How to Write a Cover Letter for an Internship
If you are applying for an internship, it is likely that you will be asked to submit a cover letter. A cover letter is a formal letter that is sent to a potential employer or recruiter along with your CV when applying for a position.
The cover letter is your opportunity to introduce yourself and explain why you are interested in the position and what you would bring to the role.
It should emphasise key skills and qualifications that will make the employer take interest in your CV, and ultimately invite you to interview.
Writing a cover letter that grabs a recruiter’s attention is challenging for seasoned job applicants. Working out what to include and mistakes to avoid can be even harder for internship candidates, who may have little or no experience of composing this kind of letter.
It can also feel daunting trying to demonstrate that you will be an asset to the company when you are just starting out in the world of work. But with the right knowledge and approach, anyone can write a sparkling cover letter that will make the recruiter take notice.
It is important that your letter shows a real interest in the company to which you're applying for an internship, and an understanding of what your role there would involve.
You also need to demonstrate that you have specific skills and abilities that would be of particular benefit. So before you start writing your letter, make sure you have all this information ready.
Start by forming a general overview of the company and how it works. Areas of research could include:
- The history and background of the company, and its values, aims and vision.
- Whether the company was recently involved in any noteworthy projects.
- Any awards or accolades the company has won recently.
- If the company has appeared in the news recently.
- The background of directors, managers or senior members of the team you are applying to.
Next, you need to find out as much as you can about the role you are applying for and what the company needs from a successful candidate. Your general research should give you a good start, but you should also read the job description thoroughly and pick out any key skills and attributes mentioned. You may also be able to find case studies or reviews by previous interns online, which will help you to understand the role better.
If possible, speak to someone who works for the company to find out what they are looking for. You may find opportunities to meet staff at careers fairs or similar events.
if it feels appropriate, consider contacting relevant team members through the company's website or on social media. As long as you are polite, respectful, and show real interest in what they do, most people are flattered to be asked about their jobs. This could give you valuable insight that makes your letter stand out.
Finally, find out who will be reading your application letter, so you can address it to the correct person. Letters beginning ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ or ‘To Whom It May Concern’ are more likely to end up on the reject pile.
If a name is not given in the internship posting, you might need to do a bit of detective work. Start by ringing or emailing the company to ask for the name of the person who will be reading the internship cover letters.
If they cannot give you a name for confidentiality reasons, then find out who is the head of the department your internship is in and address it to them. If that name is also unavailable, address it to someone in HR.
Once you have done your research and know whom you are addressing, you are ready to start writing your letter. Your first paragraph is your introduction and should specify which internship you are applying for (as the company may have more than one) and where you heard about it, as well as explaining (briefly) who you are and why you are applying for the position.
Remember that the person considering your application may have read hundreds of internship cover letters that week. Including some kind of hook in your opening paragraph – such as an eye-catching award or achievement – will make you stand out from the crowd and encourage them to read on.
Open your letter by addressing the reader by their first name and surname, or Mr/Ms and their surname. Avoid using Mrs/Miss unless you are certain this is their preferred title.
Dear Ms Jones,
'I am writing to apply for the digital marketing internship at Cosmetics Corporation Ltd, as advertised on WikiJob. I am in my final year of a Digital Marketing Management degree, and last year I was a finalist in the prestigious student awards run by the Chartered Institute of Marketing. The skills and experience I have acquired during my time at university make me an ideal candidate for this role.
Having made your introduction, move on to the main part of your cover letter. This should demonstrate what you know about the company, why you are interested in it, and how your skills and qualities would be of benefit to them.
Think about the key skills and attributes in the listing and describe how you meet these requirements, making sure you give specific examples to show how you have put them into action.
Don't say, "I'm a great team player." Instead, describe a situation where you worked successfully as part of a team. Emphasise skills or experience that other candidates are unlikely to have and those that align you most closely with the company’s core values and ambitions.
If you have limited work experience, then think back over academic experience, extra-curricular activities and volunteer work that may provide you with examples of what you can offer.
Tell the reader why you want to bring your skills and experience to their company in particular and what excites you about working there. Use specific examples to demonstrate your knowledge of the company. This shows you have a real enthusiasm for the role. It also lets the recruiter know that this isn’t a copy-and-paste letter that you have sent to every internship programme in town.
Finally, keep your letter to the point – the main body of your cover letter should be two or three paragraphs long at the most. You don’t need to lay out everything you have ever done, as your CV will give a more detailed overview of your education, qualifications and experience. The cover letter should pique the recruiter’s interest in you and make them want to find out more.
In your final paragraph, you should thank the recruiter for their time and finish with a prompt for them to act on your letter and invite you for interview.
Something along the lines of:
“Thank you for considering my application and I look forward to discussing this opportunity with you in more detail.”
One sentence should be enough. Sign off with 'Yours sincerely' and your name.
It should be clear from the internship posting whether you are expected to send your cover letter and CV by email or by post.
If you are writing a paper letter, include your name, contact information and date at the top, aligned to the right. Then put the name and contact information for the person you are writing to, aligned to the left.
1e London Road
0203 111 1234
Cosmetics Corporation Ltd
2 Commercial Road
If you are sending your cover letter by email, you do not need to include the contact information and date at the top. Instead, give your contact information after your name at the end of the letter. Put your name and the job title in the subject line.
And unless the posting specifies sending your cover letter as an attachment, put the text of your letter in the body of the email. This will make it easier for the recruiter to find your cover letter in an email search.
- Don’t forget to proofread. Check your letter thoroughly for any spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. Internship placements can be highly competitive and any slip-ups could harm your chance of being invited to interview.
- Don’t be too wordy. Your letter should sound professional but natural and conversational. Avoid jargon and language that sounds overly stiff and formal. And don’t go on and on; one side of A4 is plenty. After you have written the first draft of your letter, put it away for a day and then come back to check that it conveys what you want to say fluently and succinctly.
- Don’t lie. It might be tempting to increase your chances of landing the internship by embellishing your credentials. But if you lie about your skills or qualifications, you are likely to be found out. Instead, focus on presenting your true qualities and experience in the most compelling way.
- Don’t cut and paste. As we have mentioned above, it is crucial that every internship cover letter is tailored to a specific role. Recruiters can spot a generic application letter instantly and your application will go to the bottom of the pile.
This is an example of a cover letter for a fictional internship, showing how the advice covered above could be put into practice.
1e London Road
0203 111 1234
Cosmetics Corporation Ltd
2 Commercial Road
Dear Jane Jones,
I am writing to apply for the digital marketing internship at Cosmetics Corporation Ltd, as advertised on WikiJob. I am in my final year of a Digital Marketing Management degree at Anytown University and last year I was a finalist in the student awards run by the Chartered Institute of Marketing. The skills and experience I have acquired during my time at university, and beyond, make me an ideal candidate for the role.
I am particularly drawn to this internship with Cosmetics Corporation because of the company’s innovative approach to digital marketing. The recent Ethical Beauty campaign really stood out in the new ways it captured audiences via online platforms. I have been following the campaign with interest and have made it part of the focus of my final piece of coursework. I also admire how the company is committed to promoting ethical choices, as this is a cause close to my own heart.
Last year I worked with a team of fellow digital marketing students to create a campaign encouraging consumers to swap single-use plastics for reusable alternatives. Our campaign reached the final of the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s student awards, where the video content that I created was singled out for a particular commendation.
I have also been putting the skills I am learning at university into practice. My friend runs a small business making and selling soaps and scented candles, and I have managed her website and social media accounts for the past few months. Sales have risen around 20 per cent in that time.
I am confident that my skills, experience and passion would make me an asset to the digital marketing team at Cosmetics Corporation Ltd. I would be thrilled to have the opportunity to learn even more by working with a company that is making such an impact in the industry.
Thank you for considering my application and I look forward to discussing this opportunity with you in more detail.
Keep these six points in mind when you write your cover letter for an internship:
- Before you start writing, research the company and the role you are applying for thoroughly.
- Don’t address your letter to Sir or Madam; find the name of the person who will be considering your application.
- Tailor your letter to the role you are applying for. Tell the recruiter what excites you about their company and how you match the key qualities and attributes they are looking for.
- Give specific examples to illustrate your skills and experience.
- Keep your letter brief and to the point. It should be no more than one side of A4.
- Remember to proofread. Don’t let sloppy spelling or grammar let you down.