How to Write an Internship Cover Letter: 9 Tips (+ Examples)

Written by Coursera • Updated on

A strong cover letter can get you noticed when applying for an internship. Find out how to craft a standout cover letter today. 

Woman looking over cover letter

You’ve found an internship, and it’s exactly the opportunity you’ve been looking for to put you on the path to your dream job. But, the internship application requires you to send a cover letter.

Cover letters give you space to contextualize how your previous work experience and relevant skills make you a good fit for the position. They expand on your resume in a meaningful way that grabs a hiring manager’s attention and demonstrates why you’re undeniably the right person for the internship. 

In this article, you will find out how to put your best foot forward with nine tips for your internship cover letter. You will also find examples alongside each tip and a cover letter template to help you compose your own. Whether you’re a high school student, recent college graduate, or career switcher looking to start on a new path, these tips are for you. 

Internship cover letters: why you need one

Cover letters provide hiring managers with insight into an applicant's experience, skills, and aspirations. As a result, cover letters can be especially helpful to early-career seekers applying for internships because they provide a more detailed picture of their backgrounds than their resumes might. 

Whether a job description asks for a cover letter or not, it is usually a wise decision to send a unique resume to each internship to which you apply. In some cases, adding a cover letter can be the difference between landing the internship or not. 

Research conducted by ResumeGo between 2019 and 2020 found that cover letters can have a positive impact on how applications are interpreted by hiring managers. Among their many findings, the researchers found that [1]: 

  • 87 percent of hiring managers said they read cover letters. 

  • 65 percent of hiring managers said that cover letters influence their hiring decisions. 

  • 81 percent of hiring managers valued cover letters tailored to a specific position over generic ones. 

  • 78 percent of hiring managers said it was easy to tell when a cover letter was generic. 

These statistics suggest both the impact that a cover letter can have when applying for an internship and the importance of crafting one that speaks directly to the position. One thing is clear: cover letters matter. 

How to write a cover letter for an internship 

A cover letter is your chance to stand out from the crowded applicant pool. In this section, you’ll learn nine high-impact tips to help you craft a cover letter that highlights your professionalism, aspirations, and qualifications. 

1. Properly format your cover letter.

Proper formatting will help hiring managers easily scan your cover letter for key information, such as your contact information and skills, and also convey your professionalism. From top to bottom, your cover letter should have the following elements: 

  • Keep to one page only: your cover letter should be only one page long. This will keep it focused, impactful, and easily scannable for hiring managers.  

  • Header at the top: Include a header that contains your contact information, so that hiring managers can easily reach out to you. 

  • Greetings: Your cover letter should open with a greeting to the hiring manager. This is a formality that makes your letter more personal. 

  • Intro: Your cover letter should include a brief introduction that describes who you are, what you are applying for and your key qualifications. 

  • Body: The body of your cover letter is where you go into detail about your experience, skills, and education. 

  • Conclusion/Call to action: Your cover letter should conclude with a call to action that encourages your reader to reach out to you. 

  • Salutations: Finally, you want to leave the reader with a good impression by including a formal salutation followed by your full name. This conveys a sense of professionalism and friendliness. 

In the following tips, you will learn more about handling each of these parts of your resume to make them as impactful as possible. 

2. Have a professional email address.

The header of your cover letter is where you include your contact information, including your full name, phone number, and email address. 

While it may seem insignificant, one of the most important things you can do in your header is to include a professional-sounding email address. In this instance, the simpler the email address the better. Create an email address that is a simple variant of your name with a common free email provider, such as Gmail. 

Example

Professional email variations
abraham.lincoln@gmail.com
lincoln.abraham@gmail.com
a.lincoln@gmail.com

3. Personalize your greeting. 

While many cover letters are addressed simply “to whom it may concern,” a more impactful way to catch a hiring manager’s attention is by addressing them by name directly. 

In addition to making your cover letter more personal, this tactic also highlights that you’ve done your research and created a job-specific cover letter rather than sent a generic one. This can have a positive impact on how a hiring manager views your resume and cover letter. 

You can find out who the hiring manager is by doing some straightforward research online. Some job descriptions will instruct you to email a specific person. In other cases, you might need to visit the organization’s website and see if you can identify the person who heads their internship or hiring efforts. 

If this fails, you can also reach out to the organization directly by either email or phone to see if they can provide the name of the hiring manager who will be looking at internship applications. Let them know that you are applying for the specific internship and would like to address the hiring manager directly in your application. 

If you’re unable to learn the name of the hiring manager, then don’t sweat it – your application likely won’t be penalized for a common, courteous greeting.

Example

Generic greetingPersonal greeting
To whom it may concern,Dear Ms. Angelou,

4. Include key information in the intro.

Your cover letter should include a short introduction that immediately identifies the specific internship position you are applying for and the key background information relevant to the position. Ideally, you should keep your introduction to only a few sentences, making sure not to exceed four. 

Much like a thesis statement in a school paper, the introduction of your cover letter helps the reader understand your purpose for writing and the qualifications that make you ideal for the position. 

Example

Dear Ms. Angelou, 

I am writing to apply for the editorial assistant internship position at Little House publishing. An avid reader since I first played cracked open Grimm’s (macabre) Fairytales as a five-year-old, I have made storytelling my personal and professional calling. As an English major at The Ohio State University, I have been an editor of our school’s literary magazine for three years, brought two theater productions to life as a dramaturg, and taught reading and writing to countless middle schoolers. 

5. Show how you and the internship are a perfect match. 

The key aim of your cover letter is to demonstrate to the hiring manager why you and the internship are a perfect match for one another. 

As a result, you should craft your letter to emphasize how your skill set and experience have prepared you for the position and why it can help you achieve your professional aims. Remember, an internship is as much an educational opportunity as a work experience, so don’t be afraid to note what the internship offers you as well as what you offer the internship. 

To identify how you and the internship are a good match for one another, do the following: 

1. Read through the job description and identify the skills and experience you possess. 

2. Identify what experience, skills, or understanding you will gain by doing the internship.

3. Include these points in your cover letter. 

Example 

“After studying python for the last two years, IBM’s data science internship will finally give me the opportunity to see programming at work in the real world. Throughout high school, I’ve spent hours combing through data, creating visualizations, and posing questions to data big and small all by myself. At IBM, I will finally be a part of a community that takes data seriously, contributing to projects but learning even more.” 

6. Emphasize your education and extracurriculars.

While most jobs require applicants to have some kind of relevant work experience, most internships typically expect applicants to have very little or even none. This is particularly true for internships geared toward high school and college students. 

If you’re a student without much (or any) relevant work experience, then you should emphasize your education and extracurricular activities. You’ll be able to highlight your skills, interests, and concrete achievements for hiring managers as much as previous work experience would allow you to do. 

Example

“As a computer science student, I have taken advanced courses on machine learning and programming data structures, achieving top grades in both. Later, I used these skills in the AI club when I taught a machine to visually recognize different hand gestures.” 

7. Use active language and note concrete outcomes. 

One of the key ways to create impactful writing is to use active language that shows the reader how you achieved concrete outcomes. This method will help your reader fully comprehend what it is that you have done and what you have ultimately achieved. 

Active language (also known as active voice) is when the subject of a sentence acts upon an object, rather than the object being acted upon by an object. For example, consider the chart below: 

ActivePassive
The woman programs a computer.The computer was programmed by the woman.

In the first sentence, the emphasis is on the woman (the subject) doing an action (“programming”) on the computer (the object). The second sentence, meanwhile, puts emphasis on the computer rather than the action performed by the subject (the woman). By focusing on the action, the first sentence highlights the work that the woman does – and keeps the sentence shorter too. 

Using active language that clearly describes how you accomplished a specific result will keep the attention on you and what you can do.  

Example

“As a writing tutor, I taught middle schoolers how to write in the active voice to help them articulate themselves with impact. To do it, I parsed sentences on the blackboard, edited essays live, and reinforced concepts week to week.  Our results spoke for themselves: test scores improved by 78 percent in just two months.”

8. Consider using a bulleted list to highlight your technical skills. 

To make it more scannable, you might consider including a bullet point list of your relevant skills in the body of your cover letter. This technique can help readers catch important skills that you possess that could help you stand out from the applicant pool. 

Example 

“Throughout my education and extracurriculars, I have honed many skills relevant to the internship, including: 

  • Python

  • Java

  • C++

  • Collaboration

  • Problem solving"

Read: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills: What’s the Difference?

9. Include a call-to-action and salutation at the end of the letter. 

Your cover letter should leave the hiring manager with both a desire to reach out to you and a good picture of you. To leave them wanting to hear more from you, end the cover letter with a brief statement about your desire to speak more about the role soon and close with a professional salutation, such as “sincerely.”

Example

“I look forward to talking soon about how I can contribute to the team this summer. Thank you for the opportunity, time, and consideration.

Sincerely, 

Abraham Lincoln”

Next steps

Landing an internship can help you kick off your career. To make sure that you’re ready for that first day on the job, you might consider taking an online course or gaining a professional certificate in such fields as data science, project management, or social media marketing

 Related articles 

Article sources

1. Resume Go. “Cover Letters: Just How Important Are They?, https://www.resumego.net/research/cover-letters/.” Accessed March 24, 2022. 

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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