breathing is good, too.

1. The Hunt

If you’re reading this, you’ve already unlocked the first big tool in the application process: the internet! The Google is always there for you. The Google knows all. Research types of places you’d love to work. Read every page and every bio on their website. Follow all of their social media pages. Agencies often post new openings on their Facebook pages, and familiarizing yourself with a company’s internet presence will give you something to work from when you customize your resume. While you’re at it, clean up those weekend party pics from your timeline, and delete those rants from your Twitter feed. Nothing will send your resume to the shredder faster than an unprofessional social media presence, especially if you’re applying to be a social media intern. Really, go fix that stuff now before they look you up (which they will!).

2. The Resume

With a little wordsmithing, you can take whatever experience you have and put it into context for the job you’re applying for:

  • Maybe you’ve slaved away at a fast food joint for the past five years making minimum wage, only to go home to your dorm to study for tomorrow’s big exam. I get that, and so will employers. Working your way through school is an achievement and you should give yourself some credit for it. What matters is how you present your experience. For example, if you’re applying for a client service internship, you can explain how working the Starbucks drive-thru has given you great customer service skills.
  • Highlight any leadership experience you have, whether it’s being a shift leader or heading a fundraising event for your sorority. This shows you know how to manage responsibilities and work well with other people.
  • Final note about resumes: This is NOT the time to get playful with colors and fonts. Keep it simple and easy to read; it’s just what you should do.
“The Google is always there for you. The Google knows all.”

3. The Cover Letter

Sometimes there are things you want employers to know, but you just can’t find a way to explain it in your résumé. Don’t just forget about it – put it in a cover letter! The cover letter is a wonderful invention that allows you to speak in your own (professional) voice, as if you’re writing a letter to preface the interview. Keep your writing clear and concise as you explain why you’re applying. This is a great place to show that you’ve done your research about the company, without actually saying it. Finally, be sure to have several people look over your letter and résumé for any errors or awkward writing. Need extra tips? Check out these cover letter hacks from our own Poof. Done. Effortless.

4. The Follow-Up

Be persistent! Once you’ve submitted your thoroughly and thoughtfully prepared materials, you wait. Be patient; the hiring process takes time. A good rule of thumb is to follow up within a week after you submit your application. This can take many forms, from a quick phone call to confirm that your application has been received to a cordial email expressing how excited you were to hear of the opening. This small step will give you an edge above the rest. Don’t overdo it or seem desperate. Just make enough contact to show you’re eager.

5. The Interview

When it comes time to interview, preparation is key. Start by anticipating questions your interviewer might ask. Use tips from your professors or friends who are experienced in interviewing at an agency. Don’t be embarrassed to hold a mock interview; it will help you feel confident on the big day. Typically, toward the end of an interview, you’ll be asked if you have any questions. Don’t forget this step! Have a go-to question that shows thoughtful consideration of the position.

6. The Mysterious Portfolio

Another tool you should consider is a portfolio. I know, the word scares you. That’s OK – I didn’t know what a portfolio was until I asked around (and, of course, Googled it). Basically, you just need a leather folder from any office supply store to neatly display work you’ve done (spec work counts!). An online portfolio shown on a tablet works, too. It helps to include work that relates to the position you’re applying for. Work this in naturally during the interview. Lastly, don’t forget to have several copies of your resume in your portfolio. You never know – they might need an extra.

6.5. Follow Up Again

Post-interview, be sure to thank the interviewer by mailing a nice handwritten note or a polite email. Acknowledge that they have taken the time to consider your application and thank them for it! Manners matter.

Now that I’ve equipped you with some essentials, take the advice, make it your own and run with it! Pass along my advice, or don’t. Either way, I hope I’ve inspired you.

Happy hunting, future intern!

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Guest Blog Author: Balcom Agency writer

Tags: Advice for Students

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