How to apply

Online form applications

Some companies have a form you fill out and attach your resume to, and this is how you apply to their jobs. Sometimes this is the only way to apply to a company, because they want to keep all the applications together in their system.

However, this is often not the best way to apply. From the company's perspective, applications received online are lower in quality on average and provide the least amount of information about the applicant. This means that they are less likely to get back to online applicants than applicants they learned about from other places (see below). Many many many people are applying for internships and it's a lot of work to get through all those resumes and select who to interview. Often many applications are just never looked at.

Applying online is definitely worth a shot, but not my recommended method if you can avoid it.

Talk to the recruiter (or an engineer) in person somehow

This can be at an info session, career fair, intern event, open house, etc. If you can talk to someone that will remember you and give you priority in hiring (in the huge pile of applications they have to go through) then you've succeeded. Internally, recruiters give higher weight to applications submitted by an employee at the company.

But realize that every other student they're talking to is also trying to be remembered. Do what you can to make yourself stand out.

To do so, it helps to show that you are interested in that company specifically. Don't just say that you're interested, words are cheap. Take action by doing a little bit of research about the company. That will allow you to ask a question that shows your interest. For example, you can ask them about a project that the company has recently open-sourced, a blog post that they have recently published, etc.

Maybe send a followup email to say it was nice to meet them and let them know you're excited about applying there.

Email/message someone that works there

Ideally this is someone you already met before, but it doesn't have to be. I've gotten an internship from messaging someone on Facebook (with mutual friends) that worked somewhere I wanted to work. I've gotten an internship from emailing the VP engineering at a company who I'd never talked to before.

You can use LinkedIn (though I try to avoid it if possible). Email is probably best.

Here are some tips for emails:

  • If you don't know who to email, or what their email address is, follow these steps:
  • If you know someone that works there, see if they can tell you who to email and what their contact is
  • If not, go on their website and look for a team page. If you can figure out who their lead engineer or recruiter is, you can try emailing them.
  • If there's nothing there, go on LinkedIn and search for people that work at that company
  • If all you have is a name but not the email, go to a email verifier site (e.g. or and see if works (most of time that'll be it!) I also like to check that doesn't work since sometimes any email at their domain will come out positive
  • Try to make the subject line stand out while still including internship in it. Remember, "summer internship at " is likely to be everyone else's email subject too. I like to include "Waterloo" in the subject because a lot of companies know and love Waterloo (and this gives me a lot of privilege in applying to jobs!)
  • The body of the email is the cover letter. And then you attach your resume to it. I really like this Quora example of what the email can look like
  • You can use email tracker extensions (if you do a Google search for that, you should get a few to choose from) to fairly reliably tell you when people open your emails. Sometimes the person I send an email to opens it, reads it, reads it later that day, then never replies. In that scenario I'll send a followup email saying I know their inbox is busy and so I just want to see if they have any updates for me. If I can see that they haven't replied to me but keep opening the email every day, I don't send the followup because I know they're thinking about me still


If a friend can refer to you a company (maybe a company they've worked) this can be a great way to be given priority over the general mass of candidates.

However - I tend to not ask for referals or give them because I don't work technically with many of my friends. I can vouch for them being kind and thoughtful and hard working (and same for them about me) but neither of us really know how well the other works on technical things and so unless they're a close friend I'd probably feel weird referring them.

What I have done (and asked for) is introduced my friends to recruiters, in sort of a "here's my friend they're pretty cool and also interested in your company" and less of a "I recommend this person to work here" kind of way. Even if the most your friend can say about you is that you're a nice person, this is still valuable. Very broadly speaking, most companies look for two things: "this person is technically competent" and "this person will work effectively in a team" (i.e. a fancy way of saying "not an asshole"). A non-technical referral is still useful for the recruiter, since it gives more information about the 'pleasant to work with' point.