Congratulations for reaching this milestone! To apply for an internship is a big step in your education and career development. You’ve come far and want to go further. Securing the right placement is a necessary part of your journey.
Unfortunately, internships are a necessary part of many journeys, which means you will likely be competing against other candidates in your position. Your academic and related experiences up until this point are an asset, and you’ll supply this information on a resume.
How will your application and resume stand out in a crowd, though? Enter your cover letter. Your cover letter gives a voice—your voice—to your resume and speaks directly to the people who will choose you for the internship.
If the cover letter is your resume’s voice and speaks for you until your interview, let’s give it some voice lessons so it sounds professional, polished, and makes the right people want to listen.
A Cover Letter? Really? Are You Sure?
Do you even need a cover letter? Information is conflicting. Some people advise against using cover letters in this era where people are busier than ever and often don’t read them anyway. Others say they’re crucial.
The truth? Include a cover letter! Most people seeking interns and employees do look at cover letters because they differentiate between candidates better than resumes alone. The only time you shouldn’t include one is if the application information instructs not to.
If your application lacks a cover letter, you already look unprofessional. Including one, on the other hand, demonstrates that you are enthusiastic enough about the internship to write it, which speaks volumes to an employer. It shows, too, that you’re diligent and willing to spend time on an extra touch.
What to Include in a Cover Letter
Your internship cover letter introduces you and harmonizes with your resume to sing you praises. It’s also your first impression. Just in case it’s true that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, you want your cover letter to perform.
An effective cover letter:
- Introduces you
- Highlights key aspects, both from the resume and what isn’t on the resume
- Let’s you demonstrate how your internship will be a win-win for everyone involved
Briefly provide the basics: your name, year in school, the degree you’re pursuing and specific programs of study. Beginning with this information instantly shows that you are relevant to their internship position.
Whether it’s the introduction or any other component in the letter, be sure to make things flow naturally and smoothly. Contrast these two examples:
- My name is Taylor Smith, and I’m a junior at College University. I’m earning a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in environmental science.
- When I learned that Great Lakes Water Lab is seeking an intern to help analyze water samples, I was thrilled. Now in my junior year, I’ve been studying environmental science for my Bachelor of Science degree, and I’m eager to take my education to the next level.
Your introduction should also briefly convey your interest in or passion for the field in which you are seeking an internship. In the second example above, the applicant can begin a new paragraph that touches on the reason for being thrilled and eager.
An internship cover letter communicates that you have a personality and that you have reasons for wanting this particular internship. You’re not just trying to fulfill graduation requirements.
This point is crucial. Tailor your letter to each organization to which you are applying. Being generic and failing to include specific references to the company and position will likely land your letter, and the application it accompanies, in the recycling bin.
Do some research so you can refer to relevant facts about the organization. Don’t go overboard, as this isn’t a high school report on the company. Do include just enough references so the internship committee knows that their position is what you want.
Your Fit and Qualifications
Here’s where your letter sings for your resume. While you do not want merely to restate what is on the resume, you do want to pull a couple of relevant qualifications and expand on them a bit. Explain them and why they are particularly important to you, how your experience fits the description of the internship, and add other points that will help you stand out.
After you hit the above highlights, close your letter with the notion that you are applying not for permanent employment but an internship. Focus on concepts such as
- Your eagerness to learn and why
- How your training thus far has prepared you for this position in this organization
- Your desire to learn and grow professionally
- Your enthusiasm for being a team player, learning from them while also contributing to the organization
General Tips for Writing Internship Cover Letters
- Whenever possible, address it to a person (and never informally, by first name). If you can’t locate a name, use “Members of the Internship Team” or whatever is relevant.
- Cover letters are short, typically 200-400 words and never more than one page; however, if they’re too short, they communicate that there’s not much to you.
- You need to say enough to sing yourself praises, but you don’t want to drone on or sound arrogant. Think simplicity: What are the most important points I need in this letter, and how can I write them clearly and succinctly?
- Keep it professional and legible. Use standard fonts and one-inch margins. Use the same font and style on your cover letter as on your resume. Avoid using bold or underlining in your letter, and keep the font size consistent throughout.
- It’s okay to use bullet points in a cover letter, but don’t overdo it. It’s a letter, not a mini resume. Also, don’t use bullet points in the introduction or conclusion.
Your internship cover letter polishes everything you’ve already done to this point. It will show the internship committee that you’re impressive and that they should check out your resume. Together, your cover letter and resume just might get you that interview and internship.
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