How to Format a Cover Letter for an Internship: Tips and Template

FT Contributor  | 

Your cover letter is a critical step when applying for an internship. While your resume states facts like your employment history and education, a cover letter specifically lays out why you’re a good match for a particular position.

While a cover letter may feel like something intended for professional job-hunting, it can also be instrumental in helping you apply for internships. Before you start adding cover letters to your internship applications, use these tips to help format your letters properly.

Internship Cover Letter Writing Tips

On the whole, writing a cover letter for an internship looks a lot like writing a cover letter for a regular job.

However, in the case of an internship, you won’t be able to lean on your hard skills and professional experiences as heavily as you will in the future. That’s why it’s particularly important to set yourself apart from others by focusing on elements like personal strengths and soft skills.

Create a Hook

It all starts with your opening line. If you opt for a generic, boilerplate introduction, such as, “I’d like to be considered for an internship at XYZ Corp,” the hiring manager will be less likely to read past the first few words.

Instead, try to come up with a hook to reel in the recruiter’s interest. Consider opening with an anecdote or even a question for the reader. Make sure to maintain a professional tone as you do this. A unique yet respectful opening hook is an excellent way to set yourself apart right from the beginning.

Outline Your Experience

It might be tempting to dismiss the idea of “experience” as something you’ll be able to add to your cover letters after you’ve put in some time in an internship. However, there are plenty of other ways to add experience to your cover letters without resorting to lying.

Educational experience, for instance, is extremely valuable. A freshly graduated software engineer applying for an internship should emphasize the fact that they’re trained in the latest coding techniques and methods.

In addition to education, consider adding any community service or other experience you may have. Volunteering, organizing, and participating in community events can add valuable experience to both your resume and your cover letter.

Identify Specific Skills

While your repertoire of hard skills will increase over time, an internship cover letter is a perfect place to emphasize a plethora of soft skills. Interpersonal skills are among some of the highest-valued skills hiring managers look for, and include things like:

  • Leadership capabilities.
  • Communication.
  • Collaboration.
  • Teamwork.
  • Time management.

Whatever specific skills you choose to focus on, take some time to highlight them in your letter. One way to be particularly poignant with this is to read over the internship description and look for specific skills you possess that match the position. Matching your skills with the description is a great way to get the most out of what you have to work with.

Provide Illustrative Examples

Whether you’re claiming you have a soft skill or explaining an experience, take the time to back up your claims with real, illustrative examples.

For example, if the employer values teamwork, highlight your ability to work with others and back it up with an example of the time you spent volunteering in the Peace Corps. If the employer wants you to have leadership qualities, point out that you led your high school basketball team to a championship.

If you’re a driven worker, don’t just say that you’re a “go-getter.” Explain that your diligence and hard work are exemplified by the fact that you graduated from college cum laude or spent time in the Reserves — or both. Whatever your soft skills and experiences are, be specific about them and how they relate to internship.

Include the Right Keywords

Hiring managers spend time sifting through thousands of applications on a regular basis. In order to sort through such an overwhelming number of applicants, many employers utilize an applicant tracking system (ATS) that allows them to initially process the applications electronically.

This allows employers to digitally remove any applicants that don’t automatically meet certain benchmarks or criteria, many of which are centered around the use of keywords. In order to ensure that you pass any possible ATS screening, it’s wise to incorporate keywords into your cover letter.

For instance, if a job application emphasizes that an applicant for an internship needs to follow directions well or have time-management skills, it’s a good idea to include those keywords in your cover letter.

Make sure to do this subtly, though. If time management is a required qualification, don’t just include the keywords in a random sentence. Instead, address them by including an example of how you perfected your time-management skills while attending classes at college.

Explain Why You Are a Good Match

It’s good to state the case for why you’re a good match when it comes to the particulars of the internship. However, if you want an even better shot at being accepted for an internship, it’s smart to go above and beyond.

Take some time to research the company you’re applying to. Look for its mission, vision, and goals. Then look for ways that these align with yourself. If, for example, a company believes in being eco-friendly, you can compare this to a thesis you wrote in college about the importance of water conservation.

Point these connections out on your cover letter. As you do so, explain how the company would benefit from your presence as well as how you can see yourself growing from the internship.

The former is a standard element of a cover letter; in addition, including what you can get out of the deal is helpful when it comes to internships. This is because many companies design internships with the goal of helping interns learn about an industry or develop their skills. If a hiring manager sees that you understand this, it can help you stand out as a promising intern candidate.

Edit and Review

Punctuation errors and basic grammar mistakes are a dangerous faux pas in a cover letter. Goofing up simple details could make you come across as unprofessional or, even worse, uninterested. On top of that, errors and mistakes can make you look rushed, implying that you don’t take the internship seriously.

Before you send a cover letter, make sure to carefully proofread it for spelling and punctuation errors and edit it for readability.

Internship Cover Letter Example

If you’re still feeling a bit gun-shy about writing a cover letter for your internship application, here is a basic outline you can follow to get started. Copy and paste it into your document and then fill it in with your own information.

[Date.]

[Name of recruiter.]
[Position of recruiter.]
[Name of company.]
[Address of company.]

Dear [name of recruiter], [Try to use either their full name or Mr., Ms., Mrs. and their last name to add a personal touch. You can often find this out by conducting basic research on the company and looking for who is in charge of hiring new personnel.]

[Begin the letter by stating which internship you’re interested in. Try to incorporate a quality hook. If you have any unique qualifications or a reference, make sure to include them early on in order to increase their visibility.]

[In the main body of the letter, focus on why you should be considered for the position. Take the time to briefly and concisely outline your experience, identify your specific skills, and explain why you’re a good match. Remember to use keywords from the job application and back up your claims with illustrative examples.]

[Close by thanking the hiring manager for taking the time to consider you. You may want to also add a respectful call to action as well, such as, “I look forward to hearing from you about the internship.”]

[Closing phrase, — e.g. sincerely, regards, cordially.]

[Your name.]

[Your contact information.]


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