Given the time required to train and manage an intern, employers tend to offer these positions with the goal of giving students exposure to a career. Accordingly, the goal of interns should be handling all assignments as best they can with the understanding that this is supposed to be a learning experience where you will make mistakes and encounter difficulties. My goal is to help interns understand my job and see if they might like to pursue it as a career, so all I ask in return is three things: (1) demonstrate enthusiasm; (2) show up on time; and (3) ask plenty of questions. Although that may sound simple, I am always surprised by how many interns take the job for granted and act disinterested, fail to get to the office in a timely manner, and just give a nod to each assignment when it is clear to me that they don't understand the tasks at hand.
I agree wholeheartedly with what Justin suggested above in terms of enthusiasm, punctuality, and having a thirst for knowledge.
On top of that, the intern applicants that have always stood out to me have been the ones that have taken on more areas of responsibility and shown proof that they are multi-facted. For example if the intern position is for a graphic designer, and the intern has also built a simple game in their spare time by learning code online and using assets from a project they've already done, I see that as someone very driven that I want to work with.
I agree with Justin's comment. Additionally, if you can demonstrate based on your previous jobs, and/or community involvement, that you can take on responsibility and ownership of whatever tasks you are assigned and are able to figure out stuff either on your own or by getting help, then I would be more interested in continuing the conversation. Good luck!
To be a reasonable candidate:
1. Be polite
2. Show up on time
3. Do the work.
4. If you're at a school with a career services office or other resources, go in and ask about interview behavior and application tips.
To stand out:
1. Be interested in the company you're applying to. Look up the company/department you're applying to and learn as much as you can about both them and the industry they're in. The internet is your friend.
2. When applying, emphasize your experience that might be of interest to the company. If you haven't got any (and that is not necessarily a deal-breaker), try to display initiative and enthusiasm. Those go a long way.
3. At your interview, continue to be interested. Ask questions about the job you'll be doing, who you'll be working with, what they would like you to accomplish.
And when you get there:
1. Be there to learn. At an internship, your experience isn't be as important as your willingness to learn and apply new stuff.
2. Don't be afraid to ask. Most people are happy to answer questions, about the job at hand (especially if it means you do your job right and no one has to redo your work) or about the job in general (people are often generous with career advice).
3. Take responsibility for any mistakes as soon as you discover them. It's okay to screw up, as long as you take the right measures to fix things as soon as possible.
Janapmota, when I was growing up, Reading, Writing, and Math were the core areas needed to land a job. Now, it is Communication Skills, Critical Thinking, and Complex Problem Solving. Progressive employers don't want robots; they want employees who can think on their own within certain guidelines. If you are the type of person who have to ask your manager a question every 5 minutes, you won't last wrong. Progressive employers are looking for resourceful employees who can find and apply simple information on their own.