According to Glassdoor, the average job gets roughly 250 resumes — and only 5-6 of those applicants will land an interview. As you search for your first internship, how can you make yourself stand out against the other hundreds of qualified students?
Making a human connection within your dream company can be far more beneficial than sending your resume to the deep, dark abyss that is a job search board. If you’re wondering how to ask for an internship — whether from a professor, a shared connection,or a cold email to a hiring manager — you came to the right place.
The rules of asking for an internship are no different than any other human connection: Be polite, stay humble, and try to reference shared interests. Below, you’ll learn how to ask for an internship, and a few email templates to send out to your dream company.
The Rules for Resumes and Cover Letters Apply for Emails, Too
When sending a professional email, abide by the same guidelines used to write your resume and cover letter. Double-check for typos, ask a friend or mentor to proofread your work, and be sure to follow-up.
Write every email specific to the person, role, and company you’re hoping to connect with. People are smarter than you think, and they can tell when the same template email has been copied and pasted to multiple recipients. Keep things specific — mention a shared connection, or allude to a personal fact you discovered when researching the recipient.
Mimic Company Culture in Your Tone
Before you know how to ask for an internship, it’s critical that you research the company culture. Use the information you gather as a guideline when crafting the tone of your email. An email written to the creative director of a tech startup will be more casual than a message to the head of human resources at a Big Four accounting firm.
Here’s a pro tip: Look at the company website and see if they maintain a company blog. Read a few posts, and mimic their tone. Or, look up your targeted recipient on LinkedIn and Medium, and mirror how they write — are they playful, friendly, or strictly business? Even if they have a fun style, don’t get too casual. Always maintain a degree of professionalism.
Finally, use an appropriate salutation in your greeting. In most cases, starting off with “Dear Mr. [last name]” or “Dear Ms. [last name]” is a safe bet when addressing a hiring manager. If you’re sending an email to a professor, address them by “Professor [last name].” Finally, if you’re reaching out to a warm connection or someone in a more casual work environment, you can start with a simple “Dear [first name]” or “Dear [full name].”
Remember This Is Not About You
When typing up a cold email, it can be tempting to start by rattling off your impressive GPA and all the other fine qualities that make you an excellent internship candidate.
But this isn’t about you.
You’re asking them for a favor — and therefore, you should make your email about them (at least initially). Do your homework. Show the person on the receiving end of your message that you care enough about their advice and mentorship that you did your research. If you have a particular connection, make a note of it. If the person recently published an article or made a specific contribution to the company or your university, compliment them on their work.
Try It in Practice: A Sample Email
I hope your week is off to an excellent start.
I attended your panel at the Boutique Fitness Symposium in New York last week. I couldn’t believe what you went through to get your pilates studio off the ground, and I came up to speak to you shortly after the session ended.
Just as you started out as an accountant before switching to the realm of fitness, I majored in business before shifting to exercise science. I am currently searching for internship experience or a grad assistant position for the fall semester, and was hoping you could provide any insights within the field.
I know your time is limited, but if you would be open to a quick, 25-30 minute call next week, I would greatly appreciate it.
Looking forward to hearing from you,
Stay Humble and Respect Their Time
Having the courage to send a cold email for an internship can score you major points with a potential employer. Even senior employees recognize the drive and confidence it takes to reach out and seek advice — especially to a complete stranger.
But when starting your email, leave your ego at your desk. Be respectful in your messaging, letting the recipient know you value their time and any advice they can give.
It doesn’t hurt to address the recipient’s time constraints directly. Bluntly acknowledge that you know their time is limited, how much time you’re asking for, and how you plan to use it.
Try It in Practice: A Sample Email
Dear Ms. Anderson,
Hope you’re having a great week.
We have never met or been formally introduced, but I attended your seminar on Women in the Workplace at Bowling Green. Like you, I’m majoring in marketing and was captured by what you said about the demand for women in digital advertising.
I know your time is limited, and you already took time out of your week to speak with my fellow students and me. However, if you have 30 minutes this week to grab a coffee to discuss opportunities within digital marketing, I’d certainly appreciate it. I prepared a few questions, and would gladly send them in advance to make the most of your time.
Thanks in advance and all my best,
Be Clear About Your Ask
Throughout your entire college career, you’ve been told to network, build relationships, and meet as many people as you can. While this is sound advice, you shouldn’t confuse being friendly with being vague. Asking open-ended questions to a recruiter at a job fair is fine, but when it comes to emailing a specific person, at a specific company, for a specific internship program, you need to be (you guessed it) specific.
We understand that when figuring out how to ask for an internship, you don’t want to seem pushy or salesy. And while we stand by what we said earlier about staying humble, you have to be forward and direct in your messaging.
The person on the receiving end of your email may receive upwards of 100 emails per day. Don’t leave them with the task of deciphering your message. From your subject line to your sign-off, be polite yet succinct, humble yet straightforward.
Try It in Practice: A Sample Email
Dear Professor Hemsworth,
Hope this email finds you well.
I took your Sociology 305 class this semester, and it absolutely transformed how I see and relate to others. I’m currently in the process of submitting a summer internship application to work on the campaign trail this year and was wondering if I could stop by your office this week to discuss it.
With the semester coming to a close, I know you have a lot on your plate, so I’ll keep this brief. Specifically, I’m looking for your input on two things. One, I was hoping you could help me narrow down writing samples to submit with my application, and two, I would appreciate any insight on the types of questions the internship coordinator may ask in the interview. I know you previously worked on the Hill and would appreciate any insights you could provide.
Would you have availability during your office hours next Thursday for me to stop by your office?
All my best,
How to Ask for an Internship: It’s Easier When They’re Looking for You
Lastly, remember that internships and other job opportunities are much easier to come by when an employer is searching for you (not the other way around). While you can get creative in carving out an internship, your chances of getting professional work experience are better when there’s a definite job opening.
On Scholars, hiring managers and executives from numerous companies post openings for internships and full-time, entry-level jobs. We send you text messages when an employer is interested in your skill set, making it easier for you to land an interview, and hopefully, your first internship. If you haven’t created a profile on Scholars, it’s easy to get started and let your dream job find you.