Resumes for student internships: a guide (including a handy checklist)
So, you’ve decided to take on the rewarding challenge of an internship in Japan. You’ve got a list of potential companies to pursue in one hand, advertised internship positions in another, and a head full of career aspirations.
Now you just need to land the perfect internship. In order to do so, you are going to need a stand-out resume.
In this guide we go over resume basics, some considerations for Japan, and include a handy checklist to help you craft a powerful resume.
Why do I need a resume?
Your resume is your initial opportunity to showcase yourself to potential employers, not unlike a marketing brochure introducing a company’s services. Let’s imagine you’ve received such a brochure in the post. This might be the first time you’ve ever heard of the company, and whether or not you look further into what they offer hinges on the brochure you now hold in your hands. The purpose is to get you to visit the store, and once you get to the store, a successful sales rep will get you to buy something.
Likewise, your resume is usually the first place the recruiter or hiring manager will look to find out about you. As such it is a vital document that you should invest time and effort into to ensure you are invited for an interview and a chance to sell yourself.
What are employers looking for?
In your resume, you will answer several important questions: Who are you? Why are you applying? What can you bring to the table?
Essentially, employers want to find people who will solve their problems, serve their needs, and fit in. They will scan your resume to look for the information that answers these questions. Often touted research states that employers and recruiters look at resumes for an average of 6 seconds, which means you have about the same time as it takes to fire up your laptop and log in to your LeaddMe account to capture their attention and let them know you fit the bill.
Of course, when applying for a student internship, employers know that you are probably not going to come with bucketloads of the specific experience and skills they might expect from regular employees. But still, your resume should make them excited to have found your resume amongst the pile and make them eager to meet you.
Japanese or Western resume?
When applying for an internship in Japan, it is important to consider the type of company you are applying to.
If you are applying to a Japanese company, it might be necessary to provide a rirekisho (Japanese version of a resume). This type of resume is relatively rigid in form so you can easily purchase a template from a convenience store and follow an online guide such as this one for filling it out.
However, if you are applying to an international company where the company language is English, you can definitely go with a western-style resume in line with much of the advice here. Even with Japanese companies, the landscape is changing and foreigners in particular aren’t usually expected to submit a rirekisho. In fact, submitting a Western-style resume might be a good strategic move to show your point of difference.
Either way, it is important to pay attention to any guidance the company gives you regarding what to submit.
Mindset: How should college students approach their resume?
Scroll down to see our step-by-step guide for creating your resume from scratch. However, before you dive in, let’s discuss some of the key considerations that will have a big impact on your resume’s performance.
You DO have skills and experience
You might feel like you have nothing to offer as an intern with no “real” experience. But you do! Employers won’t expect you to have much professional experience to show, which gives you scope to be a little creative about pulling skills and valuable experiences out of volunteer work, club activities, group projects, and academic endeavours. Your first step should be to brainstorm and create a list of all your experiences in which you demonstrated skills or attributes that could translate to usefulness in the workplace.
What to do
- Make a list of your skills
- Think outside the box
- Don’t discount “non-professional” experience
What not to do
- Lie or exaggerate about your skills and experience
It’s not about you (entirely)
Your resume is basically a sales document. And one of the first rules of sales, is that it’s not about you. It’s about the customer. No sales pitch that drones on about the company without showing customers that they can fill a customer’s need has much success. While everyone on both sides know that internships are largely about your development (and you should include a statement about what you hope to get out of it), your goal should still be to convince your potential employer of what you can do to help them. Your resume should also show your commitment and interest (passion, even) for their industry.
With that in mind it is VITAL that you read the job description carefully to understand what it is they are looking for. Do some research to find out what skills employers in your industry value and what challenges the company might be facing. Compare it to the list you created to find matches and highlight those throughout your resume using any industry-specific keywords or lingo you found. However, be careful not to include meaningless buzzwords without giving specific examples E.g. Rather than writing “I am a dynamic communicator” without backing it up, try something like “I employed effective communication skills when my team faced a challenge by...” is much more effective.
While you might be tempted to thoroughly describe every achievement and work experience you have, be purposeful about what you include. For example, in a resume for a legal internship, you might include your experience as a waitress and describe your ability to multitask and communicate clearly. However, it would not be quite as useful to also list your ability to make a knock-out mocha latte, no matter how proud of that skill you are.
What to do
- Read the job description, many times
- Research key skills and needs of the company
What not to do
- Include irrelevant skills/experience
Fitting in is important
Every company has a certain culture and your hiring manager is an individual with a personality. As much as skills and experience, managers are looking to find people who will work well within their team.
Make sure to find out as much as you can about the company by reading their website and any blogs or publications. If you can, find out who you might be working with and check their online profiles to discover what they value, what kind of language they use, and what they are interested in. Use that same language and include items in your resume that show you fit into their work culture. That way, when they read your resume it’s not hard for them to imagine you being part of their team. Another trick is to try and reach out online by commenting on articles or Twitter posts so that they might recognize your name when it comes across their desk.
Following them on LeaddMe and/or Linkedin is also an excellent way of laying that groundwork.
- Research the company and key employees
- Replicate the company’s language
- Attempt to connect online
- Use the same resume for every position
Now you are ready to get started! Follow these steps to create your internship-landing resume.
Step 1: Brainstorm
Make a master list of all of your soft and hard skills and experiences.
Step 2: Read the job description
Pay attention to keywords that indicate skills they are looking for or needs they have. Find those that match with that in your master list. Keep these in mind so you know what you want to highlight throughout your resume.
Step 3: Layout
Remember that 6 seconds (on average) the manager will take to look at your resume? Your formatting is where you can really make those seconds count.
For a student internship, you should aim for a 1-page resume, but you also want to make sure it’s not too cluttered. Choose a clean layout with lots of empty space and bold headings so that key information can be found quickly.
Step 4: Create an outline and write the content
In your resume you will want to create the following sections, basically in the order listed.
- Name and contact information. Note that in Japan it is also the norm to include a photo and your birthdate.
- Resume Summary. Write 1-2 sentences to summarize why you are applying for the internship and what you can offer them. This is a great place to show your passion for the industry and where you want to go with your career.
- Education. This is your key credential at this point in your career, so should appear near the top. Make sure to highlight any aspects of your education (projects/competitions etc.) that might be of particular relevance.
- Experience. List your work and volunteer experiences as far as they relate to the position. Include a 1-2 sentence description for each to show the relevant skills you gained.
- Skills and interests. If you have any specific skills or certifications of interest (e.g. programming languages for a tech internship), list them here. You can also include interests/extra curricular activities if they show your passion for the industry, relevant skills, or demonstrate that you will fit in with the company’s culture.
Step 5: Read the job description (again) + Edit
We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to tailor your resume to the specific position. So take a moment to reread the job description before editing it to make sure you are sending the right message.
Step 6: Proofread, proofread, proofread
Your resume must read well and be error-free, so make sure to check it thoroughly. If possible have a friend (or better yet, mentor in the industry) read it over for you and give you feedback.
And that’s it! You should now have an excellent resume ready to launch your career. Take a deep breath and hit that submit button.