In any career placement, it’s important to make a good impression. Cover letters are excellent at this; an important part of the internship application process, they show your potential employer that you have genuine interest in the position and will put in the effort necessary to secure it.
If you’re at or near the start of your career, chances are your work and education experience will be very similar to other candidates. As such, cover letters can be as important as your resume. These letters will highlight your specific and unique skills and attributes, helping you to stand out from the crowd.
How to write an internship cover letter
Internship cover letters should be unique to the position that you’re applying for and the company that you’re applying to. Resist the temptation to have a blanket cover letter for every role you apply for, where you fill in some blanks to suit who you’re sending it to.
You can have a general outline, but each cover letter should be unique. It should be persuasive and specific.
Your cover letter is a formal letter and should be composed as such. Use correct grammar and syntax, avoid colloquialisms, and ensure readability. You should only write about 3-5 paragraphs composed of 4 sentences each.
Remember, the whole purpose of a cover letter is to tell the people who are considering hiring you why you are the ideal candidate. Here’s what to include in an internship cover letter to accomplish just that.
1. Contact information
Your potential employer must be able to easily find your contact information and it must be accurate. If you are sending a printed cover letter, your contact information must be at the top of the letter. If you are emailing your cover letter, then add your contact information below your typed name.
2. Correctly and respectfully address the person to whom you’re writing
Cover letters are specific. You shouldn’t be general in your address of the recipient. Don’t write “to whom it may concern”, or “Dear Sir or Madam”. This is a sign that you didn’t do your research on who would be reading your letter.
Instead, find out who will be reading your letter and address it to them. You can contact the organization for this information. If they can’t give you a name for privacy and confidentiality reasons, then address your letter to the head of department that your internship is in. If this isn’t possible, then address it to someone in HR.
You may address your letter to a person with their job title if you can’t find their name, e.g., “Dear Hiring Manager”, or “Dear Internship Recruiter”, but it’s ideal if you can address them by their name, e.g., “Dear Mr. Harris”, or “Dear Ms. Monroe”.
Never assume someone’s marital status if you don’t know it for sure – go with Ms. instead of Miss or Mrs.
3. Your interest
Clearly state which role you are applying for. Not only is this useful for them to know, but it also shows that you have made this cover letter specifically for this role. You may also include how you heard about this role and why you feel it’s right for you.
4. An introduction to yourself and your relevant education
Let the organization know if you’re a recent graduate or still a student, what you’ve studied that’s relevant as well as when. Paint them a picture of what you’ve done that’s pertinent to this role as well as when so that they can decide if that’s what they need.
5. Your additional skills
This is an excellent opportunity to shine. There may be accomplishments you have that meet the role’s requirements which others do not have. This could be language, technical, or soft skills, or maybe specific software competencies. Whatever you can do that you think is relevant to this role should be shared in this section.
6. Skills you possess that match the internship requirements
Here, align your skills with the internship’s specificities. Certain courses completed, a certain number of credits, being bilingual – whatever it is that the role stipulates is a necessity and that you possess, state it here.
7. What you want from this internship
Many internships are unpaid, so it’s a good idea to specify what you are looking to gain. Experience and exposure, of course, but be clear about the specifics. What exactly do you want exposure to and experience in?
Consider carefully what you would like out of this internship. Studies often open up a number of career opportunities and internships are a great way to see what’s right for you or start you on the path that you choose. Feel free to add a bit of personality here. Don’t be too forward or familiar, but let the person who will read it know any personal or professional motivations you may have.
Never send off a cover letter without reading it first. In fact, read and re-read it as many times as you can. Ensure that it has no grammatical and spelling errors, is going to the right person, says the right things, and isn’t repetitive.
If you can, have some friends or family (preferably with relevant experience) to read it over and see what they think. Their feedback can help you catch something that you missed.
Remember to sign off with “sincerely” or “respectfully”, and not with something familiar like “warm regards” as this is a formal letter.
Once you’re happy with your letter, send it off with the confidence that you’ve done a great job of it. And don’t let it get you down if you don’t hear back from them or if you’ve not gotten the position – it just means it wasn’t the right fit for you. You’ll find what’s right for you in the future.