Last evening, I posted the following on the Facebook group, Delhi Startups, one of the most active groups of the Delhi startup ecosystem.
We have built something very interesting at Whereabout, have got great traction in our 2 weeks of existence and are now on a hiring spree.
Looking for growth hackers, interns and student entrepreneurs to lead our growth over the summer. If what we are doing interests you, shoot a mail at email@example.com
Both full-time and work from home positions open.
And then we received a barrage of applications stapled with the same uninspired cover letters and verbose CVs that read like this:
I am a 3rd-year computer science engineering student pursuing my B.Tech from Yet Another Engineering College Ending With IT.
I would like to apply for the internship opportunity at Whereabout, as I have several interests in the domain that
Whereabout operates and I feel that I have the knowledge and skill set required for the same.
Whereabout is a great company and I know that it will benefit a lot with my perseverance, quick thinking and good analytical skills.
Please find attached my resume and let me know whatever you think of me as soon as possible.
By far, the most driven and the most laidback members that we have seen for our startup have been college students.
So it makes sense to educate them so that they understand how one can appeal to the startup founders. Reading over 30 such clichéd applications, I decided not to waste my time and write a guide on how to write internship application letter for startups. Here it goes:
How to write an internship application that catches the founders’ attention?
Send a “Why Letter” instead of a cover letter: Your cover letter needs to answer just one question: Why do you want this internship? Make sure your intent behind the why is really genuine because it’s very easy to catch faff. We have all been at your place, remember?
Show, Not Tell: The basic rule of writing applies here too. When you say things like “I have several interests in the domain that Whereabout operates and I feel that I have the knowledge and skill set required for the same”, it is just a waste of space. Demonstrate your interest. Substantiate your claim. What knowledge and skill-set are you talking about? Could you justify them with examples.
Outline Your Expectations: To stand out, set your intentions right. You want an internship because you want a job that allows you to learn, or to earn money during the summer, or comfort— sitting at home and find innovative growth hacks. Or just to build your CV. Remember entrepreneurs are ones who have trounced the need of CVs for themselves and they pay little value to CVs. They care more about your character, creativity, enthusiasm, skills and intention. If CV building or sheer money is your primary intent, apply for a research internship or a corporate house. Startup requires hustlers, people who could go out of their way to get things done.
Be personal: Study about the founders’ story, read their interviews, do your research. When you reach them with your email, make sure it reads as if it’s coming from someone close, someone they know. Recently, an aspiring intern read our journey infographic (below) and volunteered to make our iOS app, because he just felt compelled to be a part of our journey.
Use the product: Use the app or the product of the startup that you are applying to. Point out the things that could be improved. Nothing stands out more than taking the initiative. At Whereabout, we have created a chat app that allows you to discover and chat with nearby friends of friends by “knocking on their doors”. An enthusiastic joinee did a great thing that totally caught my attention. She knocked on my door on the app and suggested the following:
This immediately caught our attention! So nicely highlighted. We even fixed all four of the issues in no time.
What You Should Look From The Startup You Want to Intern At?
Are they doing something innovative, something that interests you? You won’t find passion for work until the work itself interests you. Make sure you only apply for something that truly appeals to you.
- Does it tie in with your long term ambition? You might want to become a better developer or designer or an entrepreneur some day. Does the startup teach you skills that will be impact your life’s trajectory in a substantial way?
- Don’t apply at a startup if tomorrow you want to prepare for IAS, or go for higher studies. Apply for a policy think-tank or a research internship rather.
- Are the founders empathetic? This is important. Founders should treat you with due respect and empathy. I have seen, and also worked with, founders who treat interns as peons and exploit them by giving them really terrible work. Do a check by talking to people who know them.
- Do you think the startup could become big later? Get associated early. When I was in my third year, a couple of seniors had started a company called Foodiebay.com. One of the best coders of my batch got associated with the company in the early stage as an intern (with minimal stipend). One year later, the company got funding and rebranded to Zomato, and you know what happened to the coder? He got hired by Facebook in 2011, pre-IPO. Now he’s a Silicon Valley millionaire.
- Do the founders inspire you—with their grit, ambition and attitude? This is difficult to catch and you need to read more about them, stalk them on Facebook, read their posts and blogs–if any, read the company reviews on Glassdoor and so on. Nothing is more detrimental to your self-esteem than working for someone who doesn’t treat you well. Tread cautiously.
Remember a startup internship, especially when you are unskilled, can teach you a lot about life, team building, persistence and innovation. It can turn you skilled from unskilled in mere 2 months. It’s a chance to be an entrepreneur for a month or two, and learn by doing rather than by reading or watching. You are given the steering wheel, if you are spirited enough and garner trust within the few days of your joining. It could open new doors if you are in founders’ good books—by being genuinely passionate and inventive, as is the perpetual need.
We founders know a lot of other founders and can always refer you to good people and more rewarding opportunities .
If only, your intent is right. And you choose us, if only our attitude is right. It should be the marriage of two rights. Amen.
Harsh Snehanshu is the Co-founder & CEO of the two week old startup Whereabout.in, a Whatsapp alternative to discover and chat with nearby friend of friends (2nd degree connections).]