You’ve found the perfect internship and it’s now time to apply and land the position!
But, in addition to your resume, you also have to write an internship cover letter.
You might end up staring at the blank Word document for hours and nothing comes out.
We don’t blame you; cover letters are hard to write even if you have a decade’s worth of work experience, let alone if you’re a recent graduate or a student.
Worry not, though; in this article, we’re going to teach you all you need to know to write a compelling cover letter for your internship.
- Do you need a cover letter for an internship?
- How to write a compelling cover letter for an internship
- Plug and play internship cover letter template
Do I Need a Cover Letter for an Internship?
First things first—if you’re wondering whether you actually need a cover letter for your internship application, the answer is yes.
An internship application is just like any other hiring process, meaning that a recruiter will go over your resume, cover letter (and maybe even references), and decide whether you’re qualified for the position.
And yes, recruiters contrary to what you might think, recruiters do read your cover letter. 56% of recruiters prefer a cover letter with an applicant’s application.
This is reasonable - a cover letter allows you to add essential information you didn’t have space for in a resume, as well as explain (in words) how your experiences are tied to the role you’re applying for.
As such, a cover letter for an internship is essential and complementary to your application package.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s go over all the best ways to write a cover letter for an internship.
How to Write a Cover Letter for Internship
#1. Respect the Format
Before you can focus on your cover letter’s contents, you should first make sure you’re sticking to the right format.
Otherwise, your cover letter will be disorganized and the recruiter will have a hard time following your train of thought.
So, here’s the format that your cover letter for an internship should follow:
- Header with contact information. This includes your full name, professional email, phone number, and LinkedIn profile (if you have one). Underneath your contact info, you should add the date and the receiver’s information (the recruiter’s name and title, the company/organization name, and their physical address).
- Addressing the recruiter. Greeting the recruiter with “Dear Sir/Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern” is common, but not the best approach. Want to show the hiring manager that you did your research? We recommend you address the hiring manager by name directly. Our guide on how to address a cover letter covers everything you need to know on this topic!
- Opening statement. Your opening statement should be brief, but at the same time professional and attention-grabbing. Here, you introduce yourself, mention the position you’re applying for, and potentially a key achievement or two.
- Body. The body of your cover letter consists of 2-3 paragraphs where you highlight your education, provide background for your skills, and explain how you (and the company) would benefit from each other professionally.
- Closing paragraph. Your closing paragraph is your chance to include a call to action, to thank the recruiters for their time, or mention anything important you left out.
- Formal salutation. End your cover letter with a formal salutation such as “kind regards,” “sincerely,” or “best regards.” Our guide on how to end a cover letter can teach you all you need to know on the topic.
Having trouble getting started with your cover letter? Read our guide on how to start a cover letter and get inspired!
#2. State the Position You’re Applying For in the Opening
Recruiters hate one-size-fits-all cover letters and resumes.
Around 48% of recruiters and hiring managers aren’t even going to read your cover letter if it’s not customized to the role you’re applying for.
And one of the easiest ways to do this is by mentioning the role you’re applying for right in the cover letter opening.
This allows you to:
- Show that you will be tailoring the rest of your cover letter for that position alone.
- Prove that your cover letter is customized for this specific internship, and you’re not just randomly applying for the job,
Here’s a practical example of how you can mention the role you’re applying for in the cover letter opening:
Dear Mr. Jacobs,
It is my pleasure to apply for the Communications Assistant internship position at the United Nations Development Programme. I can confidently say based on my 2-year experience working as a journalist and my excellent academic results in the Mass Communications Major that I’d be a good fit for the position.
#3. Mention the Right Keywords
When reviewing your application, hiring managers tend to scan your cover letter or resume and look for the right keywords that would make you qualified for the internship you’re applying for.
E.g. If you're applying for a job in graphic design, the recruiter is probably looking for keywords like “Photoshop,” “Illustrator,” or “InDesign.”
As such, it’s very important to include the right keywords in your cover letter.
How can you find these keywords, you might ask?
It’s actually pretty simple - just look at the internship job description and go through the required skills & responsibilities and identify the keywords that you’d think the recruiter would be looking for.
Then, do the following:
- Sprinkle some of those keywords throughout your cover letter. When relevant, back them up with an experience. E.g. don’t just say “I’m good at Photoshop,” say how you’ve taken 3 different Photoshop classes and used Photoshop for 2 different projects.
- Don’t include keywords that don’t apply to you, they’ll just make it seem like you’re copy-pasting from the job description.
- Research and add other popular soft skills that recruiters look for in applicants for the role you’re applying for. E.g. If you’re applying for an internship as a communications assistant, chances are, you’ll need strong communication skills (even if this is not something listed in the job description.
Now, let’s look at a practical example. Let’s say that the internship you’re applying for requires the following skills:
- Ability to meet strict deadlines
Here’s how you’d mention this in your cover letter:
During my time as Editor in Chief at my University’s newspaper, I got to develop my communication and leadership skills significantly. For over two years, I was in charge of a 7 people team, which also helped my teamwork skills and my ability to meet deadlines.
Keep in mind, though, that it IS possible to overdo it with the keywords.
44% of hiring managers say they will dismiss a resume or cover letter that looks as if it has copied the job posting.
Using each and every keyword mentioned in the job description (without backing the skills up with experiences) might cause the hiring manager to think that you’re just copying the job ad & don’t actually have these skills.
So, don’t just copy-paste all the keywords from the job description, and if you DO mention a lot of those keywords, make sure to back them up with practical experiences.
#4. Highlight Your Education
If you don’t have a lot of work experience, your education and relevant coursework is your best chance to show that you’re a good fit for the internship.
Letting the recruiter know what kind of courses you’ve completed that are relevant to the internship you’re applying for will be a big plus for your application.
Say, for example, that you’re applying for an internship as a graphic designer. To make your internship cover letter impactful, make sure to mention all the relevant courses and related accomplishments.
Here’s an example of how you could do that:
As a Visual Design major, I have completed several courses that have helped me build my professional portfolio. A few of the most beneficial ones have been Design & Layout and Visual Communication: Theory and Practice. I have also gained valuable experience doing the layout of the university’s newspaper for 4 years and of several books as independent projects.
#5. Provide Background For Your Skills
It’s one thing to just claim that you have a set of skills and another to prove it.
Anyone can say that they’re great at doing something, but what makes all the difference is when you can actually put your money where your mouth is.
For example, in your internship cover letter, instead of just mentioning that you have “good time-management skills,” actually back it up with a past experience that proves it.
During the summers I assisted my family’s wedding planning business, I learned a lot about time management. In that kind of business, it’s important that things run like clockwork so in addition to time management skills, it also significantly improved my attention to detail.
#6. Explain Why You’re a Good Fit For The Position
In addition to just listing out the skills that are relevant and beneficial for the internship, you should also explain why you are a good fit for the position.
This means that you should connect the dots between what the company/organization is looking to gain from its interns and what you can do to provide those services.
So, after you research and create an understanding of what is required of you, you should use your cover letter to explain why you’re a good fit for that position.
For the sake of the example, let’s assume you’re applying for an internship at a Human Rights organization. A big chunk of what the role requires is categorizing virtual files of the cases the organization has worked on in the past.
What you want to do, in this case, is show how you can help with that particular job as an intern. Here’s how:
I have spent 3 summers working at the National Library, where I was tasked to sort and categorize books based on their topic, author, and year of publication, and also memorize where each section fits in the library. I believe this skill, which I have perfected over the years, can really be of use for the internship position at Organization X.
#7. Describe What You Would Gain Professionally
In addition to showing (and proving) your skills and how you can benefit the company, you should also explain how getting the position will benefit YOU.
When it comes to internships, oftentimes they serve the purpose of helping students and young professionals acquire in-depth knowledge about the industry, create a network, and develop skills that will benefit them throughout their careers.
So, it will surely help you make an even better impression if you show that you are self-aware about what you’ll get out of the internship and how it will help you grow professionally.
Here’s how you can do that:
I am excited for this internship to provide me with the necessary customer service skills and network that will help me grow professionally in my future career as a customer service manager.
#8. Proofread Your Cover Letter
After all, is written and done, there’s one final thing to do and that is make sure your cover letter doesn’t have mistakes.
A spelling or grammar mistake probably won’t disqualify you, but at the same time, it will probably be a red flag for recruiters that you’re not too attentive.
Want to know what other cover letter mistakes you should avoid? Our guide on cover letter mistakes has all you need to know on the topic!
#9. Match Your Cover Letter & Resume Designs
Want your internship application to truly shine?
Match your cover letter design with your resume!
Sure, you could go with a generic Word cover letter template, but why fit in when you can stand out?
Cover Letter for Internship Template
Struggling to create a cover letter for your internship?
Simply follow our tried-and-tested internship cover letter template!
And that’s a wrap! You should now have all the necessary information about how to create a cover letter for an internship.
Now, let’s do a small recap of the key learning points we just covered:
- Cover letters are a must when you’re applying for an internship.
- When you start writing your cover letter, make sure you respect the format: the header with contact information, the greeting to the recruiter, an opening paragraph, the body with 2-3 paragraphs, and a closing paragraph followed by an official salutation and your name.
- Some of our main tips on how to write a cover letter for an internship include: state the position you’re applying for, make use of the right keywords, and back up your skills with experiences.
- Use a cover letter builder and match it with your resume to make sure your cover letter truly stands out from the rest.