Think of your internship cover letter like a handshake: A firm one grabs the recipient’s attention, while a limp grasp can leave something to be desired.
Similarly, your cover letter is a hiring manager’s first impression of you, so it’s important to do what you can to stand out from the crowd. If they like what they see, they’ll move on to your resume, and before you know it, you could be interviewing for your dream job.
And, yes, hiring mangers still read resumes. While not every cover letter is read—and many only get 60 seconds of a reader’s attention—they are still highly relevant to the job search process. According to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, 73% of HR professionals still consider the cover letter to be somewhat to very important. Additionally, 81% said it was somewhat to very important for cover letters to be tailored to each job.
To help you write an internship cover letter that amplifies your resume, NerdScholar asked the experts for advice.
Before you begin writing your internship cover letter…
1. Talk to someone at the company before you apply, then reference them.
Hiring managers don’t usually see every submitted application, so to increase the chances that your resume is read, talk with a current employee at a networking event, career fair or even over LinkedIn. You are creating a connection with someone within the company who “can help the hiring manager with the decision,” says Troy Hopkins, director of undergraduate and accountancy career counseling at the University of Houston. “It also shows that the applicant cared enough to take the extra step of finding out more about the position and company from someone on the inside before they applied.”
2. Address the letter to a specific person.
The simple act of using a name instead of a generic greeting establishes a connection right off the bat. You also demonstrate that you did your research. “Try to find a contact — an actual person — that you can address at the top of the letter. ‘Dear Sir or Madam / To Whom It May Concern’ should be avoided if at all possible,” Hopkins says.
3. List the job’s required skills and match your skills to the list.
Before you write, review the required skills for the position and jot down a time when you used those skills, says Marilyn Santiesteban, assistant director of career services at Texas A&M University. If you can list the results you achieved while using that specific skill, your list will be even stronger. When you write, she adds, you may choose to use the two-column, or T-style cover letter (see image), which you can pull directly from your list.
During the writing process…
4. Start with an attention-grabbing sentence.
Get the hiring manager’s attention quickly by, for example, beginning your internship cover letter with company news, Santiesteban says. For example, say: “’Congratulations on being selected one of the best places to work. Your commitment to employees is just one of the many reasons I want to intern at Acme.’” Keep the rest of the paragraph short and avoid flowery language, Santiesteban advises. Avoid an opening such as, “‘It is with great enthusiasm and excitement that I submit my application for the XX internship.’ Unless you really speak that way, replace that with ‘I’m applying for the XX internship,’” she says.
5. Tell a story with specific examples.
“Using academic and extracurricular experiences are key for internship cover letters, but it’s necessary to pull specific examples and tell a story that really shows the potential employer how you have gained or developed skills,” says Anna Young, assistant director of career services at the University of Richmond. For example, describe an event you planned from start to finish, she says. Make sure to illustrate your skills instead of just listing them. Avoid vague language such as, “My experiences as psychology major and student leader on campus have equipped me with the skills to communicate effectively, manage my time, and think critically,” Young says.
If you’re stumped on how to describe your skills and accomplishments, seek help. “All of your work history is developing professional skills and experience. As such, your institution’s career center can help you to write descriptions of seemingly mundane tasks both professionally and accurately,” adds Jennifer Williamson, director of the Academic and Career Advising Center at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.
6. Don’t undersell yourself.
Do not write: “While I may not have any relevant experience…”. Instead, talk about your transferrable skills and how they will enable you to perform in the internship, Young says.
“Although you may have not worked in this industry before, be sure to highlight what you have done that may be transferrable,” says Dave Tirpak, assistant director of career and employment counseling at Howard Community College. Consider all areas from where you may draw experience: academics, campus organizations, research projects, volunteer work, athletic involvement, hobbies, or even your social media expertise, he says.
7. Tell the employer how you can help them.
“The best thing a candidate can include in their cover letter to catch a potential employer’s eye is a story about their employment experience that features ways the candidate will add value to the organization,” says Kim Whiteside, manager of the career services center at Bellevue University. “All cover letters (and resumes as well) are not really about the candidate. They are about the employer, specifically the employer’s business objectives and challenges. Moreover, cover letters (and resumes) demonstrate how the candidate’s skills and experience will help an employer meet its objectives and overcome its challenges.”
When you’re ready to submit…
8. Include references to show your commitment, even if they don’t ask.
“Even if not specifically sought in the position notice, continuing to include some references that can be contacted anyway upon initial submission can sometimes decrease processing time, as well as demonstrate commitment and responsibility,” Erin Hornbeck, assistant to the chair at Binghamton University, says.
9. Upload everything into one document.
“If you are submitting multiple documents, such as a cover letter, resume and references, scan all three documents into one for submission so the employer only has one document to open, review, save and/or print,” McNeese State University internship coordinator Mary Kaye Eason says. “The employer will appreciate your efficiency!” Lastly, it’s best to submit your application as a PDF file with the file name as “your name–cover letter” to make it easy for the employer to save and locate your file.
Handshake photo via Shutterstock.
When I graduated college, I had to write a cover letter for a Watson Fellowship.
That's an internship on steroids. It's a highly competitive full-year paid stint overseas.
I was chosen out of 60 applicants.
I knew I had a shot when one of them read my intern cover letter and lamented, "Your whole life led
up to this."
It really didn't. I just had a great coach.
Now, so do you.
This guide will show you:
- How to write a cover letter for an internship that blows away the rest.
- Great internship cover letter examples that will get your resume read carefully.
- The best format for a cover letter for an internship.
- How to make an intern cover letter that hiring managers pay attention to.
Here's a sample cover letter for an internship made with our fast online cover letter tool. Want to write your letter in 15 minutes? Use our cover letter templates and build your version here.
Next, I'll show you why that internship cover letter template is so perfect, and how to make yours fast. You'll also walk away with dozens of examples of good internship letters to speed you on your way.
The Best Internship Letter Format
Here's a bad dream:
You're going for the best internship ever.
It's got great pay, extreme exposure to real work, and high-level mentors.
But you showed up to the interview in a dingy Hello Kitty sweatshirt
A poor intern cover letter format can have the same effect.
If you don't know how to write a cover letter for an internship, you can come off sloppy.
Use the three paragraphs format. It's professional, lean, and shows your best features in a tantalizing way.
Internship Cover Letter Format Example
Use this sample marketing internship cover letter template to create your letter now.
Business Letter Example
3797 Stadium Drive
Attleboro, MA 02703
Paralith Marketing, Inc.
3703 C Street
Boston, MA 02110
[First Paragraph – A "Hook" and Why You're Perfect for the Internship]
[Second Paragraph – The Offer]
[Third Paragraph – The Call to Action (CTA)]
Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.
That's the stripped-down internship cover letter format for students. Use it, and you've got a chance to look like Sheldon Cooper in the rough.
Next, I'll show you what to include in that internship cover letter template so it shines out like a rescue flare.
Pro Tip: Need to write an email internship cover letter? Use the format above, but leave off the addresses at the top. Add your contact info at the bottom.
Need to know who to address a business letter to, or how to write a "To Whom it May Concern"
cover letter? See this guide: "How to Address a Cover Letter: Sample & Guide [20+ Examples]"
Does Your First Paragraph Put People to Sleep?
There's the hiring manager. His name's Logan.
He's read 299 internship cover letters from students this week.
He just grabbed yours.
He also rolled his eyes. That's bad.
Your letter needs to hook him right away.
That happens with the right first paragraph.
Internship Cover Letter Examples [First Paragraph]
Check out these examples of how to write a cover letter for an internship:
I would love to get this graphic design internship. If you hire me, I'll work extremely hard and bring all my considerable passion to bear as your dedicated employee. I've completed rigorous coursework at UMass Boston to earn my BA in design. In addition...
What's wrong with that graphic design internship cover letter sample? Nothing, if it's the only one the manager reads.
But after a couple hundred, it's the prose equivalent of shampoo instructions. Everybody applying for this internship will promise to work hard. Everybody just earned a degree.
I was so excited when my protein shake packaging design was shortlisted for an Adobe Design Achievement Award.
It was no accident. Design has been a passion of mine since I was ten. I treated the coursework for my B.A. in Design at UMass Boston as a jumping-off point. My classes lit the way, but I dug in deeper with several extracurricular pursuits.
See? That first part shakes the manager from his stupor.
The second tells a compelling tale of the world's best match for this position.
Pro Tip: Writing an internship cover letter with no experience? Lead with an impressive fact. That could be an award you won, or just a compliment you got.
Plus, a great cover letter that matches your resume will give you an advantage over other candidates. You can write your cover letter in our resume builder here. Here's what it may look like:
See more templates and create your resume and cover letter here.
Need more help to write the best cover letter for an internship you can? See this guide: "How To Write A Cover Letter [Complete Guide With Examples]"
Here's What to Put in an Intern Cover Letter Second Paragraph
Imagine someone rings your doorbell.
It's a grade-schooler. Her name's Sue. She impresses you with a story about how she saved the lives of 30 puppies.
She forgets to tell you she is selling Girl Scout cookies. Had you known, you would have bought a case from her.
Your internship cover letter needs to make an offer.
Do that in the second paragraph.
Look at the difference in these two engineering internship cover letter examples.
Internship Cover Letter Examples [Paragraph #2]
See if you can spot what's wrong in this first example of how to write a cover letter for an internship.
I did very well in my engineering core coursework. I excelled in differential equations, computer science, and physics. I learned about time management, collaboration, and problem solving. I also...
Let's translate that to English: It says, "I'm great. Gimme."
But what's in it for the hiring manager?
Now check out this next good cover letter sample.
Antido Inc.'s commitment to developing its interns far beyond mere clock-punching speaks directly to my voracious appetite for continued growth. I expect to grow my already award-nominated skill set to improve your quality, cost, and lead times, much as I did during my senior project in product development.
See that? "I can help you, and here's how." You've transformed yourself from ballast to a rocket pack.
Pro Tip: How can your letter of interest make a great offer? First find out what the company needs. Learn it in the job offer and by researching the company online.
Need to know how to start a cover letter for a nursing internship or IT internship? See our guide: "How to Start a Cover Letter: Sample & Complete Guide [20+ Examples]"
The All-Important Call To Action (CTA)
So far your internship letter is firing on all cylinders.
It's got a great hook.
The first paragraph shows you fit the job. The second makes an offer like the Minions made to Gru.
Now it has to ask for something.
That's the Call to Action (CTA).
It's easy to say, "Can I have an interview?"
It's more effective to write, "Can we discuss how I can help?"
Internship Cover Letter Examples [The CTA]
Why does this example of how to write a cover letter for an internship fall flat?
I would love the chance to talk more with you.
That's not awful. But it doesn't sizzle like this next computer science internship cover letter sample:
I would love to put my passion and skill to work for you. Can we schedule a call to discuss winning awards and accolades for Ultrafy?
Why does that work better? Because even as ask you ask for something, you're still giving something too.
Pro Tip: Other examples of what should be in a cover letter for an internship position? Passion, name dropping, a fact you love about the company, or an eye-catching achievement.
Need to lock down the format for your internship cover letter? See this guide: "Cover Letter Formats: A Complete How-To Guide [10+ Examples]"
How to Write a Cover Letter for an Internship with Bullet Points
You know what the hiring manager sees as she reads intern cover letter #229?
"Words words words..."
Like a robot reading out the phone book.
Want to hook her optic nerve up to her brain again?
Use bullet points.
They highlight your best accomplishments. Put them in your second paragraph, like in this good human resources internship cover letter example:
In addition to my college coursework, I dug in deeper with:
Wow. Now you couldn't pry the manager away with a pneumatic jack.
It blows away this next sample of how to write a cover letter for an internship:
I didn't just complete my coursework. I also read extensively in the HR and business fields. Further, I created a podcast and interviewed a new HR pro almost every week. I also did freelance recruiting work on nights and weekends. In addition...
See? Word wall. Meanwhile, the hiring manager has dozed off in her macchiato.
Pro Tip: When writing a letter of interest, spend most of your time learning what the hiring manager needs. Then figure out how you can give it.
Want more help to write a judicial or engineering internship cover letter that stands above the pack? See our guide: "Cover Letter - Guide, Tips and Free Examples. Read More!"
Should You Use a Table in Your Internship Cover Letter?
True or false:
You want to make things as hard as possible for the hiring manager.
Of course you want to make things easy.
A table format is a risky choice that does just that.
It connects the dots. It lets the busy hiring manager hear the click as you fit snugly into the job description.
Internship Cover Letter Example [Table]
Here's how to write a cover letter for an internship that includes a table:
- [FIRST TWO PARAGRAPHS]
You're Looking For:
Someone who can wow with web designs.
My web design professor said, "Your work leaps off the screen."
An intern with passion for the job beyond just earning money.
In the past four years, I've read over 200 non-assigned books on design, art, and business.
Skill with mobile design.
A mobile freelance client said, "Your work is beyond my wildest dreams."
Tables work in a letter of application because they show you understand the internship. They also show you're a good pick.
Warning: Some managers can't stand tables in business letters. Use them at your own risk.
Pro Tip: If you can't find a way to impress the recruiter, make one. Volunteer for the company's favorite charity. Take a class in the manager's favorite subject.
Do you really need an intern cover letter? See our guide: Are Cover Letters Necessary?
How to End a Cover Letter
Imagine you're 20-year-old golf sensation Lydia Ko.
You're tied for first place in the U.S. Open.
It's the 18th hole. You've got the perfect backswing. Your form's immaculate.
But you still have to hit the ball.
You've got to close your internship cover letter with a bang.
End your letter with a thank you, a space, and then your name.
Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.
Need other ways to end an internship cover letter for college students? Try these:
- Best regards,
- Thank you for your time,
- Kind regards,
Pro Tip: Writing a research or marketing internship cover letter with no experience? Network. Get to know someone at the company, then drop their name in your letter.
Already know how to write a cover letter for an internship? Want to end it? See our guide: "How to End a Cover Letter: Sample & Complete Guide [+20 Examples]"
Internship Cover Letter Tips
You almost got the internship.
What did you do wrong?
It wasn't your hook or your three paragraphs. Those were great.
Your problem? You spelled "detail-oriented" wrong and didn't notice it.
The hiring manager laughed so hard she popped her Spongebob stress ball.
Follow these internship cover letter tips to dot your i's and cross your t's.
Match to Win
Fit your intern cover letter format to your resume. The styles should match.
How to Write a "To Whom it May Concern" Cover Letter
Don't know the hiring manager's name? Try one of these:
- Dear Nursing Team Hiring Manager,
- Dear Software Development Hiring Team,
- Graphic Design Intern Search Committee,
- Internship Recruitment Team,
Those work because they get specific, even as they lack details.
Writing an Internship Cover Letter [Format Tips]
Don't miss these tips on grammar, spacing, proofreading, and font.
Best Font for an Internship Cover Letter. Use fonts like Arial, Calibri, or Cambria in the 10-12 point size.
Proofread. Use spell checking and grammar checking. You should also set your intern cover letter aside for a day and then come back to it. Better still, have a grammar-savvy friend give it a look.
How long should a cover letter for an internship be? 200 words is long enough. Anything longer will make the hiring manager's eyes glaze over.
Line Spacing. An internship cover letter should be single spaced. Add a line space after each paragraph.
How to Write a Cover Letter Email for an Internship
Writing an email cover letter? The only difference between email and paper letters is how you list the contact information. Cut it from the top. Then add only your contact info after you sign off.
- Email Address
- Phone Number
- LinkedIn Profile
- Personal Website (If Any)
Dear Internship Hiring Manager,
[First Paragraph – Hook and Why You Fit the Internship]
[Second Paragraph – The Offer]
[Third Paragraph – The Call to Action (CTA)]
Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.
Pro Tip: If you save your internship application letter as a PDF, put the text in your email too. That'll make it easier for recruiters to find you in an email search.
Want more advice for how to really nail your law or accounting internship cover letter? See our guide: "Why Should We Hire You? Best Answers (6 Proven Examples)"
Knowing how to write a cover letter for an internship makes all the difference. Follow these simple tips to get that dream internship:
Use the three paragraphs format. It's short, conveys the necessary info, and wins the hiring manager over like a Jedi mind trick.
Start your internship cover letter with a hook that keeps recruiters reading. A big accomplishment works great.
Make an offer in your first two paragraphs. Your intern cover letter ought to give more than it takes.
Want to know more about how to write a cover letter for a summer internship? Maybe you found the best way to write an internship cover letter? Give us a shout in the comments! We love to help!