We recently wrapped up intern recruiting at Cornell and Princeton. So many awesome students. Way more impressive than I was…unbelievably so.

But no matter how impressive I have maybe one internship for a business-side (marketing, business development, operations) intern. How do you break through and get me to hire you? It’s hard. Sorry, but it is. I have a million priorities in line ahead of you. You need to make me sweat about not having you on my team to get an offer. Actually worry about not having you. Impressive is not enough.

There’s a well known adage for writers- show don’t tell. To get an internship at a startup you need to embrace that adage as if your summer depends on it. It does. Your resume can help- other internships with companies I respect and/or doing things comparable to what I need. But want to really separate yourself from the pack? Go after my internship with the same intensity and smarts you’d use to help my business grow. 

Here’s how.

1.     Be smart. Know my markets, my model, my elevator pitch.  This is not hard. It’s on our website and crunchbase. This is Internship 101. Let me know you know. Frankly, chances are you’ll get much of it wrong but that’s not the end of the world. By making an effort to be smart on my business you show me you care about me.

2.     Be engaged. Follow me on twitter and retweet or @reply; read and comment on my blog (I will review any resume that has “loved your blog post” in the subject line). Use the tools of the trade- Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, 4SQ, About.me, LinkedIn. I won’t hire a plumber who can’t use a wrench. I won’t hire a marketer who doesn’t use social media. 

3.     Be valuable. Have ideas for helping my business? Tell me. Know someone who might partner, invest, blog, buy, subscribe… Offer to introduce but don’t make me feel bad about saying no. A relevant article or blog post will prove you are thinking about Ordr.in. Do something great with your entrepreneurship club? Show you will do the same thing for Ordr.in.  

4.     Be realistic. Chances are your job will be to assist and support. Do what it takes for the team to win. Show me you can help with market research and not be offended when I send you to Staples. I mean, if you don’t go I’ll have to. And I’m the CEO. The more you show you’ll help in anyway possible the more likely I’ll invest in you.

5.     Be unstoppable. You need to force us to focus on you. I may not reply to your first email….or your fifth. But I definitely won’t reply if you don’t email at all. Startups are all about doing what it takes. Show me you can do that.

Other startups may look at this differently (comments very welcome). These are guidelines, not rules. And doing all of this won’t guarantee you an internship. But not doing these things will probably guarantee you won’t get an internship.