Hardest internship to get

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It is getting progressively harder for graduates and students to receive an internship and that is a fact. If you do not believe us, you can check on one of the renowned websites specializing in opportunities for young people such as milkround.com. Reasons are legion – recent global economical crisis, changing mentality of youngsters, growing expectations of employers. According to Simon Pullin of aforementioned website, in certain, most popular sectors there are as much as one hundred applicants per every internship!

The elite of the elite

And yet there are those companies and organizations whose recruitment process is extremely rough on the intern, even compared to the typical one. Still – those who pass the tests will probably never have to worry about their future, or (at least) will learn copious amounts of things concerning their job. Let's examine how does the recruitment process look at those places, shall we?


Everybody knows Google, so I am not going to waste time for unnecessary introductions.
In order to become a Google employee, one has to go through as many as six to eight interviews. Of course, the whole process is somewhat shorter for interns, but it gives you a good idea about how does the company operate.

It all starts with you sending them a motivation letter, resume and a transcript of your grades. Seems simple enough – but you have to keep in mind that HR people check hundreds of them daily. One of former Google interns – Simon Mathieu – found out that recruiters usually spend as little as fifteen seconds (!) during preliminary cut (see How to write a creative CV?). While writing it it is a good idea to put an emphasis on your Linux experience, as well as knowledge of C/C++/Python/Java.

If you are one of the lucky chosen few, you will be contacted by a recruiter. The person you will be talking with will probably ask you to rate your knowledge in certain fields (programming languages, algorithms) from one to ten (remember, don't Lie in your CV!), and that should be about all. If you are not contacted... well, nothing horrible happened. Maybe you were not lucky, maybe you should have put a bit more emphasis on certain skills. Do not give up and be sure to try again next year.

What comes next are technical interviews (usually two) over the phone. You will be asked a lot of questions about data structures and algorithms. At least one of the interlocutors will ask you to code. You may have to do this over the phone (yes, he will type as you speak to see if it works) or using Google docs. Those questions will be hard but if you manage to pass the tests, you are more than halfway through the process.

I say that because even if you were accepted there will be more interviews. You will be sent an e-mail saying where and when should you appear. The stressful part is over, though – you will meet your future boss and during subsequent meetings a team most appropriate for you will be chosen. And then you are going to USA!

Ah, yes, this may be a problem. See, even though Google refunds your traveling costs and gives you quite a lot of money for temporary relocation, you still have to get yourself a visa and deal with your national bureaucracy. Once you are done, though, you are going to USA!
If you want to try – visit their site, especially the “for students” section.


McKinsey is an American consulting company, but they also have quarters in Europe. It appears here mostly because it is (in)famous for being the one with the toughest job interviews. Or, at least, most demanding recruitment process.

First, you have to create an online account at their site. Then comes the fairly regular part – you have to send them your CV or resume, motivational letter, transcript of your grades. The unusual thing is that they ask you quite a few questions considering wide array of subjects concerning your past work experience, language skills and hopes for future.

That's not all, though. Every year applicants have to write a short essay. Its subject varies but nearly always concerns work. An official example is “Working in teams is critical to the role of a McKinsey consultant and can be challenging at times. Please think about a time when you found it a challenge to work together with another person or other people in a team.”, which can give you a pretty good idea about what you should expect.

If you are accepted, you have to prepare for lots upon lots of interviews and case studies. The first part usually comprises of single case study and PST – a problem-solving test. If you do well, you will receive an e-mail informing you about when and where should you meet company's representatives. If you did not... well, do not give up and better luck next time.

“Round two” takes the candidate through two to four interviews. These comprise of a part that is supposed to give recruiters an understanding of your personality (every single one of them will contain some personal questions, often about situations from your past) and another case study. During those always make sure to explain your decisions and why would you do this and not that. McKinsey hires analysts rather than guessers, after all.

Then comes the last part – provided that you have passed the second one. Once again you will be faced with three personality tests and case studies, but with one important difference – this time you will be talking with official 'partners' rather than your colleagues. You can never know what to expect, but once you are past this point you can take a deep breath and relax.

Of course, something can change in McKinsey's recruitment process. This is not out of question – they are trying to keep their interviews as efficient as possible, so they constantly upgrade and modify them.

Oh, and if you fail for some reason, at least you will not be kept in the dark. If something goes wrong, you receive a call from you partner, interlocutor, or the person that was keeping an eye on you. He or she will explain what went wrong and what could have been done better.
This will help you prepare better for another go.You can check out their offers here:
We advise you to visit “Undergraduates” and “University recruiting” sections.

What about NGOs?
Funnily enough it is much easier to get an internship even in fairly well-known NGOs. Of course, the numbers are still at your disadvantage, but at least the application process is pretty simple.
Let us use European Parliment as an example. The first thing you have to remember about, though is that EP is not a monolith. It offers different kind of internships for different people, and the application process differs from one case to another. They all have quite a lot in common, though, but we will get down to that in a moment.

I say 'in a moment', because I would like to put an emphasis on the fact that you do not have to apply only for “official” EP internships. While it requires more work you may simply send your CVs and ask for internship at many different organizations that EP comprises of. Yes, many offers of trainings are never published in the Internet! Whence “more work”? Well, if you want to be successful in applying for internship in such an organization, you usually have to tailor your CV and motivational letter. Probably the first MEP you will send your CV to will not respond or reject you. So will the second one. But you have to keep in mind that there are hundreds of others, so finally you will stumble upon one that will accept you!

Now, coming back to the “official” internships. We have mentioned that numbers are at your disadvantage and we have meant that – usually out of 6500-7500 people applying for various internships only 650 are accepted. The recruitments happen twice a year, with deadlines usually set in March and July. You do not get to choose where you will work during your internship – approved applications are put in a “blue book”, and only then representatives of concrete sections will pick interns they like the most. The whole process takes place on the Internet and requires quite a lot of time. You have to fill all the forms at once – those filled only partially will be automatically discarded, often not allowing you to return to them later. So be sure you have an hour or two to spare before applying!

There are a few things you could do to improve your chances of getting an internship. First of all – knowing many languages is just fine, but the most important one of them all is English. Obviously, since you read this article you know it quite well – but various certificates can help you a lot. Moreover, HR specialists of EP value former work experience greatly. Double so if the work you have been doing is somehow connected to the position you are applying for. You should also note that many EP programmes of internships require you to finish your degree.

Last advice comes from one of the people responsible for the initial sift of applications. In the application papers there is a motivational section. Oftentimes in potentia interns will fill it with what they know about EP and how they would fit it. It is not enough. You should explain what you could offer to the institution rather then just drone about how useful you could be.
Happy hunting!

Written by Piotr Matyjaszczyk
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