If you are applying for an internship, you are most likely a student without much industry experience—hence the need for an internship. But don’t despair! What you lack in experience, you make up for with enthusiasm.
Apply that same enthusiasm to your cover letter, and a hiring manager will be excited to find out more about who you are, what skills you have, and what an internship can do for both of you.
This article offers cover letter tips, explains how to sell yourself, and lays out a template and cover letter example that you can and should tailor for each internship.
Before we get to the cover letter format, let’s discuss your resume. For students, recent graduates, and people switching careers, functional resumes are the best format to use in a job search rather than chronological resumes.
That’s because functional resumes are designed to highlight your skills and core competencies, whereas chronological resumes focus on your work experience—of which you probably have none. Here’s a helpful article “How to Write a Killer Internship Resume.”
Now, let's get to the cover letter.
Really? You’re already running out of steam and losing enthusiasm if you're asking this question. The answer is a resounding yes. A cover letter is absolutely necessary because you only have two ways to differentiate yourself from your competitors at this stage. Your resume and your cover letter. Why handicap yourself so early?
Your resume is a one-page document that will show your skills and your education, but it doesn’t really show you. Your cover letter, on the other hand, reveals a little more about your personality. It gives the hiring manager a better idea of who you are and why you are the perfect fit for this specific position. It will allow your enthusiasm to show through!
There are a few golden rules to follow when writing a cover letter.
First, tailor each letter to each internship. It can be very obvious to a recruiter if you use a standard cover letter, and doing so might be worse than not sending one at all. When you are just starting out in an industry, it’s important not to take shortcuts.
Second, read the job description and include keywords so that applicant tracking software does not discard your application. Don’t try to respond to all the requirements on the job description, rather, emphasize one or two key areas in the letter because that will have more impact.
Third, research the company by reading the website and any articles that you find online. You may find information that you can refer to in the cover letter to show the depth of interest you have in the company and make you stand out.
Lastly, review and proofread your cover letter, and ask a trusted mentor to do the same. Typos sabotage a well-curated cover letter.
Here’s an internship cover letter template with some guidelines on each section.
In the contact information at the top of the letter, include your phone number, but there is no need to add your street address unless the company is looking for local interns. For the email address, make sure it is professional and current; for example, Jane.Ayles@gmail.com and not Devilish.Dave@aol.com. Only include social media links if they have content that is relevant to your career.
For the salutation, don’t open with “Dear Hiring Manager” or "To whom it may concern" if you can possibly avoid it. It smacks of laziness. If you don’t know the hiring manager's name, try calling the company and asking for their name and email. Also, look at the company website or the LinkedIn page to see if some detective work might help. If you show that you’ve taken the time to find out the name of the person you are addressing, it shows …. you guessed it …. enthusiasm!
Include your name and the job title in the header.
Your opening paragraph should start with a bang. Your first sentence should draw the reader in so that they want to read more about you. This is probably the most challenging part of writing the cover letter, so spend a lot of time on the first paragraph and the first sentence in particular. Think about what makes you the best person for the internship and convey that to the reader. This first sentence is the jackpot. Grab attention here, and you’re golden.
Now you have the reader’s attention, it’s time to provide the evidence to support your claim. Here’s where you can expound on what your relevant skills can do for the company, not why you want the internship. That’s an important distinction. Everyone will say they want the internship for one reason or another, but the hiring manager is most interested in what you have to offer.
Choose one or two items to write about in the body of the cover letter. They should be the most critical points that make you a good fit for the job. For example, you might have completed a course that is directly relevant to the company’s operations. You might be seeking an internship as a software engineer, and you have just won a coding competition. You might do volunteer work that is aligned with the work of the company or enjoy extracurricular activities that are relevant.
Explain why what you have mentioned makes you a good fit for the role, and don't forget soft skills. Here's a reminder, "What's the Difference Between Hard Skills Vs. Soft Skills?"
Sign off by saying thank you and offering to provide any other information the hiring manager might need.
[Complimentary Close and Signature]
Below is an internship cover letter sample.
(903) 846 1234
October 20, 2021
Dear Mr. Foster,
Application for Data Analyst Internship
My recent Google Data Analyst certification has spurred me on to apply for the internship program with your esteemed firm. The coursework confirmed that I am pursuing my passion, and I am confident that my proven analyst abilities and relevant experience would benefit your firm.
[Note: The first paragraph is bold and interesting. It captures the reader's attention and establishes the candidate as the best fit for the job.]
I have also spent the past semester volunteering my time with a local non-profit and helped the web team launch and manage an application that helps them with food delivery operations.
[Note: The body of the letter shows that the candidate has researched the firm and provides evidence of the candidate's value to the firm].
I believe that I have much to offer your organization as an intern and I would be delighted to discuss my suitability for this internship opportunity at your convenience. Thank you for considering this application.
There are two options for sending your job application by email. Unless there are strict instructions on the job posting, the first option is to attach the cover letter and your resume to an email. If you do this, use the same subject line for the email that you used in the cover letter. In the email body, you can simply say, “Attached please find my resume and cover letter with regard to the position of [add internship position]."
Name your resume and cover letter files sensibly. For example, Catherine_Smith_cover_letter.doc
The other option is to include the cover letter in the actual email and attach the resume. In this case, state in your cover letter that the resume is attached.
You’re almost ready to submit your application, but review the golden rules below before you do.
Did you tailor your cover letter and make sure there are no residues from the last iteration? It’s often easy to redo a cover letter but forget to change a phrase or two.
Did you include keywords that correspond to the job description (without overdoing it)?
Did you refer to something that you researched to show that you are VERY interested in the company’s activities?
Have you reviewed and proofread your cover letter, resume, and email?
If the answers are all yes, click “send” and start preparing for an interview!