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How To Write a Cover Letter For an Internship

Learn how to craft a perfect cover letter for an internship! In this guide, we share the necessary steps for writing a cover letter, as well as some useful tips.

Apr 17, 2024
  • Student Tips
How to write a cover letter for an internship

Doing an internship is a great way to break into the workforce in your desired industry, gain some experience, and set the foundation for a successful career. However, getting one is not always easy, so you maximize every step of the process.

In this article, we'll show you how to write an internship cover letter and share useful tips to help you do your best and secure an interview!

What is an internship cover letter?

A cover letter for an internship is usually a 1 page (or 300-500 words) document you submit along with your resume. Its primary purpose is to make your application personal, provide more context to your CV, and persuade the hiring manager that you make the best candidate.

In this letter, you should explain how you match the image of an employee the company is looking for, as well as how a particular internship matches your passions and long-term career goals.

Why write a cover letter for an internship?

The most important and obvious reason is that hiring managers prefer applications to have cover letters. A survey by Resume Genius shows that over 83% of recruiters read cover letters, and 45% even read them before checking applicants' CVs.

This is also an opportunity to show that you're willing to put in effort. Searching for an internship is not an easy task and can be very time-consuming, but spending those extra hours working on a cover letter will pay off by presenting you as a hard-working individual at the very least.

For the majority of hiring managers, a cover letter plays a crucial role when deciding who to invite for an interview. From the cover letter, they can get a feel of your personality and see if you're the right fit for the position.

It is especially significant if your CV may raise some "red flags", your experience doesn't directly match the internship, or the skills outlined on your resume don't necessarily explain why you're the best candidate for a job.

This is your chance to cover all the whys

From your cover letter, the hiring manager is expecting to understand the whys behind the lines in your resume:

  • Why do you want to work in this industry/company?
  • Why did you take on certain projects and courses during your studies or previous work experience?
  • Why did you have a gap (if you had one, of course)?
  • If the internship doesn't explicitly match your major, why are you going for this switch?
  • Why do you think your skills fit a particular role or company?

The answers to these questions should show that you're deliberate with your work path and not just applying to every internship posting.

When you might not need a cover letter

Some internship descriptions explicitly state that they don't need a cover letter from you. In that case, don't send it because it could create the impression that you can't follow instructions.

Also, if you can't put in the time to tailor your cover letter to a specific opportunity it's better to just skip it altogether. A generic cover letter could potentially harm your chances of securing an interview more than not having one at all.

Otherwise, it's always good to include a cover letter in your internship application.

A student writing an internship cover letter on her laptop

How to write a cover letter for an internship

Step 1: Research the company and role

The research stage is arguably the key step in writing a good cover letter. This can help you get a better understanding of what to include and which skills you should focus on.

Scroll through the company's LinkedIn and official website and see what kind of people work there, what their products are, the company culture and mission, and how you can connect to that. After analyzing your findings, you can create an outline for your cover letter and choose an appropriate tone.

The role description could also include a specific format for a cover letter, like an essay that answers a particular question, so make sure to read through it thoroughly.

Step 2: Figure out the length and structure of your cover letter

Unless specified otherwise, an internship cover letter should be up to 1 page long and follow a standard structure:

  • The cover letter header: the role and company, your name, contact info, and date
  • The greeting: "Dear [name]" or "Dear Hiring Manager"
  • The introduction: 1 paragraph with brief but engaging background information about you
  • The cover letter body: 2-3 paragraphs about your hard and soft skills, previous experience, and goals
  • The conclusion: 1 short paragraph summarizing your letter
  • The closing phrase and signature

At this step, you should also pick a readable font style and size. Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibry in sizes 10-14 are generally used for resumes and cover letters.

πŸ’‘Tip: Have the internship posting before your eyes while writing so you don't miss anything or get sidetracked.

Step 3: Write an introduction

This should be your tagline of sorts. The introduction is where you're meant to make a positive first impression, catch the hiring manager's attention, and state:

  • Who you are
  • Why this internship sparked your interest
  • Why you are a great fit for the role

Avoid generic templates and long formulaic sentences. Remember that you should sound professional but still authentic to yourself.

Step 4: Highlight relevant experience and skills

Dedicate a paragraph to highlighting your professional experience and relevant skills. Pick the most suitable projects in your education and work experience depending on the internship requirements and explain how those prepared you for this role.

If your previous experience doesn't connect to a particular internship in a straight line, try to choose a different angle to present it. For example, you could say how exploring one field made you interested in another or how the skills you acquired there can be transferred to other areas.

Step 5: Discuss your passions and ambitions

Since an internship is primarily a learning experience, you should discuss how the training you receive there aligns with your interests and career goals. Employers generally don't want to invest the time and resources it takes to teach a new person unless it pays off.

The most recent report from NACE shows that 58% of interns become full-time employees at the companies they interned at, and the number is projected to grow. So your letter should convey that you're excited about this internship and intend to stay in this field or company long-term because more often than not that's what they're looking for.

Step 6: Add a conclusion

The last paragraph of your internship cover letter is for summarizing your previous points and restating your interest. It is also recommended to add a call-to-action and encourage the hiring manager to reach out to you. Finish your conclusion by expressing gratitude to the hiring manager for their time and consideration.

Step 7: Proofread and review

Always check for any punctuation, grammar, and spelling errors as those can take some points off of your candidacy and signify a lack of attention to detail. Consider asking someone else to review it and provide feedback with a fresh perspective. Also, it could be beneficial to check again how your letter fits the internship requirements.

How to write a cover letter for an internship if you have no experience

Chances are, if you're applying for an internship, you don't have much working experience, or maybe even any experience at all.

While having a suitable professional background is an advantage, don't worry if it's not the case for you. Everyone has to start somewhere and companies often still hire rookie interns, you just need to take a slightly different approach to writing your cover letter:

  • Focus on your interests and passions
  • Highlight your academic achievements
  • Emphasize transferable skills
  • Discuss relevant coursework and extracurriculars
  • Showcase eagerness to learn
  • Share how this internship could benefit your career

Tips for writing a cover letter for an internship

Apart from the general structure and content recommendations, we have a few tips you should keep in mind while writing a cover letter for an internship:

Tailor your letter to a specific internship

Over 78% of recruiters surveyed by ResumeGo say that it's easy to tell when an applicant has invested time into tailoring their cover letter. It shows your enthusiasm about a specific role or company and hiring managers may prefer someone who really wants to work with them over a candidate who's just skilled.

Include keywords

If you're applying for an internship in a large company, a recruiter there probably won't read every single one of the hundreds of cover letters they get. Employers usually scan the letters and filter them by keywords from the internship description. So make sure to include the company name, the role, and the skills from the job posting that you can back up.

Provide evidence and examples

It's necessary to refer to evidence to support your points. If you're listing your skills, always add the specific instances where you learned or used those. It's best to avoid mentioning anything that can't be backed up. Bear in mind that hiring managers can run background checks on promising candidates.

Use professional and easy-to-read language

While writing your cover letter, don't forget that the person who will be reading it is a regular human. Pick the right balance between a professional tone and your genuine personality: a cover letter isn't an academic paper but it's not an artistic essay either.

Don't just rephrase your resume

A cover letter should always be an addition to your CV and not just a version of it in a different format. Don't write a generic letter that just rephrases the points from your resume into paragraphs because it's a waste of both your and the hiring manager's time and can be a reason for them not to proceed with your candidacy.

Don't rely on application "hacks"

You've probably seen many "lifehacks" about how to pass the pre-screening or filtering stage of the hiring process, such as, for example, adding the role requirements at the bottom of your resume in white letters. If you've heard of those tricks, then odds are high that the recruiters did as well and know how to deal with that, so we strongly advise you not to do that.

Most job application systems convert the document to plain text to analyze the points, so anything you have "hidden" will be visible to the person overseeing the process.

Conclusion

An internship cover letter allows you to highlight your experience and skills and persuade the hiring manager that you're right for the role. It is your chance to make a case for yourself and add context to your CV.

Make sure to dedicate enough time and effort to your cover letter as it is a very important and often even a deciding factor in the hiring process. Your letter should be personal, informative, engaging, and convincing - grab their attention and win them over!

Read more about internships:

Keystone Team

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The Keystone Team is comprised of experienced educators and advisors dedicated to providing valuable resources and advice to students all over the world.