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Posted 1.12.07

Landing a summer internship is no small feat, especially considering the extensive networking, case preparation and interviewing time that goes into the process. That said, the skills used to land that internship will most definitely not be the ones you need to turn it into a job offer. What sets stellar candidates apart from the rest -- and what hiring managers actually care about -- is their work ethic, professionalism and general likeability.

Having a strong and smart work ethic is an unbeatable combination. Managers want to hire M.B.A.'s who genuinely care about the quality of their work. The intern who works the smartest and the longest (when need be) is the one who will get the job. Long hours may seem unnecessary, but they are a proxy for a candidate’s commitment to the firm.

Professionalism is an area where all winning interns set themselves apart. Companies want to hire interns who understand how their personal behavior signals the firm’s quality to its clients. A firm handshake, an air of reserved confidence and a consistent display of sound judgment go a long way. Conversely, dead fish handshakes, poor eye contact and compromised judgment are easy ways for hiring managers to eliminate interns from the running.

More than any other criterion, being likable is critical for any intern looking to land a job offer. M.B.A.-level positions require working long hours with a small team of other professionals. As such, hiring managers care most about how well you integrate with the rest of the team -- much more than they care about your intellect, undergraduate brand name, or how fancy your suits are.

The interns that never get a job offer -- despite their intellect -- are those who lack a strong and smart work ethic, professional maturity, sound judgment and a sufficient likeability. Poor delivery skills, know-it-all attitudes, unethical behavior and generally poor attitudes are a death knell for prospective interns. If you got the internship, you’ve sufficiently proven your smarts -- now recognize that you actually know nothing, work hard, ask questions and be positive.

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