Business management internships: how to get one
If you want to work in a business management job when you graduate, it will help if you already have a management-related internship or placement on your CV. Fortunately, a number of large organisations offer management-related summer internships and/or placement years that are typically open to students in the penultimate year of their degree. Most employers accept students from any degree discipline, too.
However, you can face some fierce competition when applying because the opportunities tend to be with big-name organisations that attract a lot of interest from students. To give you the best chance of succeeding, we advise you on where to find these opportunities and how to bolster your performance during the recruitment process.
Where can I get a business management internship?
You can search for business and management work experience opportunities on TARGETjobs. (But read our advice in this article on how to apply first.)
The employers that provide business management internships and placements are, unsurprisingly, those that offer trainee management graduate schemes, so another approach would be to look for companies advertising graduate management jobs and to see whether they offer work experience. Odds on, they will.
You will find that the organisations that offer management jobs and internships tend to have a strong focus on customer service: you will typically find the largest numbers of vacancies within retailers, hospitality providers, utility companies and retail banks.
However, don’t overlook the opportunity to win a management-focused internship by entering the TARGETjobs Undergraduate of the Year Awards competition. Previous TARGETjobs Management Undergraduates of the Year have won a 10-week summer internship with Enterprise Rent-A-Car, including a week in the USA, while previous winners of the TARGETjobs Future Leader in Business Undergraduate of the Year have won a sales internship with P&G and a trip to its European headquarters in Switzerland.
When are the deadlines for business management internships and placements?
The deadlines for business management internships and sandwich-year placements will differ according to the employer and the sector they are in. Most deadlines fall between November and the beginning of March, but a few fall outside of these times so it’s worth keeping an eye out throughout the year.
Applications for the TARGETjobs Undergraduate of the Year Awards open in early October and close in late January each year.
What will the recruitment process involve?
Most internship application and interview processes mirror those of employers’ graduate recruitment processes, although they might be condensed. Depending on the employer, you might be asked to:
- fill in an online application form, which may include uploading a CV and covering letter
- complete online ability tests/games-based exercises (you can find links to practice tests via our online testing section or via our commercial partner, AssessmentDay – you do need to practise the tests, as they are often the main sifting tool employers use to whittle down the number of applications)
- have a telephone interview or video interview
- attend a face-to-face interview or, sometimes, an assessment day
The links above will give you useful pointers on how to handle each stage of the application process – and you can find lots more advice in our internships section.
How can I demonstrate my suitability for management during the recruitment process?
Bear in mind that recruiters are looking to see whether you have management potential: essentially, that you have what it takes to ensure that a team meets its objectives within a set timeframe and budget, while ensuring that the team works optimally and harmoniously. Rest assured that they are not looking for the ‘finished’ article; they will give you training to get you up to speed. They just want to see whether you have the ability to become a good manager. To demonstrate this:
- emphasise any experience you have of customer service and/or doing the role you will be managing. The best managers have done the work required of their team, as it helps them to understand what exactly is involved and the demands it makes on the team.
- highlight any experience you have of taking the lead, making decisions, coordinating the action of others, inspiring others or just being the driving force behind things happening. You don’t have to be formally in charge of a project or a team to have done this: you just need to have taken on responsibility for something. Examples of experiences could range from your work on a group project on your course or being part of a student society committee to supervising children at an activity centre or taking on a superviser role in a part-time retail role.
- write or talk about any times when you have had to be flexible in your decision-making or change your plans because of the unexpected. Good managers have contingency plans but can also react quickly to changing circumstances.
- follow the advice on cultivating and demonstrating leadership skills given in our analysis of leadership and management.
What else can I do to impress during the recruitment process?
You might find it useful to read up on some management theory. Among other concepts, consider checking out:
- John Adair’s action-centred leadership
- Warren Bennis’ On Becoming a Leader
- Hershey & Blanchard’s situational leadership model
You can use this knowledge to inform your answers if you are asked ‘what would you do if…?’ management questions at the application and interview stages or to guide your thinking if working on a case study at an assessment day.
Remember, too, that recruiters will want you to have a genuine interest in the industry or sector they work in, whether that is finance or logistics. Research the sector – start with the career sectors on TARGETjobs – and be able to articulate some concrete reasons why you want to spend time within the sector. One way of conveying your enthusiasm is to write or talk about a relevant issue in the sector: it’s worth reading the business or industry-specific news before you apply and before an interview.