When you can combine career and calling, some sweet growth happens. I’m currently experiencing this big time as an intern here at Compassion.
This is my dream internship – combining my passions for children and global missions with my marketing degree. I worked hard to land it. And I’m here to share with you, Christian internship seeker, how to land yours.
The application and interview process can be crazy overwhelming and you may have absolutely no idea where to begin. And that’s totally fine – I gotchu! God’s gotchu!
I’ve interviewed experts in the Christian internship game and done all the dirty work to get you the answers you need. Sam Askew, who oversees the Compassion internships, and Keri Assante, my marketing communications supervisor, have let me in on their secrets of what they’re looking for and how to nail the “oh so scary” interview process. And I’m going to share their secrets with you.
Let’s do this!
1. What do I put on my résumé and cover letter?
Résumé. What a daunting word. Let’s simplify it. A résumé is a one-page (yes, only one page) document that shares some important pieces of who you are and what you’ve done professionally – simple as that.
This one little piece of paper explains why you will be an asset to an organization. Seven seconds is the average amount of time a recruiter looks at a résumé during round one so make sure yours is easy to read, to the point, and filled with your awesomeness.
Your résumé should display your professional and academic achievements – what you’ve been involved in, leadership roles you’ve had, and professional settings you’ve worked in. Use discernment when listing these, though. Maybe keep that VBS memory verse championship medal to yourself …
Think beyond only paid jobs – perhaps you’ve helped organize a mission trip or volunteered at your church or done an incredible class project. Incorporate these into your résumé if they are relevant to the internship.
If you’re able to include a cover letter, tell a unique story that helps you stand out. Write about an exciting travel adventure, an app you created, or a project you managed. Explain how that backpacking trip through the Amazon will directly translate to this specific role and how you’ll contribute to the overall team.
Your cover letter is the best place to share your enthusiasm about the organization. Especially with Christian internships, recruiters want to know you are passionate about the organization’s mission and are in alignment with their ministry. If you’re not on board for what they’re doing, it might be time to re-think where you want to intern.
2. How do I prepare for the interview?
First and foremost, get those negative jitters out of your brain! Pray for peace and take comfort that God has created you with unique talents. But also be a responsible steward of the knowledge He has given you by preparing well.
This day and age, you really have no excuse to be unprepared for standard interview questions. There are tons of helpful resources online to practice with, so take advantage!
As you’re buffing up your answers, ask a close friend to do a mock interview with you. Create a list of key points beforehand that you want to highlight in your interview to help organize your thoughts. More practice means more confidence means easy breezy come game time!
Also, come prepared with questions to ask. This is HUGE!
Compassion’s internship overseer, Sam, says,
“I’ve sometimes made decisions on who I’m going to hire based more so on the questions they ask me than the questions I ask them.”
He says it’s a great way to wrap up an interview with easy, lighthearted conversation, rather than the typical, stale question/answer interview model. Why not turn the tables and spice things up a bit?
Ask questions that allow the interviewer to open up about his or her passions and experience. Everyone likes to talk about themselves, so give your interviewer a chance to do so!
Prepare questions specifically relating to your position or the company. Be specific. Show that you’ve done your research and that you’re not just asking out of thin air.
Be sure to interview with professionalism. Remove those Chacos and pull out that ironing board you haven’t used in months. Leave the “dude” and “I was all like” and “literally” vocab at home. If hired, you will be representing the organization, so be sure to start by representing yourself well.
After the interview, write a personal thank-you card or email and send it to your contact person at the company as soon as possible. Show your gratitude!
3. What previous experience are recruiters looking for?
So you need an internship to gain experience, but you also need experience to actually get an internship, right? The old chicken and the egg.
Don’t worry. Recruiters don’t expect you to have 15 years of professional experience in your field – that’s just not going to happen. They completely understand you’re new to the scene, so don’t fret.
One great way to acquire some professional experience is to have an unpaid internship as an underclassman. Most companies will be totally onboard for having an intern work diligently for them without having to actually pay them, so ask around and you’ll likely find a great opportunity. Who doesn’t love a little bit of free help?
Volunteering for nonprofits you are passionate about goes a long way to show you’re actively seeking opportunities to further your growth and career. And if you’ve really got your ducks in a row, volunteer with the organization at which you’re applying!
Even if you feel you lack experience, make it known that you go above and beyond the standard. You aren’t just another college chum – you have done phenomenal work and are a skilled individual!
What Christian internship recruiters ARE looking for is potential.
4. What kind of person are high-quality Christian organizations looking for?
There is no specific mold. However, recruiters want interns who have skills and characteristics that can be developed. They are looking to hire a self-starter who is motivated, self-aware and most important, excited about the organization.
Because you’ve chosen to pursue a Christian internship, your faith plays a part in this process. As Christians, we tend to put pressure on ourselves to walk the Christian walk and talk the Christian talk, but that pressure is just foolish.
Jesus has already conquered perfection for us, so we don’t need to strive for that. Don’t just give your routine “Christianese” answers – what you think they want to hear. Share about your faith and experience with honesty and humility.
Represent the real you and show off your true personality to recruiters.
5. Do I need a professional ePortfolio?
YES! The Christian internship world is competitive, so it’s important to spiff up and showcase your digital savviness.
LinkedIn is a great place to start.
Every upperclassman should have a well-developed LinkedIn profile that is full of job, class and volunteer experience. Be sure to include sample work that will give insight into your overall skillset.
On top of LinkedIn, creating a separate personal ePortfolio will give you an incredible advantage in the hiring world. Platforms like WordPress or Wix make creatively sharing your professional work and unique interests a breeze.
You can share your background, photography, travels and blogs and even have pieces of your journey with God woven throughout. Christian organizations are interested in hiring individuals who incorporate their faith into all aspects of their life, so your ePortfolio is a great place to highlight that.
My supervisor, Keri, said the sample work displayed on my ePortfolio was a huge factor in the decision to hire me. So I encourage you to get to it and create one if you haven’t already!
I hope this answered some questions for you and encouraged you on your journey to landing that outstanding Christian internship. Keep these tips and tricks in mind as you fill out applications, go through the interview process, and develop your professional image. Best of luck! You got this!