How to Write a Cover Letter for an Internship (Templates Included)
By Mike Simpson
Figuring out how to write a cover letter for an internship can be surprisingly tricky.
Well, for one, if you’re going for an internship, you probably don’t have a ton of experience in the field.
Does that mean you shouldn’t go for it? Hardly. Overall, around 65 percent of paid internships turn into full-time, permanent job offers. That means an internship can be a great way to launch a career. Exciting, right?
So, if you’re ready to find out how you can get your career off on the right foot, come with us as we explore how to write a winning cover letter for an internship.
What Is an Internship Cover Letter?
Alright, before we dig into a step-by-step writing guide and internship cover letter examples, let’s pause for a quick second and talk about what an internship cover letter even is.
Generally, an internship cover letter is an introduction, a written handshake, if you will. It lets you dig a bit into what you bring to the table and highlight why you’re such a rock star candidate.
Usually, you’ll want to use the best cover letter format, one that uses a business communications-style approach. If you go too casual, the hiring manager might have doubts about your professionalism or written communication skills, and that’ll work against you. But by using the right format, you can showcase those skills without directly mentioning them.
However, that doesn’t mean an internship cover letter isn’t a bit different from a traditional one.
In a traditional cover letter for a job, you usually focus on work-related accomplishments and the skills and traits you used to achieve them. The thing is, if you’re a college student or recent graduate, you might not be able to go that route.
Instead, your internship cover letter is going to focus more on your educational experience. Your clubs, sports teams, and other extracurricular activities can also be worth featuring.
Additionally, you can tap onto other work experiences outside of that industry. After all, there’s a good chance you have transferable skills if you’ve held any position (or even done volunteer work).
If you are changing careers and using an internship to start on a new path, focusing on your transferable skills is the key. You can find the relevant experience that’s part of your work history, showcasing why you’re an exceptional candidate even though you haven’t specifically worked in or studied the field.
What Are Hiring Managers Looking for in an Internship Cover Letter?
Competition for certain internships can be surprisingly fierce. At one major company, 100 openings attracted about 14,000 applications. If that isn’t intimidating, we don’t know what is.
But that doesn’t mean you should panic. Instead, you just need to speak the hiring manager’s language in your cover letter and focus on what they want to find.
So, what is the hiring manager looking for? Well, that may depend on the exact position. Every role has different skill requirements. Luckily, those are usually spelled out in the must-have list in the position description.
Use that “must-have” list as a starting point. Look at each skill or knowledge area and see if you can bring it to the table. If you have relevant education or experience, that should be a focus when you start writing.
However, you should also feature traits that will make you a great intern. Usually, internships are partially educational experiences. The company knows you’ll need to be trained; that’s what internships are all about.
So, knowing that, what’s one thing you definitely want to spotlight? Your willingness to learn! But that’s not all. Traits like reliability, attention-to-detail, curiosity, accountability, organization, time management… they all matter, too.
Ask yourself this; which of your attributes made you an exceptional student? Once you have a few picked, think about how you can highlight them in a meaningful way. Can you align them with an educational achievement? If so, that could be a great starting point.
Essentially, hiring managers for internships want to find candidates who are open-minded, hungry to learn, and dedicated. If you can couple that with the core skills they want you to have on day one, you’re on your way to coming up with great content for your cover letter.
Common Internship Cover Letter Mistakes
Now, there’s one more thing we need to touch on before we get to the how-to guide for writing a cover letter for an internship. What’s that? Well, it’s common mistakes.
Certain missteps can send an otherwise amazing candidate straight into the discard pile. That’s why avoiding them is so critical; it can make the difference between moving forward in the selection process and removing yourself from contention.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is talking about your needs too much. While your cover letter should be about you, it’s supposed to focus on what you can do for the company, not what the company can do for you.
Instead of talking about what you hope to get out of the internship, discuss how you can be the solution to a problem the company has. That’ll help you create an enticing value proposition.
Another major misstep is not targeting your cover letter to the role. Before you start writing, get to know the Tailoring Method. That way, you can make sure your content is focused on the right areas.
Next, simply rehashing what’s on your resume isn’t a smart move. If you do that, you’re missing an opportunity to really showcase your story in a meaningful way. Instead of going that route, take advantage of what you can do in a cover letter that isn’t an option elsewhere in your application. That way, you can really increase your odds of standing out.
MIKE’S TIP: While spelling and grammar checking software is a great start, even those programs can miss certain mistakes. If you want to give yourself the best chance of catching every area, start with those checks. Then, paste your cover letter into a text-to-speech program and listen to it. Sometimes, listening to what you wrote makes an error easier to identify. You know when something doesn’t sound right, giving you a chance to correct problems you may have overlooked.
Finally, sending in a cover letter with spelling or grammar mistakes is a big no-no. It makes it seem like you lack attention-to-detail, and that won’t help you get the position. So, before you hit send, review your letter for mistakes.
How to Write an Internship Cover Letter
If you want to make your application sparkle, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to write an internship cover letter that’ll stand out from the pack.
1. Start with Your Contact Information
The first thing that should appear in your cover letter is your contact information. You can either used a centered header approach, not unlike what you may have on your resume. However, you can also go with a simple left-aligned format.
By listing your contact information, you make sure that the hiring manager knows whose letter they are reading right away, and that matters. So, write your name, address, phone number, and email right at the top.
2. Date Your Internship Cover Letter
Yes, it may seem like a silly little detail, but you do want to date your letter. It’s part of a traditional business letter format, so include the date you finalized your letter below your contact details.
3. List the Hiring Manager’s Info
After the date, you’ll need to write in the hiring manager’s details. You can include their name, position, company name, and physical address if you have all of that. If not, you may want to list the details for human resources or the internship coordination office.
4. Add a Salutation
Even if you have the hiring manager’s name listed already, you still want to add a salutation. It’s a simple and quick greeting, allowing you to address them directly and set the tone for the letter.
When in doubt, a simple “Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms./Dr. [Name]” approach is sufficient. Then, follow that with a colon – not a comma – to finish it off.
If you don’t know the hiring manager’s name, you could use “Dear Hiring Manager.” Just make sure to stay away from “To Whom It May Concern,” as it’s a bit outdated and incredibly generic.
5. Start Off with a Bang
Ideally, your first or two sentences should be an attention-grabber. If you lead off with your name or that you want to apply to position X, that isn’t particularly engaging. Yes, that approach technically does the job. But if you can showcase your passion up front, that’s usually better.
6. List the Position Name
Immediately after your starting sentences, you do want to list the position details. Include the job title, department, and company name, if you have all of that. If you don’t know the department, just the job title and company name are usually enough.
7. Give an Overview
For your third (and maybe fourth) sentence, you want to give the hiring manager a quick overview of what you bring to the table. Usually, this involves listing a few skills or traits that you have that appeared in the must-haves list.
Additionally, you want to assert that you think you’re a great fit for the role based on your capabilities. It lets you showcase your confidence a bit, which can work in your favor.
8. Talk About Relevant Achievements and Skills
In your second and third paragraphs, you’ll highlight accomplishments that showcase your skills. This could include school, extracurricular, volunteer, or work experiences in other fields, as long as they specifically speak to why you’re a great candidate for this internship.
9. Close It Out
In the fourth paragraph, you want to bring it on home. Say again that you feel you’re an excellent fit, and also mention how excited you are to hear from them about the opportunity.
10. Sign Off
After your closing paragraph, you’ll need to sign off. Usually, options like “Sincerely” or “Best Regards” are your best options, as they are professional and polite.
After that, add your signature, and you’re set.
Internship Cover Letter Examples
Sometimes, nothing is more valuable than a great sample cover letter for an internship. It can help you see how one needs to go together, almost serving as a template you can follow.
Here are three internship cover letter examples for different situations.
1. College Student
Dear Mr. Doe:
I’ve been fascinated by technology ever since I first sat down in front of my family’s Windows 98 computer, and that passion led me to begin down the path toward earning my Bachelor’s Degree in Software Engineering. When I discovered the software engineering internship position with ABC Software Company, I was immediately excited about the idea of honing my skills in such an amazing role. I believe that my education has primed me for such an opportunity, allowing me to support the software engineering department through my attention-to-detail, exceptional work ethic, and ever-evolving technical capabilities.
As a student, I have had the opportunity to take part in large-scale projects that were part of my educational experience. I played a critical role in the creation of a standalone application designed to introduce pre-teens and teens to the exciting world of coding. Not only did this involve putting my software engineering skills to work, but also breaking down complex topics in a way that was easy to understand and engaging for younger learners.
Additionally, I’ve had the good fortune of being a part of the college’s debate team. This experience has allowed me to cultivate public speaking and negotiation skills, hone my research capabilities, and learn to function well when under pressure, traits that I believe would help me flourish in the internship position.
I believe that my education thus far will allow me to become an asset to the software engineering team, ensuring they have valuable support as I learn and grow on the job. I look forward to hearing from you about this exceptional opportunity.
2. Recent Graduate
Dear Mrs. Doe:
During my studies that led me to my Bachelor’s in Marketing, I continued to find the world of advertising fascinating, particularly how well-timed, high-design marketing campaigns can have such an impact on public sentiment and interest. As a recent graduate, I believe that I’m an excellent fit for the marketing intern role at XYZ Company.
While studying marketing, I specialized in market analysis and segmentation. My focus has allowed me to develop a specific skill set, one that concentrates on identifying paths that speak to individual audiences, increasing interest and conversion rates. I was able to put these capabilities to work as a volunteer with a local charity, developing social media advertising campaign that increased event attendance by 15 percent, leading to a 25 percent increase in donations.
As a student and volunteer, I’ve also learned the power of teamwork, remaining open-minded, and maintaining a willingness to learn. Whether I’m needed as a group leader or a contributor, my adaptability allows me to serve in the role that’s required most, ensuring the team can move forward toward success.
Overall, I feel that my education and experience make me an excellent candidate for the marketing internship role. I appreciate your consideration and look forward to hearing from you regarding this exceptional opportunity.
3. Career Change
Dear Dr. Doe:
In today’s world, the customer experience is at the core of nearly every operation. While the bulk of my career has been in customer service management, I believe that my skills make me an excellent candidate for the IT help desk internship position with ABC Company. During my career, I’ve learned how to stay calm under pressure, get to the root of a customer’s needs, and address concerns while remaining polite, professional, and results-oriented.
As a customer service manager, much of my role focused on addressing escalated problems that tier-one representatives weren’t able to handle. Often, this meant dealing not only with complex issues but also frustrated customers. While serving in the position, I learned how to deescalate hostile situations and convey complex information to those without subject matter expertise, all while maintaining a smile.
Additionally, I’ve always had a passion for learning, whether through formal training or those around me. I’m diligent and dedicated, never resting until I’ve accomplished the task ahead of me.
I believe that my experience makes me a great and unique fit for the IT help desk internship position. Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you about this outstanding opportunity.
Putting It All Together
Ultimately, writing a cover letter for an internship doesn’t have to be a challenge. Take advantage of the guide and tips above. If you do, you’ll be able to craft an engaging, informative cover letter in no time flat.
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Co-Founder and CEO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at TheInterviewGuys.com.
His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan, Penn State, Northeastern and others.
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