How to Write a Cover Letter For an Internship

Finding the right internship is one of the best ways young professionals can get a step up in their careers. Internships provide crucial real-world experience that serves as a career launching pad and a network to build upon. 

Like any job, internships require an application package that includes a resume and cover letter. (Some may request work samples, but we’re not discussing that today.) And the more you tailor the package to the opportunity, the more likely you are to get an interview. 

Writing a cover letter for an internship has the same stakes as a full-time opportunity. When it comes to your internship cover letter, here are some key steps in guaranteeing it turns heads.  

1. Keep It Focused

With all the content-creation options available, jazzing up a resume and cover letter has gotten much easier. However, adding too much flair is detrimental. Unique and elaborate graphics, colors, fonts and formatting can distract from the most important information: your experience. 

In addition to making the content clear and easy for hiring managers to read, simple formatting also helps you get past applicant-tracking systems, or ATS. This software assists hiring managers with identifying only the candidates that best match the role by filtering resumes and cover letters that correspond with the job posting. 

ATS software is also picky when it comes to formatting. Including graphics and images will eliminate the candidate from the pool, as will any nontraditional fonts. This means no pizazz. 

Research from 2018 found that 98.8% of Fortune 500 companies utilize applicant-tracking systems, so stripping your application package of complicated formatting is your best chance at getting past the system. 

Keep your resume and cover letter simple, using only standard fonts and formatting. Stick to Times New Roman or Arial for the font and save the files in either a PDF or Word document. Simplifying your application package will get you past ATS software and give the hiring manager’s eyes a break.

2. Address the Hiring Manager by Name

It is always a good idea to swap “To whom it may concern” with the hiring manager’s name. Sometimes, this information is included in the post, however, if the hiring manager’s name is not included, there are a couple ways to search for the individual’s name.

Often, job postings will include the direct supervisor’s title. “The candidate will report directly to the VP of Marketing” is an example of how job postings connect the role to the supervisor. If that’s the case on your post, locating a name comes down to a simple search, starting on the company’s website. Many companies will have a “Staff” page that includes employees, their roles and, if you’re lucky, their bios. If the staff page is not immediately visible on the website, it may be nestled in a drop-down menu, so make sure to search the website as thoroughly as possible.  

What to do when you can’t find the hiring manager’s name

If you cannot locate the individual’s name on the company’s website, the next step is just as simple. Type the company’s name, plus ‘VP of Marketing’ (or whatever title is listed on the internship post) into a search engine. The employee’s LinkedIn profile will likely be the first result. 

On the off chance the supervisor’s title isn’t listed or that person isn’t on LinkedIn, there is a third solution. If you are not able to locate the hiring manager’s information, reach out to the company through its contact page or social media platforms. A simple, professional inquiry about the hiring manager’s name will result in a personal touch on your cover letter. 

3. Write a Compelling Narrative

This is your time to shine, so treat your content with care. 

With every job application, you are marketing yourself, and your resume and cover letter are the marketing materials. And just like in marketing, there is strategy involved. 

To launch your own personal marketing strategy, you need to think about what you have to offer, your most impressive accomplishment related to the position, and your target audience. By strategizing your content, you will have a better chance at landing that internship interview. 

Start with an attention-grabbing sentence 

Think of your cover letter like an article. Writers use headlines and ledes — or, the first sentence — to grab the reader’s attention. Job seekers can also utilize this strategy to stand out.  

Instead of introducing yourself and how you are interested in the internship opportunity, get creative. Use the first few sentences to introduce a relevant work story or highlight an accomplishment and the emotions that came with it. Personal stories and accomplishments help hiring managers get to know candidates better and add a human element to your cover letter. 

When writing an attention-grabbing cover letter intro, though, you need to align your story or accomplishment with the position. This will show the hiring manager that you are confident and capable of carrying out the job duties the role requires. From there, use the next few paragraphs to share why you are the best fit for the role, incorporating hard data whenever possible. 

Use a professional-yet-friendly tone to foster connection

Writing in a professional manner is necessary for job applications; however, adding a warm and friendly tone can help give your writing a boost. As young professionals are starting out, they are often cautious with language, and that can come off robotic in correspondence. 

Remember: you are a person, so incorporating some light emotional language into your letter helps humanize you. The individuals reading your letter want to know what you’re passionate about or how you triumphed over adversity and other situations that involve emotion. Don’t be afraid to dip into those feelings a little. 

Including your personal thoughts and feelings allows you to show off your personality a little bit — even that means cracking a joke or two. A warm tone helps hiring managers feel connected to you. 

Highlight experience and skills that relate to the role

Remember, hiring managers are looking for the candidate with experience that best matches the role, so only include information that coincides with the job duties. Even if there is something you are incredibly proud of, if it has nothing to do with the role, leave it on the cutting room floor. 

For young professionals looking for internships, their experience is often limited to high school and college jobs, volunteering or relevant coursework which can make it challenging to connect their experience to the internship description. This is where thinking outside the box comes into play. Take nannying or babysitting experience, for example. Caretakers have unique skills — they are responsible for another human’s needs, which shows a high level of trust. Caretakers also have to be organized and quick problem solvers, which are traits that are important to any job. 

Plucking out those unique experiences is a challenge but Teal’s resume builder can simplify the process. This tool helps you identify which skills and past work experiences best fit the internship you are applying for and allows you to import your LinkedIn profile or existing resume, so you’re not starting from scratch. From there, you can pick and choose the most applicable experience for the role and figure out what to lean on when writing your cover letter. Additionally, Teal gives you one of three professional templates and analyzes your resume to ensure it’s ATS-proof. 

Sample Internship Cover Letter

Now that you have a strategy for crafting a quality cover letter for an internship, it’s time to put the strategy together. 

Below is an example of a cover letter that uses this strategy. Notice how the salutation addresses the hiring manager directly, the letter starts out with an attention-grabbing story and the hard data used to support the story and candidate’s experience. 

Hello Mary, 
In 2020, I faced my first marketing crisis. As president of my university’s marketing club, I had to creatively problem solve when COVID shifted our biggest event of the year to virtual attendance only. 
With a mountain of work in front of me, I found it necessary to delegate tasks to trusted team members. As president, I identified our individual strengths to maximize efficiency. While I coordinated with our vendors, performers and participants, the rest of the team updated marketing materials and distributed new information to all communication channels.
The hard work resulted in a successful virtual event, with the marketing club selling more tickets than the original, in-person event. We even saw participation from 13 outside states and one other countryan outcome we did not expect. 
This example of leadership and strategy under pressure is why I believe I am the best candidate for your marketing internship opportunity. In addition to my work on our virtual event, I helped produce 10 other university events, launched three social media campaigns and became certified in Google Analytics. 
As I think about my career goals, I see this internship opportunity as a natural fit. I aspire to lead a national marketing campaign and grow into a marketing director position.
If my skills and experience interest you, I have included my contact information at the bottom. 
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Jane Doe
(123) 555-4578

Final Thoughts

A 2020 survey consisting of 200 recruiters, hiring managers and human resource specialists found that cover letters aren’t going out of style. In fact, 77% give preference to candidates who send a cover letter. That same survey went on to showcase the power a great cover letter holds. Out of the professionals surveyed, 83% said if a candidate’s resume wasn’t up to par, a strong cover letter could convince them to schedule an interview. That’s some serious influence. Internships are no different.

When writing your cover letter, remember all the things that make you unique and how all your work and life experiences can be applied to the job. Be confident in those skills and experiences and let that confidence shine through. You’ve got this.

Once you've landed an interview, check out our guide on common internship interview questions and how to answer them.

Job Tracker Ad 1
Teal Resume Builder Ad
Teal Resume Builder Ad
Lindsay Patton

Lindsay Patton

Lindsay Patton is a journalist, adjunct professor, podcast host and digital communicator who specializes in business and career growth.

We help you find
the career dream.