Professional Resume Writer, Career Writer and Career Coach
Until now, college has been about learning, absorbing, and experiencing. It’s not until you become eligible for an internship that things start getting real—real-world experiences using real-life scenarios. Applying for internships takes time, and there’s no college course on “how to apply for jobs.” (We’d sign up immediately if there was, though!) But here’s a spoiler alert: most internships require a cover letter. And while this may seem like a burden, it’s actually a blessing.
So, follow along to learn how to write a cover letter for an internship and why writing a good one could make all the difference.
How Important is a Cover Letter for Internships?
A cover letter is a quick (one page or less) note that you write to a hiring manager or prospective employer to accompany your resume and other application materials. Done well, a cover letter lets you speak directly about how your skills and experience match the specific internship you’re pursuing more than your resume does. The words you choose also hint at your personality — that you’re likable, original, and likely someone they want on their team.
Learning how to write a cover letter for an internship will allow you to make a strong case for yours- even when you don’t have tons of work experience to lean on, or perhaps, the experience you do have isn’t as obviously related.
Use this letter to connect the dots beyond your resume. (How does your paintball passion align with being the next junior sales development coordinator?). At the very least, it helps convey your passion and proves you can communicate your thoughts clearly and effectively.
What to Include in an Internship Cover Letter
When writing an internship cover letter you must include the following:
- Your contact information and the company contact information
- A brief introduction
- Examples of your skills and experience
- Tailored company information
- A closing call-to-action
- Your signature
Your cover letter is where you’ll make a case for scoring an interview, so it’s important to follow cover letter best practices, including why you would make the best hire. While you’ll need to write a cover letter for each internship you apply for, you can start by creating a base cover letter template. Then, you can make adjustments with each application.
Yes, this will be time-consuming, but there’s no way around it. The more you can convince a hiring manager that your skills are what they need, the higher your chances for an interview.
Why Should YOU Be Hired for an Internship?
Like a resume, your cover letter must address why YOU are the best candidate for the internship. In fact, your interviewer will likely ask this very question. Prepare an answer ahead of time and come armed with specific examples to prove your worth (relevant experiences or not-so-relevant experiences alike).
Your part-time job as a server isn’t exactly relevant to social media management, but the skills required to be a successful server might be. For example, you might mention positive feedback from your manager or the award you won as the highest wage earner, or after arriving on time for 65 shifts in a row.
Indirect experience is also valuable cover letter content, like an independent project where you utilized a few technical skills, leadership experience in a student organization, or competitive team events.
How to Write a Cover Letter for an Internship
While each internship job ad will call for different skills and qualities, learning how to write a cover letter for any internship will require following a specific format. Here’s a step-by-step on how to do it.
Include Your Contact Information
It’s easier to use the same formatting theme as your resume when constructing a cover letter. That way, you can display your name and contact information consistently across both docs.
Find the Company Information
The job description or the company website is the best place to collect important company contact information.
- Position Title
- City, State Zipcode
Use the address where you’ll perform the internship or your hiring manager’s office location. If you’re targeting a remote internship, use the company’s general headquarters address.
Address the Hiring Manager
If you can find the hiring manager’s name (LinkedIn is a great tool for this), then address the letter using their full name. If you can’t pinpoint a name, try searching for the head of the department your internship falls under. Even if this person is the wrong contact, addressing the name to someone specific shows initiative.
The following are all appropriate cover letter salutations:
- Dear Ms. Lauren Hamer
- Hello Mrs. Lauren Hamer
- Hello Lauren Hamer
- Lauren Hamer
If your internet sleuthing doesn’t uncover any clear leads, try addressing the specific term instead, such as:
- Dear Sales and Development Search Committee
- Hello [Company Name] Marketing Team
- Dear Software Developer Internship Hiring Manager
Mention Particular Position to Apply
The hiring manager reviewing applications will already know the position, so you won’t need to go into too much detail conveying what position you’re applying for — but you will want to discuss why you’re applying to this company and this position over any others.
Tell them what interests you about the company. Have you used their products before? Does their mission resonate with your values? State your reasoning in a few short sentences before moving on to the meat of your pitch.
Mention Your Relevant Skills and Abilities
The internship job advertisement will offer insight into the skills and qualities the potential employer wants in their next intern. Select two to three descriptors mentioned and provide examples of how you embody those traits in your cover letter. If you can list these examples in a bulleted list, you’ll make your letter more scannable.
If you don’t have a lot of (or any) job experience, highlight skills you’ve gained from extracurriculars, volunteer experience, passion projects, or school work. It’s not enough to say you’re a leader, you have to prove it.
Proofread the Cover Letter by Someone
Don’t forget to proofread the letter before sending it. First on your own and again using a third party, as they’ll be more likely to catch mistakes as a first-time reader. It is also important to ensure your letter hits all the right points. Questions to ask yourself are
- Does my statement relate back to the company?
- Are my examples relevant? Do I have better examples to get my point across more clearly?
- Is there any way I could shorten this without it losing its significance?
Show Your Gratitude
To end your cover letter, thank them. You don’t need to overthink this one, a simple “thank you for your time and consideration” is best. If applicable, go one step further by using a call to action. This includes adding a link to your online portfolio, a website, or a recent school capstone project.
Different Ways to Send a Cover Letter
Most employers will prompt you to attach or upload your cover letter file as part of the application. In this instance, simply follow the prompt.
Others might ask you to email your cover letter and resume to a specific address. You can either:
- Attach your cover letter to the email. Make sure the file name includes your name so they can reference your doc among the other applicants who upload a generic “coverletter2.docx” file.
- Paste your cover letter in the body of the email. You can also paste the cover letter’s body content into your email. Sometimes, this is even better as it increases the chances of the recipient reading it.
Internship Cover Letter Samples
Sample #1: If You Have a Little Bit of Experience
Dear Operations Internship Manager,
Hi! I’m Lauren, a business management junior at XYZ College with leadership and administrative experience, as well as strong communications skills. For these reasons, and many more, I think I’d be a great candidate for your Operations Intern, Summer 2023.
Here are a few skills I think would prove valuable to your team:
- My classmates and I won a business audit competition last year, beating out six other teams to research, write, and present an audit of a local distribution center. The company implemented two of our suggestions.
- I’m a motivated student who can manage my time appropriately. I’ve worked 25 hours a week as an administrative assistant while attending college full-time, and my studies have not suffered.
- I’m proficient in Microsoft Excel (including v-lookups and macros) and can type 80 WPM.
If chosen as your next intern, I will use these same creative, driven, and analytical skills to tackle any project you give me and learn as much as I can. Company ABC has a great reputation in the manufacturing industry and this opportunity comes highly recommended by Professor DEF. I look forward to owning the Company ABC mission principle, “Deliver Results.”
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Sample #2: If You Have no Experience
Mr. John Smith,
Hi! I’m Lauren, and I want to be your next finance intern. In my three years at College XYZ, I’ve completed countless finance and business courses, including consulting and advising, human psychology, and public speaking. Your internship advertisement calls for a motivated upper-level-student with judgment and decision-making abilities — I think I’m the right candidate for this internship.
- My passion for golf led me to become a golf instructor, which helped me develop as a leader and communicator.
- This semester, I’m enrolled in a risk management course, where I’m learning ways to calculate risk, identify roadblocks, and offer business-adjusted solutions. In fact, this is the basis of my capstone project due next month.
- I’m active in my school’s career development club, where we source monthly guest speakers to educate us about career paths and networking opportunities. I’ve learned that I work best when attached to a mission-driven cause, such as helping people unlock opportunities.
If chosen as your next intern, I will bring this same passion and drive to the finance position. Company XYZ is my top target because I believe in your mission to “do good, responsibly.” Thank you for your time and consideration,
Frequently Asked Questions About Internship Cover Letters
1. Does a Cover Letter Increase Hiring Chances for Interns?
A 2020 study found that most hiring managers do read cover letters, and when they’re tailored to the position in question, they warrant a 16.4% call-back rate. So yes, a cover letter for an internship is essential and a vital complement to your resume or application package.
2. How Long Should a Cover Letter be for an Internship?
Keep your cover letter short and to the point. Three or four paragraphs are usually sufficient for getting your point across. Those paragraphs should also fit on one page. To keep length in check, only mention the most relevant points to the job at hand. Additionally, you should make use of bullet points to make the letter easy to read.
3. How Would You Describe Yourself for an Internship?
Most internship interviews will begin with the question, “Tell me about yourself?” Practice your answer beforehand. Start with your name, what you’re studying, and where you go to school. Then, mention one or two highlights specific to the role. Close out this statement with the reason you want to work for the company — be specific and clarify how your skills will be valuable to the internship.
With a thoughtful cover letter in hand, you’re ready to throw your name in the hat by applying for new internships. Apply with confidence, knowing you’ve followed the rules and presented the best case for why you should get the interview.