So, you’re ready to find the perfect internship and kickstart your professional career. You’ve researched opportunities, made a list of your dream companies, crafted a great resume, and are about to apply. But what should you upload for the application’s “cover letter” field?
You’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll tell you how to write a great cover letter that will help you stand out from the crowd and get you hired. It’s often the first thing a hiring manager will see when they open your application, so it's important to get it right. After all, first impressions are everything!
Read the internship posting carefully before writing your cover letter. Pay attention to the intern’s primary responsibilities and the desired candidate’s skills and experience. Keep the job posting handy so you can refer to it while writing.
Now that you’re ready to start writing, let’s get into our guide for creating the perfect cover letter for every application on your to-do list.
1. Customize each cover letter
One of the most important intern cover letter tips is to avoid using the same generic letter for all your applications. Recruiters and employers can tell when you didn’t take time to create a unique letter for their specific internship. Instead, open your cover letter by sharing why you’re excited about this particular internship and employer and why you’re a good fit. Include information about the company and the role you’re applying for (pro tip: Use language from the application!).
2. Structure the cover letter’s flow effectively
A well-crafted cover letter should grab the attention of the recruiter or hiring manager and effectively convey key information. Achieve this by structuring your cover letter with an engaging introduction sentence and impactful first paragraph, an informative body paragraph or two, and a strong closing paragraph. It's also important to strike a balance between conveying key information and maintaining a concise and engaging tone throughout your cover letter.
Cover letters shouldn’t be very long — three or four paragraphs are plenty. Keep it short, sweet, and to the point. Now is not the time to be chatty! Save the chit-chat to showcase how friendly and personable you are during the interview.
Hiring managers are busy, and you want to ensure they read your cover letter from start to finish. That’s why it’s key to emphasize only the most important points relevant to the internship you’re applying for while keeping the cover letter as short as possible so it’s easy to read.
3. Include keywords and supporting details
It is common for employers to scan resumes and cover letters for keywords related to the internship. First and foremost, use the company name. Next, incorporate any skills or experiences listed in the job description.
While your resume lists your technical skills and experience, a cover letter should include details about desirable soft skills like time management and communication skills. If you’re mentioning soft skills, provide support. For example, if you want to highlight your leadership skills, detail a time when you led a group project or served as a student group officer.
As you consider which skills and experience to mention in a cover letter, take a look at the ones listed in the application or job posting. Pointing to those shows the hiring manager why you’re the best candidate for that role and demonstrates that you’ve read the job description carefully. Taking the time to review the role strengthens your case as a sincerely engaged and interested applicant.
4. Highlight coursework and extracurriculars
Don’t worry if you don’t have much work experience. Describe relevant coursework and major projects you’ve worked on as a college student that demonstrate your knowledge and skills. You can also add any student group involvement or volunteer opportunities.
These combined experiences show your initiative and help you stand out as a candidate (even if you’ve never been paid to do those things). Just because you didn’t make any money doesn’t mean you didn’t do a great job! You’ll have the chance to demonstrate how well you performed in those roles during the interview, so get ready to discuss the experiences you mention in the cover letter in greater detail.
5. Share what you’d like to accomplish
Cover letters aren’t just for telling employers why they should hire you. They’re also an opportunity to share what you believe you’ll get from the specific position. Whether it’s gaining a new skill or learning more about an industry, share why the role is important to you. This tells the employer that you’re not just trying to satisfy course credits with your internship — you’re also looking for valuable work experience that will kickstart your career. Who knows, maybe they’ll want to hire you as a full-time employee later.
6. Professionally format the cover letter
Your cover letter format is just as important as what’s in it. Aim to keep your cover letter concise and limited to one page. Use a clean and readable font, like Arial or Calibri, with a font size of 10 to 12 points and proper spacing and margins for a professional appearance.
Include a header with your contact information, including your full name, phone number, professional email address, and optionally, your LinkedIn profile or relevant online portfolio. Also, try to find the hiring manager’s name to address the letter. Rather than starting with a salutation like “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear hiring manager,” try to find the actual name of the person you’re addressing. Lastly, don’t forget to close with a professional sign-off, such as “Sincerely” or “Best.”
Get help with formatting your internship cover letter by downloading our free template. Again, remember to tailor it to the company and internship role you’re applying for!
7. Proofread and ask for feedback
Once your cover letter is ready, carefully read through it and check for spelling, punctuation, grammar mistakes, and typos. Have a friend or family member review it and give feedback. If you have a classmate majoring in English or communications who wouldn’t mind taking a look, even better!
Another option is to reach out to your school’s career center. Schedule an appointment to review your cover letter and resume and ask any other application- or interview-related questions. Your school wants you to succeed in your career, so take advantage of all the tools they have to offer while you’re attending.
Example cover letter
Here’s an internship cover letter example to use as a starting point. Remember to tailor yours to the specific job you’re applying for rather than just copying and pasting this one:
[Your Full Name]
[Your Contact Info (include relevant social media accounts, if applicable)]
[Hiring Manager’s Name]
[Hiring Manager’s Job Title]
[Hiring Manager’s Contact Info]
Dear [hiring manager’s full name],
As a passionate [college/university] student majoring in [relevant field], I am eager to immerse myself in [Company’s Name]’s groundbreaking work in the [relevant industry] through your internship position. I firmly believe my [specific skills or coursework] will allow me to serve as a valuable asset on the [Company Name] team while expanding my knowledge to real-world challenges and harnessing invaluable hands-on experience within the industry.
With a passion for [specific aspect of the industry or role], I am confident in my ability to [relevant job responsibilities or tasks]. During my studies, I have developed a solid foundation in [mention relevant coursework or projects], which has equipped me with the [skills or knowledge] necessary for success in this role. Additionally, my experience as a [relevant internship or extracurricular activity] has allowed me to further refine my [specific skills or abilities].
I am particularly drawn to [Company Name]'s commitment to [mention a value, mission, or specific project]. The opportunity to work alongside a talented and innovative team while contributing to [Company Name]'s growth is truly inspiring. My strong [communication/analytical/technical, etc.] skills, coupled with my dedication and adaptability, make me an ideal fit for the [job title] role.
I welcome the chance to discuss my qualifications and learn more about [Company Name] in an interview. Thank you for considering my application. I have attached my resume for your review. Should you require additional information, please do not hesitate to contact me at [Your Phone Number] or [Your Email Address].
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Do you need a cover letter for an internship?
While a cover letter isn’t mandatory for all internship applications, we recommend submitting one. A cover letter provides an opportunity to showcase your qualifications, skills, and enthusiasm for the internship position. It allows you to personalize your job application, demonstrate professionalism, and communicate your interest in the role and organization.
A well-written cover letter can significantly enhance your chances of standing out among other candidates and securing the internship. Hiring managers know that job and internship seekers are likely applying to many other opportunities at the same time, so ensure they know their company is one you would especially like to work for.
How do you write an internship cover letter if you have no experience?
If you lack professional experience, you can still present yourself with confidence, highlight your relevant skills and achievements, and convey your eagerness to learn and contribute. Here are some tips for accomplishing this:
- Focus on transferable skills. Highlight relevant transferable skills acquired through coursework, extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, or volunteer work. These skills can include communication, teamwork, problem-solving, organization, research, or leadership skills.
- Emphasize academic achievements. Showcase your academic achievements, such as high grades, honors, or specific coursework relevant to the internship. Discuss how your academic knowledge and skills can apply to the internship role and contribute to the organization.
- Showcase relevant projects or coursework. If you have completed any projects or coursework that align with the internship position, describe them in detail. Highlight the tasks, methodologies, and outcomes to demonstrate your ability to apply your knowledge in a practical setting.
- Leverage extracurricular involvement. Discuss any relevant extracurricular activities or leadership roles you have held. For example, if you were part of a club or organization related to the internship’s field, explain your involvement and how it has developed your skills or provided you with relevant experiences.
- Express eagerness to learn. Emphasize your willingness and enthusiasm to learn and grow in the internship. Highlight your passion for the field and commitment to acquiring new skills and knowledge. Demonstrating a positive attitude and eagerness to learn can compensate for a lack of direct experience.
- Connect with the company's culture, mission, and values. Research the organization and align your cover letter with its mission, values, and projects. Show that you are genuinely interested in their work and how your background and aspirations align with their goals.
- Network and seek recommendations. If possible, reach out to network contacts who may have connections or insights into the internship opportunity. Requesting recommendations or endorsements from professors, advisers, or professionals in the field can bolster your application.
Land your dream internship
The ultimate goal: landing your dream internship (and, later, your dream job!). An effective cover letter can help make that happen. It's your chance to shine, showcasing why you're the perfect fit for the position. A personalized and compelling letter grabs employers’ attention and helps you stand out from the crowd. Remember to be authentic, highlight relevant experiences, and let your passion shine through.
Don't underestimate the impact of a well-crafted cover letter and the opportunities that lie ahead. This is your opportunity to show potential employers your skills and abilities and share some of your background with them before the interview.
Head over to Handshake today to open doors to exciting internship possibilities. Not only can we connect you with the best companies looking for talent just like you, but you can also set up job alerts so you won’t miss that golden opportunity. Happy job searching!