Find out how to apply for an internship and how to stand out from the crowd with a solid resume, cover letter, references, and portfolio.

How to Apply for an Internship


  • Internships can pave the way to job opportunities.
  • A strong cover letter helps you stand out from other applicants.
  • Hiring managers look for resumes that contain relevant information.
  • Complete your application with a portfolio, references, and updated social media accounts.

Internships play an important role in your future success. The National Association of Colleges and Employers reports that over 70% of employers end up offering a full-time job to their interns. Another study found that applicants with internship experience had a 12.6% greater chance of getting a job interview.

How do you stand out from the hundreds of other applicants vying for the same internship? One way is to have a strong resume, cover letter, and portfolio, as well as solid references. Read on to learn more about how to apply for internships.

Figure Out Where to Submit Your Internship Application

While many businesses require candidates to submit their internship applications through an online portal, others request that you send your documents through email. Follow submission guidelines exactly as stated in the listing.

If it's a generic email address, call the organization or search on LinkedIn to find out who you should address the email to. If they don't request specific email formatting, include the name of the internship you're applying for in the subject line. Make sure your email address is professional, too.

Update Your Resume and Cover Letter

It's always important to update your resume, since a strong resume and cover letter are often the deciding factors for a hiring manager. Don't worry if you don't have much experience in the field. Hiring managers understand you're looking for an internship so that you can gain more experience.

The following tips go over how to tailor those documents to your prospective internship:

  • Be Descriptive

    In addition to your job title and date of employment, include the duties you performed as they relate to the internship you're applying for.

    Remember to describe impact when listing your skills and duties performed. For example, instead of just stating that you managed a social media account, describe how many views you received or how much you grew your following.

  • Only Include Relevant Information

    Study what each company seeks in an intern and specific tasks or skills they've listed. Then include details about how you have experience in those specific areas. For instance, your job as a cashier may have taught you the intricacies of customer service that you can apply to a community outreach or sales internship.

  • Keep It Concise

    Some studies suggest that companies look at your resume for just a little over six seconds before moving on to the next. Keep your resume concise and avoid including irrelevant experience just to add more bulk.

    Hiring managers look for key skills that they addressed in their ad. Highlight these attributes using the same phrasing and leave out the rest.

  • Ensure the Format Is Easy to Skim

    Design your resume so that it can be read easily. Bullet points help draw attention to the most important information. Other ways to ensure easy readability include dividing sections clearly, using a simple font, and optimizing the top quarter of your resume.

  • Write Cover Letters

    A good cover letter can make all the difference when competing for an internship coordinator's time. This is your opportunity to showcase your personality and demonstrate your passion as well as your skills, abilities, accomplishments, and professional writing talents.

    Make your cover letter personalized and professional by explaining how your experience and personality make you a good match for this internship and organization.

  • Make Each Cover Letter Unique

    Tweak your cover letter for each role, highlighting the specific skills they've mentioned in their internship listing. This is your opportunity to convince the hiring manager that you can be an asset to the company.

  • Describe Your Qualifications and Experience

    When describing your qualifications and experience, always keep in mind the internship you're applying for. Tailor your descriptions to include only experience relevant to the internship.

    If you're touting a specific skill, be sure to include in what context you demonstrated this ability, whether at school, at work, or in a volunteer organization.

  • Show Passion and Enthusiasm

    Employers look for interns with enthusiasm and motivation. They want someone who is excited about joining their team. You can illustrate your enthusiasm by describing why you're passionate about the company. You may also include a story about your achievements or activities that demonstrate your passion for their particular field.

Prepare Other Internship Application Materials

Gather References

Most employers require internship applicants to provide 2-3 references. Start collecting these names well in advance. Consider who will be able to speak to your personality, skills, and work ethic. Good references from teachers, professors, or previous employers are like gold in the quest for an internship.

Develop a Portfolio

Some internships require applicants to provide a portfolio. This collection of your best relevant work provides organizations with concrete evidence regarding your skills. A few fields that typically require a portfolio include graphic design, web development, writing, and marketing.

Even for internships that do not require a portfolio, submitting this extra bit of proof of your skills and talents can help you stand out. Consider highlighting projects relevant to the internship and select a sample of your best work.

3 Final Tips Before Applying for an Internship

  • Ensure Your Social Media Accounts Are Private

    According to a CareerBuilder survey, 70% of employers view a candidate's social networking sites, and over half of those surveyed chose not to hire someone because of the content found on these sites. Make sure your accounts are private and free of content you wouldn't want to share with your employer.

  • Know Application Deadlines

    Some deadlines are as early as November for summer opportunities. Many organizations request applications 6-8 months in advance. If you're applying to multiple internships, consider creating a spreadsheet with deadlines and putting reminders in your calendar so you don't lose out on interning for the organization of your dreams.

  • Double-Check Your Applications

    When you're submitting what seems like a million applications, it can be easy to switch on automatic pilot. Unfortunately, this is also when mistakes can occur. As this is your one chance to make a good first impression, you need to make sure all application materials are flawless.

    Always double-check the names of organizations and hiring managers to make sure you are spelling, capitalizing, and punctuating them correctly.

    Many school career centers help students by going over their resumes and cover letters. If available, take advantage of this resource or ask a professor, family member, or friend to review your applications for you.

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Feature Image: Narisara Nami / Moment / Getty Images