How to Write a Cover Letter for Internships
Elements of a Professional Cover Letter
Here's how to write a cover letter for an internship
- Address the hiring manager
- Customize your introduction
- Write for the employer
- Add a call to action in your conclusion
Cover letters are important to documents that compliment your resumes in entry level jobs and internship applications. A well-written letter can create a powerful reason for a hiring manager to respond to you and may tip the scale in your favor if your competition chooses not to write one. Take a look at our cover letter examples to get started.
What is the purpose of a cover letter?
The purpose of a cover letter is to explain to a hiring manager how your accomplishments, experiences, education, and skills add value to the specific needs of the organization or business. It is meant to be an extension of your resume and answer any possible questions the hiring manager may have. Simply put, a cover letter adds another layer of reason for the hiring manager to interview you.
What is the best cover letter format?
1. Address the hiring manager
Include both the employer’s and your contact information in the header of your cover letter. If you are unable to obtain the name of hiring managers, then address them by their title or as the "hiring manager."
Quick tip: If the company or hiring manager name isn’t posted in the internship listing, copy some of the job description and paste it into Google. There’s a slight chance of finding the original internship posting with the names included.
Alternate title examples--
- Dear Human Resources Director:
- Dear Hiring Manager:
- Dear Selection Committee:
- Dear Search Committee:
Do NOT use:
- To whom it may concern:
- Dear Sir:
- Dear Sir or Madam:
All of these are too vague and hold no one accountable to respond to your letter. At least with a title you can follow-up on your campaign by requesting the hiring manager responsible for the search.
2. Customize your cover letter introduction
Begin the first sentence of your cover letter with a statement that will draw the hiring manager’s attention. The more you customize your cover letter to reflect the specific needs of the organization, internship and industry, the better results you will achieve. Additionally, focus your cover letter on those elements of your resume that are most attractive to the organization.
For example, if the position is in sales, you may want to emphasize accomplishments, coursework and class projects that show not only your sales capabilities, but also your relationship and communication skills.
If you don't have direct work or academic accomplishments relating to the needs of the position you're interested in, then focus on your knowledge of the profession as it aligns with the needs of the organization.
Quick Tip: Cover letters, like resumes, are formal documents; it must use a format that matches your resume and be no more than one page in length.
3. Write for the employer
A cover letter should be written with a focus on the employer's interests, NOT yours. Ensure that your cover letter contains keywords that relate to the internship description. If the prospective company scans resumes for keywords, you want to be sure that your cover letter has them all.
Study the wording in the requirements and internship description listed in the posting and use as many of them as possible in your resume and cover letter.
For example, think about the way you sort through mail at home. It is likely that the first thing you do is separate the priority mail and junk mail. If the envelope is addressed to "Current Resident," it is likely to end up in the trash. This is because you know that the information inside is general sales communication and not specific to you.
On the other hand, if you receive an overnight package from FedEx, you are likely to open it right away.
Because the information is perceived as so important and time sensitive that the sender was willing to rush the delivery. The same holds true if the letter is sent in either a large envelope or in a fine linen envelope and addressed specifically to you.
It follows then, that in order for hiring managers to read your cover letter, you must identify their needs and utilize your letter to address the solutions you can offer to the organization.
Poorly written cover letters focus on your agenda. A poorly written cover letter communicates the following information:
- I am responding to the advertised position.
- I am interested in this position.
- I have developed strong skills through my past employment experiences.
- I want to interview for the job.
- Please call me.
Notice in this example almost every sentence starts with "I" and is focused on the writer's wants and interests. It is saying to the employer, "My wants and needs are important for you to know and once you understand what I am looking for, you should reach out to me and help me achieve my goals."
This type of cover letter does not answer any of the questions relevant to the employer. It does not create a need or describe the solutions you will provide. In fact, it puts the responsibility of your internship on the employer.
A well-written cover letter addresses the specifics of the organization, the position, and the action steps you will take to facilitate the interview/hiring process.
4. Add a call to action in your conclusion
Finally, include a “call to action” in your ending paragraph. Tell them that you will be calling that person to find out the next step in the internship process rather than waiting for a phone call. Being proactive shows respect for a busy person and demonstrates your enthusiasm for the internship. Then proceed to make your call a few days after you send your cover letter.
How you know you've written a successful cover letter
A good cover letter for an internship should answer four questions.
- Why am I a good fit for your organization?
- How are my qualifications well-matched for an internship within the organization?
- Why now?
- What should be the next step in pursuing an interview?
The answers you provide to these questions help the hiring manager understand how your resume fits the specific requirements of the internship. A cover letter allows you to draw similarities between your past and the employer's present needs. This helps the company understand how your skills, abilities and education can benefit the organization. A cover letter offers directions that point out how your strengths can be incorporated into the organization.