How not to apply for an Internship – 1

In a match of Cricket, to get out on a duck hurts, but to get out on 99? Hurts even worse, why? Because you built the inning one run by one run, kept your cool when the chips were down and worked the loose deliveries through the gaps. And just when it was your turn to take that single to reach 100, raise your bat and kiss the glory – you became impatient, lost your nerve and could not finish. You came so close.

Now imagine the same thing happening to your internship hunt, you have spent days, weeks or even months trying to find that one dream opportunity and now you have found it – all that is left to do is to contact the relevant person and let him/her know how you and the particular internship are made for each other. You drop an email, and then another and then one another, but you never hear back – sounds familiar, has happened to you? Read on.

Having been actively involved in recruitment for different organizations in last 4 years and having screened hundreds of resumes, I have some experience on the most common and the most irritating pain points a recruiter feels when looking at an application. Now these mistakes are committed even by the seasoned professionals, so to expect students to be aware and avoid them completely would be asking for a little too much.

So, what I have done is put together a series of articles on how not to apply for an internship through which I hope to share some illustrative examples of the common mistakes and how to fix them.

To begin with, have a look at this screenshot which shows Internshala mail box 24 hours after I posted an available internship  with Internshala here and on a few other portals. What do you notice other than circled bits?

Internship Application

There are 33 emails which all look very similar on first glance except for the names. Now Internshala is a one week old entity with a relatively small user base. Imagine how would the mailbox of a recruiter of a bigger company look like – there would be close to 100 emails of which he has to select and download a few in 5 minutes that he has. And if the subject of your email (the only opportunity for you to talk to him without him having to open the mail) does not excite him – chances of your email being opened and read are as good as you hitting a six on the last ball of the match.

What’s more painful is that some of us do not even read what we have written as subject before clicking “send” button and hence spelling mistakes, poor grammar, generic gender address (dear sir/madam) as circled in red are common indicating lack of seriousness  – does your the first job before first job not merit even 5 minutes of your attention?

So how could you window dress your subject in a manner that I would be enticed to walk into the shop and read your email? I would suggest that having a key word such as name of the institute or education stream (if that’s a USP and relevant to the internship), or a key skill or experience should work. For example if someone applied for this internship with “IIT Madras – 2 PHP/SQL projects – Delhi” as subject line – it would be very difficult for me to not read that email and that person is already better off than rest of the 32 applicants.

Now, do you see the difference a well crafted subject line may make to your chances of getting that dream internship?After all the devil lies in the detail and whoever said “What’s in a subject line” did not live in an era of information bombardment :)

Have something to say, ask, critique or know of an internship opportunity that you would like others to know – post it right away!

20 thoughts on “How not to apply for an Internship – 1

  • January 29, 2011 at 4:30 PM

    Thanks for writing this clearcut blog i understood my mistakes and will work upon them please do keep writing on these subject matters thank you again
    Deepak Bajaj

  • January 29, 2011 at 4:53 PM

    @deepak bajaj
    Hi Deepak,

    Glad I could help, keep visiting this space for more such tips. Thanks for dropping by :). Wish you all the best.


  • January 29, 2011 at 11:49 PM

    really ausome tips actually for newbies like me…..but still if you can help for the one,s who don,t have such nice cgpi.plzzzzzzzzzzz plzzzzz help!!!

  • January 30, 2011 at 12:17 AM

    thnx for your support sir.

  • January 31, 2011 at 7:05 PM

    Damn thing one always lack..nice you are writing it and sharing with us. Keep writing and keep us aware.

    (CA, ICWA, CFA-level II Cleared)

  • February 1, 2011 at 10:22 PM

    I dont knw how much this internship will be helpful. But since i came across one and would like to share..
    The internship programme affords an opportunity to students interested in policy debates and functioning of Parliament in India.

    Project Description: PRS analyses legislation and provides non-partisan research inputs to Members of Parliament on legislative and policy issues. In addition, it is the only organization to track and collate data on the functioning of legislatures and legislators in India. The internship projects will vary depending on the issues that come up for debate when the Parliament is in session, the needs of PRS and the interests of the intern.

    for details visit :

  • March 26, 2011 at 3:30 AM

    thanks sir, for being so genuine in writing what actually should be done.
    this blog is an eye opener, especially cause most of us are misled about how to sugarcoat
    CV and cover letters. thanks again. :)

    • March 26, 2011 at 9:43 AM

      You are welcome :). We all learn it by experience.

      If you liked what you read, why not share it with your friends? Any relevant yahoo/google group you can forward the link to, or even share it on facebook, that would be a great help!

      Keep visiting


  • April 11, 2011 at 5:14 PM

    With regard to the subject that you have mentioned in this blog,what kind of EXCITING subject lines can one write if he does not boast of an institute of the caliber of an IIT and does not really have any project experience as such?Enlighten us,Sir.

    • April 11, 2011 at 9:13 PM

      What’s the one thing in your CV that you think stands out and the recruiter should consider you – try using that. It could be grades, proficiency with a particular skill as well. If you can’t think of anything – I am also clueless.

      Wish you all the best.


  • April 17, 2011 at 12:21 AM


    I am extremely happy about the work which you are doing for us.No body does this sort of things for helping others.I really like u and your work…Wish you all the best in your future..

    • April 17, 2011 at 8:22 AM

      Thanks :)

      Do let me know what Internshala could do differently to make it even better for you. Also, if you liked the blog, would you like to help us reach out to more students by sharing the blog ( with your friends on facebook, google/yahoo groups?


  • April 30, 2011 at 2:58 AM


    If we shouldn’t use generic genders, should we always address as ‘Sir’ ?

    • April 30, 2011 at 3:41 PM

      If you know nothing about who is going to be reading your email, Dear Sir/Madam also should work just fine. The post’s aim is to make students aware in not doing so when you absolutely know who you are speaking to – as in case of the example given.

  • June 2, 2011 at 10:39 PM

    Is it a good idea to address someone whose gender we don’t know as ‘to whomsoever it may concern’?

    • June 3, 2011 at 8:38 AM

      My personal preference would be to use “Dear Sir/Madam” instead as “to whomsoever..” feels very impersonal. But that’s just me.


  • June 5, 2011 at 11:47 AM

    Hi sir,

    I am an engineering undergraduate student from an Anna university affiliated college.
    sir, is it true that only top 3 rank holders have to apply for internship in IIT. I am not a topper.
    I completed 3rd year and looking for internships this summer. My cgpa up to 5th semester is 7.93. Can i apply for internship??
    This blog is really cool sir.
    thank you.

    • June 6, 2011 at 9:42 AM

      Thanks :). I don’t think there was any such pre-requisite mentioned in the circular but yes, academic performance would be given a weight in the selection process. For this year the applications are now closed. You may want to like us on facebook so that you don’t miss out on any future updates!

      Wish you all the best!

      Many thanks

  • July 6, 2011 at 12:41 AM

    Hi Sarvesh,

    I am IT professional with 5 years of experience and am currently seeking new career challenges in Sales (BDM).
    I have drafted my CV and was wondering if you would be able to help correct it in the sense that since its a change of role at the same time it should grab the attention of employers.
    Also, I did go through your blog but since am not a student I wasn’t sure if I would seek your help. Just a suggestion – It would be great if you start another site/blog for job opportunities.

    But internshala is a great attempt to help students in their internships…Bravo!

    Kindly let me know.


    • July 6, 2011 at 9:23 PM

      Thanks for the kind words – its appreciation from the readers that keeps us going! :)

      Regarding specific help in your case – I think the cover letter and and objective statement (yes, in your case I think it may be relevant) in CV would play a critical role. Highlight the reasons why you are looking for a change and what qualities that you possess which may help you succeed in a completely new profile. Usually, people go for an MBA to switch fields, doing a short term 3-6 months internship can also be a great way to explore a new domain though it’s not commonly heard of in India.

      Hope this helps.


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