How to Write a Cover Letter for an Internship
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- A cover letter gives you the opportunity to explain why you're the best candidate.
- A standout cover letter focuses on the company and your passion for the position.
- Your cover letter should highlight your relevant skills, experience, and coursework.
- Format your cover letter correctly through the use of professional fonts, spacing, and margins.
Looking for an internship, and receiving an offer, can feel like an almost insurmountable feat. With so many applicants, how can you find a way to set yourself apart from your competitors? One way is with a strong cover letter.
A good cover letter expresses your passion for the company and displays your strengths as they relate to the position. In this section of our ultimate guide to internships, learn what you should include (and not include) in a college internship cover letter.
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What Is the Goal of a Cover Letter?
While your resume forms a picture of your skills and experience, your cover letter lets you express your passion for the internship you're applying for and your understanding of the role. In clear and powerful prose, you can demonstrate your professional and persuasive writing skills as well as the reasons why you're the best candidate for the position.
While not always required, if there's an option to send a cover letter as an attachment or to paste it into an online portal, it's best to send it. After all, this is your opportunity to stand out from the crowd.
Writing a Cover Letter for an Internship
Focus On the Company and Role You're Applying For
Make your cover letter compelling by focusing on the company. Do your research and determine what makes you a good match, what you can offer them as it relates to the position, and why you're passionate about working for them.
Taking a look at their mission statement can give you a good idea of their brand. Let them know how you fit into their culture and what you admire about the company.
Only Include Relevant Experience and Coursework
Most students apply to internships to get the experience they need to enter the workforce. Hiring managers understand this and know that interns rarely come with years of on-the-job training. Instead, they look for relevant experience in extracurricular activities, volunteer work, school projects, and classes.
Think about the proficiencies you've acquired that closely relate to the position you're applying for. If possible, list specific accomplishments. You can also include coursework as it applies to the job or industry.
Highlight Relevant Skills
Don't be timid about mentioning your skills and abilities as they relate to the position. A cover letter offers the opportunity to demonstrate your confidence, passion, and drive. Look at the skills the company lists in their job posting and then sift through the many activities and events in your life that allowed you to develop these attributes.
If you gained experience as a team player through sports you played, took on a leadership role as a campus event coordinator, or overcame a challenge by persevering despite obstacles, include these soft skills in your cover letter.
Explain Your Fit for the Role
In a few short sentences, explain why this company should offer you the internship over the hundreds of other applicants. While that may sound daunting, it comes down to your unique skills and experiences that align with what the employer is looking for.
Keep in mind that almost all companies want hardworking interns who are passionate about the position and company, who have a positive and professional attitude, and who can demonstrate and build on the technical skills they learned in their coursework.
Describe What You Hope to Gain From the Internship
Most employers develop an internship program to get support with specific projects and tasks, help students gain experience, and find interns that fit well with their company and may become future employees. Over 70% of employers end up offering interns a full-time position.
In a brief couple of sentences, let the hiring manager know what you hope to gain from the internship. Make sure your desires correspond with the role. An example may include being able to apply the graphic design skills you acquired in school to the company's marketing campaigns.
What to Avoid in a Cover Letter for an Internship
Don't Point Out Your Lack of Experience
Whether applying for an internship or a full-time job, never point out your lack of experience or perceived weaknesses.
Like a good magician, use your writing skills to direct the hiring manager's attention to what you do bring to the table. A cover letter offers the chance to highlight your strengths and make a case for why you're the best choice for the role.
Don't Copy a Template
Recruiters see hundreds of cover letters for every internship posting. Imagine the number of cover letters they've seen throughout their career, including all the ready-made templates.
Using a template signals to a company that you may be unoriginal, don't value the position enough to take the time to create a unique and personalized cover letter, and aren't truly passionate about the role. Don't be tempted by those easy templates.
Don't Restate Your Resume
A compelling cover letter impels the recruiter to turn the page and read your resume. When they do, they don't want to find the same information shared in a different format.
Use your cover letter to describe how your extracurricular activities, courses, and part-time jobs gave you the skills listed in the company's internship posting. These few paragraphs allow you to connect the dots for the recruiter and explain why you're an ideal fit.
How to Format a Cover Letter for an Internship
Be Mindful of the Length
A well-crafted cover letter needs to address the pertinent information succinctly. Like a good novel, you need to include enough to keep the recruiter reading but not so much that they put the letter down.
A cover letter should contain about 3-4 paragraphs of detailed information. The first paragraph describes why you're applying to the position, while the remaining paragraphs detail your relevant skills and experience. Increase readability by keeping paragraphs short — between three and five sentences — and by ensuring your cover letter fits on one page.
Use a Consistent, Professional-Looking Font
The type of font you use also affects readability and displays your level of professionalism. Choose one font for both the cover letter and the resume to maintain a consistent, polished look.
A few of the standard fonts suited for both your cover letter and resume include Times New Roman, Arial, Courier New, and Calibri. Set the text size to 10 or 12 pts, depending on the font. Remember that you want to keep your cover letter to one page.
Set the Margins, Line Spacing, and Alignment
To create a professional cover letter, align all text to the left. Your contact information should also be left-aligned and placed in the top-left corner. If the employer does not accept attachments, paste the letter into the body of your email and put your contact information beneath your email signature.
Maintain 1-inch margins on all sides. Additionally, single-space the text, leaving a space between each paragraph. Be sure to check for any specific formatting instructions the company or organization may provide.
Internship Cover Letter Sample
Sample Cover Letter
123 My Street
Anytown, CA 12345
Dear Debbie Jones,
I am thrilled to submit my application for the graphic design internship at TC International. I believe my creativity and inspiration align with your company's mission, and I would be more than excited to work with your award-winning creative department.
As a student at UX University, I've worked on student publications and promotional campaigns, honing my design skills garnered throughout my three years of studies in graphic design. As you can see from the attached portfolio, I've already developed a strong collection of work, including projects that I believe align with your brand and desired aesthetics. Graphic design has taught me to design and then redesign, strengthening my ability to solve problems and persevere.
I am also a volunteer at the local animal shelter, where I designed various print materials and online ads in support of their fundraising efforts. By working with a diverse staff on various projects, I learned the art of teamwork and collaboration. Taking the initiative to promote community dog training, which increased funding by 12%, I also learned the art of leadership.
Because of these experiences, I am confident that I would make an excellent team member and intern at TC International. I would love to speak more with you about why I would be a good fit. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Feature Image: Luis Alvarez / DigitalVision / Getty Images