Application essays for jobs and internships

Apr 5th, 2009 | By | Category: Applications, Internship Interviews


Like many universities, some companies ask internship applicants to submit personal essays. For a lot of people, this is the most stressful part of the written application. They wonder why the company is asking for such detail. Candidates want to know what is left to say after the cover letter and resume.

Here are three reasons newsrooms might require essays:

• To find out how interested you really are. We get a lot of applications. They are dropped off, e-mailed in, sent by overnight mail and delivered in face-to-face interviews at the newspaper and on campuses in other states. We get To-Whom-it-May-Concern letters that seem to have been applied to the nation’s newspapers as thoroughly as one might apply paint to the newsroom wall. We get very thoughtful, elaborate, and expensive portfolios. And we get everything in between. A person who wants the internship will write the essay. People who are too busy or who can’t be bothered—well, that says something about their interest.

• Editors want to see how you write. Most clips are edited; most essays are not. That just makes sense. With clips only, editors are left to figure out the candidate’s true writing ability.

• Just as the cover letter amplifies the resume, the essay takes us beyond the letter. An essay is an exercise in judgment and creativity. Will your essay explore an incident that pushed you toward journalism, or is it a chronological recitation of your life? How readily do you recognize an interesting and relevant story? How do you tell it? Most importantly, editors want to know what motivates you, what your ambitions are, what you can contribute. An essay forces you to think about that and to explain the directions you’d like to pursue.

So, your essay should do two things. It should show what kind of writer you are, and it should show how journalism fits into the larger picture of your life.

A good essay shows how you, as a person, have become you, the journalist. It is evidence that your journalistic self is deeply rooted in the real you. It reflects how well you understand why you have applied for this internship. A bad essay is one in which the writing is lousy or pedestrian, or that fails to make the connection between you, as a person, and journalism, your passion.

When you write an essay about yourself, be yourself. Larding the essay up with all kinds of platitudes or clichés will not help you. Be honest, be yourself, be real.

Pay attention to putting a good lead on your essay. Do not be too concerned about when it should start. It could be at birth, but the parts of your life that are relevant to journalism most likely came later. Do not be afraid to project your desired future, your goals, and dreams.

Do not be dull.

Essays can give editors insight into your motivations, and they can give you an opportunity to reflect seriously about your career choice and to focus your approach.

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One Comment to “Application essays for jobs and internships”

  1. David says:


    The personal essays are the most difficult for me to write. The clarification of the relationship between ones’ personal life and journalistic ambitions was really helpful.

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