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How an Internship Can Boost Your Employment Prospects

In today's economy, an internship can be a way to help you find a full-time job in your field. For this reason, more and more business school students are rushing to engage in temporary, on-the-job training, usually in the industries where they're interested in working in the future.

In its global management education Graduate Survey, the Graduate Management Admission Council, or GMAC, polled MBA and specialized master's graduates. Forty-two percent of them said they participated in an internship while in school. Graduates who did an internship were 26 percent more likely to have a job offer by graduation than their classmates without an internship.

"Having any type of internship experience on a candidate's resume is extremely helpful," said Mike Chernesky, Talent Acquisition Manager, Corporate Human Resources, for McDonald's Corporation. "The internship experience tells the hiring employer that the candidate was not only selected by an employer for a previous internship opportunity but also gained "on-the-job" experience rather than relying on just classroom learning. Gaining the experience, especially one that is related to the candidate's field of study, will be much more attractive to an employer."

Landing business school internships

Based right outside Chicago, McDonald's has more than 33,000 restaurants in 118 countries. Just in the United States, where it has more than 14,000 restaurants, it serves 26 million customers every day. Besides relying on its thousands of full-time employees, every summer McDonald's invites about 75 interns, including MBA students, to join its operations for 10 to 12 weeks.

McDonald's interns work in accounting, human resources, information technology and marketing, among other business disciplines. Internships allow MBA students to contribute to company projects, participate in teambuilding activities, attend educational sessions and events with top company executives, and volunteer for community service. To land the coveted internships, candidates must have at least a 3.0 GPA, an academic focus related to the internships, and perspective on McDonald's business and industry, Chernesky said.

McDonald's offers resume, cover letter, and interview tips on its web page to help candidates create a great first impression.

Resumes for MBA internships

Candidates should clearly articulate their professional goals in their objective statement, which should be no longer than two sentences. In the experience section, they should describe how their professional efforts brought value to their employers. The candidate's activities, awards, and skills should reflect relevant qualities, such as commitment, leadership, organization and teamwork. Computer skills should include knowledge that sets candidates apart, such as the ability to use design programs or develop software.

Cover Letters for MBA internships

When drafting a cover letter, candidates should first find out who will be receiving these documents and address the communication to that person. The cover letter should be an elevator pitch, that is, a concise statement of why the candidate is the most qualified and interested person in the job. It should be short and to the point; three paragraphs are enough. The idea of the cover letter is to leave the potential employer excited to meet the candidate.

Interviews for MBA internships

Prior to interviews, candidates should research companies, positions, and interviewers and draft lists of questions. The day of the interview, they should dress in dark suits, nice shirts, and dress shoes and arrive early. To project confidence, candidates should sit up straight, make eye contact, and keep hand gestures to a minimum. Interviews should be conversations, during which candidates should be able to find out if companies are great matches as well.

When answering questions, candidates should rely on compelling stories to show they possess the traits and skills desired by employers. The GMAC's Corporate Recruiters Survey highlights a series of traits and skills global employers seek in MBA students. Prior to interviews candidates should review these traits and skills and determine how they meet them.

  • Proven Ability to Perform
  • Technical and Quantitative Skills
  • Ability to Apply Business Discipline to Any Job
  • Negotiation Skills
  • Specific Language, Country and Cultural Expertise

From MBA programs to full-time jobs

Data from employers in the GMAC's Corporate Recruiters Survey suggests that internships are one of the best ways for job candidates to prove themselves in their targeted industries. In 2010, throughout global companies, about 60 percent of interns were hired for full-time jobs. For consulting and high-tech jobs, the hiring rate reached 70 percent. McDonald's often hires interns who stay in touch with McDonald's employees and meet the requirements for available opportunities, Chernesky said.

"Former interns who worked in-house or in the industry are extremely attractive because these candidates usually understand the company's culture and business," Chernesky said. "Former in-house interns or those who have worked within a similar industry usually can articulate in an interview a burning desire to join the organization because of their previous experience."

While possessing internship experience on your resume may not guarantee you a job offer by graduation, it could definitely enhance your chances. So when you start MBA programs, besides hitting the books, sharpen your professional credentials to find an internship in your area of interest — and join the ranks of those who graduate with degrees and job offers.