Let’s say that you’re on the hunt for internship opportunities that will propel your career forward. After weeks of searching, you finally hit the jackpot with a summer internship that sounds downright ah-mazing. Excited, you quickly tailor your resume to the needs of the internship and get ready to submit your application. But wait, you’re forgetting something…
Your cover letter!
As if writing a resume with limited experience wasn’t hard enough, you somehow need to create a convincing cover letter that captures your future employer’s attention.
Don’t panic — truth is, writing a cover letter for internships isn’t nearly as tricky as you might think. Even with limited experience and achievements, there are plenty of ways to write and edit your cover letter in a way that allows you to put your best professional foot forward. Tallo is here to help you do exactly that.
Do I Need a Cover Letter for an Internship?
Your time is valuable. We totally get it. If the internship application didn’t specify the need for a cover letter, can you just, like — skip it?
While you can skip an optional cover letter, you may want to think twice before you let your resume fly solo. According to research from ResumeLab, the vast majority (83 percent) of Human Resource professionals say that cover letters play an important part in their hiring decision.
Basically, a well-written cover letter could make or break your chances of scoring an internship. Here’s why writing one from scratch is a smart move:
- You’ll be taken more seriously. Taking the time to write a compelling cover letter tells hiring managers that you’re super serious about getting the job. If the cover letter is optional, writing one could give you a big edge on the competition.
- It’s an opportunity to stand out. OK, so we don’t actually know you, but we’ve heard that you’re a pretty cool and interesting person. Why not showcase that amazing personality of yours through your resume? Introducing yourself in a memorable way can help you stand out and stay top-of-mind when hiring managers need to choose a candidate for the job.
- It adds a human element to your resume. Reading resumes can be a total snooze fest. Sorry, but that’s just the simple truth. Writing an engaging cover letter gives you a unique opportunity to talk about your qualifications without sounding like a boring robot (more on how to do that below!).
Tips for Writing a Cover Letter for Internship Applications
Crafting a memorable cover letter could seriously be your entrance to an exciting internship and a rewarding career path. On the other hand, a bad cover letter can do the exact opposite by causing your resume to end up in the trash or spam folder.
And TBH, we really don’t want that to happen to you. Your skills and accomplishments deserve to be acknowledged — not carelessly thrown into the same folder as internet dating spam and sketchy AF Nigerian princes.
To help you score the best internships, we’ve rounded up our best tips on how to write a winning cover letter for internship applications. By the time you finish reading, you should have everything you need to convince hiring managers that you’re the perfect person for the job.
Related Reading: How to Get an Internship in College
1. Be a Problem-Solver – Not a Job-Seeker
Getting a job or an internship is kinda like dating in that you don’t want to sound too desperate to get the gig. If you write your cover letter from an omg-please-hire-me-I’ll-do-anything standpoint, that sense of desperation is going to be obvious in your writing.
Before you start writing your cover letter, ask yourself this key question: What specific need or problem does the company have? And more importantly, how can you be the solution?
Companies, particularly big corporations, rarely hire interns out of the pure goodness of their hearts (this info has you SHOOK, we know). The reality is that companies hire interns because they have a major problem that needs to be solved. If you can position yourself as the solution to that problem, then you’re going to be an extremely appealing candidate to hiring managers.
2. Create a List of Relevant Keywords
Before you begin writing your cover letter, look at the job description and make note of any important keywords that are relevant to the position. Try to include these keywords in your cover letter wherever they make sense. For example, if the job description mentions “managing deadlines,” you might want to include it in your cover letter, along with a brief anecdote about how you’re a deadline managing champ.
Adding keywords to a cover letter is important for two reasons. First, it can help get your cover letter and resume past the applicant tracking system (ATS), which companies frequently use to help them sort through resumes. The second reason you want to include relevant keywords in your cover letter is because it helps demonstrate to human hiring managers that you’re a good fit for the position.
3. Know Who to Address
Avoid starting off your cover letter with “Dear Sir/Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern.” Unless you’re a 20th century time traveler, we seriously doubt that you talk like that IRL.
Of course, you still want to be polite and formal, so be sure to use the formal first name of the hiring manager (i.e., “Mr. John Smith” or “Ms. Jane Smith”). When addressing women hiring managers, never assume marital status — it should always be Ms.
You may need to do some hardcore detective work to find the name of the hiring manager. Although it might be a huge pain, we promise that it’s totally worth it to make your cover letter and resume stand out.
4. State the Position You’re Applying for
Always, always, always mention the specific job title you’re applying for in your cover letter. Chances are, the company has multiple job and internship openings. Be specific so that the hiring manager knows exactly which position you’re applying for and can more easily see how your qualifications match the job description.
The vast majority of job applicants decide to mention the position they’re applying for within the first paragraph, if not the first sentence. That being said, we have seen some pretty amazing cover letter examples where the job position wasn’t mentioned until the very end. Ultimately, it comes down to preference and how you want to tell your story.
5. Lead with Your Strongest Asset
Don’t save the best stuff for last! Your cover letter isn’t some delicious pizza or calzone (so hungry rn). To really grab the hiring manager’s attention, you need to lead with your top selling points. What makes you a good fit for this position? Are you involved in extracurricular activities that make you stand out? Don’t be shy about it!
Another strong way to open the first paragraph is by explaining why you’re interested in the position or company. If you’re applying for a software company, for example, you might hook the reader with a brief tale (keyword here being brief) about how playing computer games with your mom as a kid sparked your love of coding.
6. Mention Relevant Knowledge and Skills
The body paragraphs of your cover letter are the ideal place to go into more detail about your experience and skills. School coursework, extracurriculars, volunteer work, or experience from previous summer internships and externships are all totally fair game to mention in your cover letter.
Related Reading: Summer Internships for High School Students
Related Reading: Externship vs. Internship
For instance, let’s say that you’re a marine biology major applying for an internship at your local aquarium. You could talk about specific courses you’ve taken that might help you be successful in your role, such as Conservation Biology, Oceanography, or Invertebrate Zoology.
It doesn’t even need to be that specific. Do you volunteer to pick up highway trash on the weekends? Sounds like you’re the type of person who doesn’t mind getting their hands dirty — a perfect attribute for someone seeking an entry-level position at an aquarium.
7. Restate Your Excitement for the Opportunity
You’re almost done! In the closing paragraph, be sure to restate how excited you are about the internship opportunity. You may want to reiterate how you hope to contribute to the company and why you’re the right person for the role.
Finally, end with a call to action. Mention that your resume is enclosed and that you look forward to hearing from them to discuss the opportunity further. And that’s it! You’re done!
8. Proofread and Edit
OK, so there is actually one more small step to writing a cover letter for an internship: proofing and editing. Although it may not be the most exciting step in the process, it’s undoubtedly one of the most important. We mean, can you imagine going to all the hard work of crafting a killer cover letter, only to be passed up for the opportunity due to grammatical errors? That would be such a huge bummer!
Before you send in your cover letter, run it through Grammarly to check for spelling and grammatical errors. It’s also not a bad idea to have a family member or friend take a look at your cover letter before you send it off.
Sample Internship Cover Letter
Ready to write an attention-grabbing cover letter that lands you the job? Using the tips from above, we’ve created a sample cover letter for an internship, so you can see how to highlight your knowledge, skills, and experience in the best possible way.
123 Plshireme Avenue
Kalamazoo, MI 49001
Dream Job Inc.
12345 Opportunity Street
Lansing, MI 48864
Dear Mr. Henry Johnson,
Recently, your company received the Green Michigan Award for working hard to become more sustainable. As a junior marketing major at [University Name] and the current Program Manager at my school’s Sustainability Center, I was thrilled to see an open marketing internship available at your company. With my proven commitment to sustainability and my marketing knowledge and skills, I’m confident that I would be the ideal candidate for the role.
I have had a great deal of marketing experience, both in and outside the classroom. Currently, I hold a 3.6 GPA and have completed coursework in the following areas:
- Marketing Analytics
- Digital Marketing
- Survey Research
- Customer and Market Insights
Using this knowledge, I had the opportunity to create a marketing campaign for my university that encouraged students to apply to [University Name]. Due to the success of the campaign, student applications increased 22% over a three-month period.
Along with this marketing experience, I am deeply passionate about green initiatives. Your company’s commitment to sustainability is inspiring, and I would be delighted to contribute to your company’s green initiatives by applying my marketing knowledge and skills to future marketing campaigns.
My resume is attached, along with a link to the marketing campaign I referenced earlier. I can’t wait to discuss this opportunity further!
Send Your Cover Letter the Right Way
When you’re ready to send your cover letter and resume to the hiring manager, be sure to follow the instructions of your internship application carefully. It’s not uncommon for hiring managers to include specific instructions to weed out internship candidates who can’t follow simple instructions. If the internship application asks to attach your cover letter as a separate doc (as opposed to pasting it directly into the email), then do it.
Remember, there’s no right way to write a cover letter. There are, however, plenty of wrong ways. With these tips, you can tell a captivating story that demonstrates your skills, knowledge, achievements, and, ultimately, your hireability.