How To Write An Internship Cover Letter

Student writing

For those pursuing an internship or a job fresh out of college, an empty resume doesn’t provide prospective employers much to work with or a good sense of your experience. What information do they have to tell you apart from another candidate? Wouldn’t it be better if you could sit down and explain your case? A cover letter is precisely that: an opportunity to explain why you should be chosen for the internship above other candidates - even when you have no experience.

Without substantive experience on your resume, an internship cover letter is one of the few things that can save your application.  Unfortunately, these opportunities are easily wasted if you don’t know what you should and shouldn’t say in your letter.

Tips for Writing an Internship Cover Letter

Cover letters are business letters, and should be written in business letter format. Each section of your internship cover letter should map to an established form, giving prospective employers what they’re looking for -- where they’re looking for it:

  • Address & Forms of Address: If you’re using stationary, the top lines should include your contact information and the date. Below the date, write the recipient’s name and address. It’s best to address a specific individual, and usually not too difficult to find out who is your intended recipient. A quick look at LinkedIn for the name of HR personnel, recruiting, or internship coordinator should be readily available if the job / internship posting does not already include that info.
    • Tip #1: If you can’t address a specific individual, good alternatives may include “Dear Committee Members” or “To Whom It May Concern.” But taking getting a name can help your application stand out from the first line because you can use the recipient’s name in your salutation, e.g. “Dear Mr. Smith.”
  • Briefly Tell Them Who You Are:  With formalities aside, the beginning of your internship cover letter should explain who you are. You should mention the position you’re interested in applying for, your educational background, and why you’re interested in pursuing the internship. But don’t start regurgitating your transcripts or restating your resume. A cover letter should be a narrative of your experience. It’s a story you’re telling to an audience, and the moral of the story is you’d be a great help to their organization.
  • Explain Your Skills & Why You’re Right For the Position: In the second paragraph, identify how you’d be a fit for the internship based on your hard and soft skills. Try to demonstrate your strengths when possible. Don’t simply claim “I’m talented at coding websites and have excellent people skills.” Instead you might say, “I’m a certified web developer, and I first developed my people skills with my summer job working in the Girl Scouts.” Be specific.
    • Tip #2: If you don’t have some skill required for the internship, don’t draw attention to the ways you’re underqualified. Cover letters are useful for contextualizing your resume, but they shouldn’t be a list of your faults. Instead, draw attention to your skills and how they might be useful to the reader. Like with your resume, you want to individualize your cover letter to emphasize your possession of the skills necessary for the internship. You can usually find those skills readily listed in an internship posting, or by calling to ask.
  • Conclude Your Letter & Reiterate Relevant Experience: In the final paragraph, wrap-up by talking about personal traits which have helped you in the past, and again emphasize how you believe you can provide value to the company. Be sure to sign your name at the bottom -- but you’re not done yet.
    • Tip #3: Nobody likes proofreading their own work, but employers may see small mistakes in your letter a sign you’re either incompetent or didn’t care enough to look. Small fixes can have a big impact on the outlook of your chances of getting an internship. After all, small factors are nearly everything your prospective employer has to base their hiring decision upon. For more tips for landing an upcoming internship, be sure to check out MyPath’s Career Resources.


Sample Cover Letter for Internship

January 15th, 2018

John Smith

534 Internship Road

Intern City, NY 11219


Dear Mr. Smith,

I’m a senior at Townberg University who’s working on finishing a bachelor’s degree in biology. The biology department posted a flyer about the Biology Life Internship in Intern City. After learning more about the internship, I was impressed by the multidisciplinary approach your organization has taken to research. The hands-on work you’ve done in the Seattle area has been especially impressive.

I recently spoke with one of your former internships, David Jones, about the program. After our discussion, Mr. Jones encouraged me to apply. We agreed I’d be a good fit for the Biology Life team because of my advanced background and interest in the subject. I’m familiar with the kind of data techniques you’re using thanks to a BIO439 Research Methodology course. Consequently, I believe I can get up-to-speed quickly.

I’d like the opportunity to discuss how I can contribute further. If you have any further questions, please call 555-555-5555. I look forward to hearing from you.


Mary Baker

Definite Do’s and Don’ts of Writing an Internship Cover Letter

  • Do: Infuse Your Cover Letter With a Sense of Personality: The people who are tasked with sorting through cover letters often endure dozens of near-identical applications. It’s important to remain professional, but giving a sense of your personality is something that can help the reader determine if you’d be a good fit for their team. Furthermore, the more you look like every other applicant, the less you stand out.

    Your goal should be to infuse a sense of your personality into your cover letter while staying on topic. Easy ways to do that include mentioning relevant extracurricular activities, volunteer work, and other stories which help demonstrate your skills.

  • Don’t: Talk About How The Internship Can Help YOU -- Make it About THEM: A great cover letter is only ostensibly about you, but don’t spend the entire letter talking about how the internship can help you. It’s good to signal you have a genuine interest in the position, but that’s ultimately frosting on the cake. You need to let your potential employer know what they have to gain from choosing you. In other words, your cover letter is actually about the recipient.
  • Do: Get a Fresh Set of Eyes on Your Work: Do check your work, but don’t rely on your own proofreading. Have at least two people read your letter for you. Small errors are easy to miss, and you don’t want to lose out on an internship because you missed the same small grammatical error.

When everyone is wearing the same uniform, minor differences stick out. It may be as small as a different pair of cufflinks, a scarf, brooch, or pin. It’s easy to think of cover letters as pointless because you’re not the one sifting through dozens of nearly identical resumes. But small efforts are often the only thing that your reader has to go on. Consequently, it’s these small efforts which ultimately land you your internship, and which can put you on a path to your perfect career.   

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