Under Armour's internship program is incredibly competitive.
Over 17,000 applicants competed for 98 open positions in 2018.
Business Insider spoke with two Under Armour employees, including a former intern, about what the program entails.
Under Armour's internship program is competitive. In 2018, a total of 17,400 hopefuls submitted applications for 98 spots. That's just a bit over a 0.56% acceptance rate.
You'd have better chances applying to an Ivy League school (Harvard has an acceptance rate of 4.59%).
Business Insider spoke with Buchi Okafor, a former intern and financial analyst at the company, and his colleague Bryan Kaminski, Under Armour's director of university recruiting and emerging talent, to learn more about Under Armour's rookie program.
There are a limited number of spots at Under Armour — and the competition's getting fiercer
The number of open internship positions tends to fluctuate slightly from year to year, based on the demands of different teams within the 15,800-person company. But the number of applicants has surged over the years.
According to Under Armour, there was a 25% increase in applications to its rookie program between 2017 and the current year. And, as an even starker comparison, only 2,006 people applied to the program in 2013.
Last year, college-oriented career site WayUp gave Under Armour the top spot in its rankings of US internship programs.
So what's the reason for the spike in applications and accolades? Kaminski said that, in the past four and a half years, the company has improved its ability to "get out there" and tell its story to college students.
"We weren't doing a great job of telling our story about what a cool company this was and how much opportunity there was for somebody getting started in their career," he told Business Insider.
The program accepts interns on a rolling basis, but the process typically kicks off in early August
Most of the roles are based in Under Armour's home base of Baltimore. But some interns also join smaller teams in Austin, San Francisco, and Portland.
Candidates can begin applying for the program in early August, and interviews take place on a rolling basis. Some roles are filled as early as mid-September, while other candidates are hired all the way into February.
According to Kaminski, the timing just depends on the team.
The rookie program runs for 12 weeks in the summer, from the middle of May to late August.
Aspiring interns all submit an application via Under Armour's website. They can indicate whether they're interested in working in one of three general areas: business, tech, or product and design.
Prospective rookies then go through a series of interviews, including behavioral-based video interviews.
"We think that people are more than one sheet of paper," Kaminski said. Later interviews are more specific to certain teams, as individual teams at Under Armour consider which candidates would be a good fit.
According to Kaminski, regardless of the skill set of the intern involved, the company tends to look for a number of specific traits.
"Do they have a track record of making a difference or making an impact?" Kaminski said. "So, whether it was in their previous internship or whether it was on campus or even the classroom, how they made a difference and made either organization that they're a part of better?"
He added that Under Armour also seeks out people with a "drive and passion" for the brand itself, as well as individuals with a strong sense of intellectual curiosity.
More than anything, interviewers are looking at how applicants make an impact
Kaminski said the company especially doesn't want interns just interested in working for any sports apparel company, or those who can't articulate how they've made an impact in previous roles.
"I think we're really looking for people who you can depend on and trust to make an impact really quickly, and hit the ground as close to running as you can in an internship," Kaminski said.
Thanks to the sheer volume of applicants, he doesn't get to speak to as many prospective interns as he used to. But he still has a favorite question: "Talk to me about a time that you've identified an opportunity to make a club, team, organization or company better and tell me how you went about actually executing or implementing that suggestion?"
"I find you can get a lot of great information about whether a candidate is intellectually curious enough to go and identify opportunities, whether they're proactive in being the solution, and whether they have the wherewithal and the drive to see it through to the end," he explained.
Okafor grew up wearing Under Armour jerseys and cleats, and came into the hiring process with a knowledge of the brand's history and values. He recommended that candidates connect Under Armour "with your life and what you're doing in school."
"That was a big thing that helped me out, just knowing the history of the company and the brand and the value that we hold," he told Business Insider.
The internships are all paid, although the rates depend on the intern's area of expertise. MBA candidates — who make up about 10% of the participants — also make more than undergraduate students.
Rookies who are accepted into the program receive the employee discount of 50% off on purchases from Under Armour's stores and website.
Kaminski said the rookies use the program as a chance to stock up on gear and gifts for friends and family, adding that, "Our interns become our best ambassadors when they head back to campus. Not only to talk about their experiences as interns and everything that they got to do here, but they're also walking billboards for the actual product."
Under Armour also helps interns find housing and connects them with other interns to live with. The company provides interns with their first rent payment, as interns get their first paycheck three weeks into the internship.
Kaminski said the program also features a series of social and volunteer events that are meant to introduce interns to the surrounding community, and help them "picture" living there if they ultimately decide to work for the company full-time.
"During the internship, you're given a lot of work and you're given a lot of meaningful work," Okafor said.
Each intern is given a project to complete over the course of the summer. Okafor interned with the product finance team and built a monthly dashboard that helped general managers track analytics like net revenues.
About a month in, Okafor said he knew he was interested in pursuing a full-time role at the company. And, at the end of the summer, he was able to present his project to the company's CFO and multiple VPs.
"People at Under Armour really have a way of looking out for you and always making sure you have everything you need in order to succeed which in some places is not always the case," Okafor said. "But, here, it is."
Interns are also paired up with mentors who hail from a different area of the business.
These mentors are "... there to help them navigate the company and help them expand their network, and to be another sounding board," Kaminsk said.
And the interns don't just get access to the higher-ups at the end of the summer, when it comes time to present their projects. Under Armour executives take an hour to talk to interns as part of the program's speaker series — that goes for cofounder, CEO, and chairman Kevin Plank, too.
Kaminski said Under Armour's goal is for interns to leave the program with a "comprehensive understanding of what we do as a business."
That means knowing the ins-and-outs of the retail business. In order to help the rookies garner some firsthand knowledge of what it takes to run an apparel business, Under Armour tasks the interns with running a pop-up retail store in Baltimore for three days.
Kaminski said the pop-up store does about $1.3 million in top-line revenue, and the proceeds go to the educational nonprofit the Heart of America Foundation.
Kaminski said the interns who are the most successful "are ones who understand that they're really here to make a difference on their team" and are "laser-focused on making their team operate better after they leave."
"They build relationships with their team and they build relationships with their cross-functional partners so that they really understand how to get something done and how to leave a mark," Kaminski said. "Those tend to be the ones who not only have a great track record of success in the program but after they leave people are almost fighting to hire them and find opportunities for them for when they graduate so they can get back there."
... and many get job offers toward the end of the summer
Okafor estimated that about 20 people from his internship class currently work at Under Armour — including his two current room mates.
"We've created a network where we're constantly meeting with each other," Okafor said. "We're always trying to find things to do."
According to the company, over 350 former rookies now work there.
"It was probably one of the best summers I've had," Okafor said, of his experience in the rookie program. "I was able to be around a lot of like-minded individuals, a lot of cool people from across the country. And I was able to work on some really cool projects and gain visibility with a lot of upper management, which is kind of rare in most cases in most internships."
He received an offer to return toward the end of the summer, which he took upon completing his senior year of college.
When it comes to landing an internship, resume is secondary to effort
Kaminski said that, for prospective rookies, the prestige of your school and the specific area of your studies doesn't matter as much as "how you apply yourself and make the most of your college experience and set yourself up for what's next."
"Don't underestimate yourself," Kaminski said. "We hire all across the company. We hire for roles that I would've never imagined when I started here. At the end of the day, it's about the right candidate for the right role."