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How to Write an Internship Cover Letter That Makes You Stand Out

How to Write an Internship Cover Letter That Makes You Stand Out

by | Mar 19, 2020 | Internships

The semester is drawing to a close, and along with studying for finals, you’re busy applying for internships. And, just like exams, you’re in cram mode. Click, upload, submit — you race through half a dozen applications, each one identical to the last.

You approach the internship application process like a numbers game, hoping that the more you apply for, the higher your chances at landing a summer gig. In your haste, you bypass writing an internship cover letter. After all, most of the job descriptions don’t require one, so you’re probably fine, right?


Hiring managers are inundated with applications, and they’re searching for reasons to reduce a tall stack of resumes to one of manageable proportions. According to CareerBuilder, nearly half of hiring managers say that not including a cover letter gets the candidate eliminated. What’s more, 54% state that not customizing your resume will also get you the ax.

Below, we’ll explain why writing an internship cover letter works to your benefit and what hiring managers look for, plus we’ll provide a sample letter to help you write your own.

Why Write An Internship Cover Letter?

Happy young woman at computer writing an internship cover letter

If you’re applying for your first internship, your work experience — and therefore your resume — might be limited. And that’s fine. Recruiters understand that you’re just beginning to gain real-world experience outside the classroom. Still, they want to know you’re ambitious, can think on your feet, and will get the job done when asked.

An internship cover letter is an excellent way to show you can do all of the above. It allows you to make a case for yourself, explaining why your involvement in school projects, extracurricular activities, or volunteer work makes you the perfect candidate for this position.

And frankly, writing in paragraph form in a cover letter creates a far cleaner argument than a few bullet points on a resume.

Your cover letter helps you connect the dots for a human resources manager, explaining why you’re an ideal fit for the internship. Plus, writing a custom cover letter shows you are incredibly thorough. It proves you’ll put in the extra time and effort within a given task, even when a job description (or your supervisor) doesn’t explicitly ask for it.

Sample Cover Letter Format: 3 Steps to Writing a Cover Letter 

Even though your word count will be noticeably higher in a cover letter than in a resume, the “less is more” rule still applies. Keep your internship cover letter short, direct, and under a page. It’s best to capture the recruiter’s curiosity and hit on a few key points rather than lose their attention within an in-depth history of your broad talents.

1. Remember It’s Not About You (At Least, Not At First)

This may sting a little, but we need to make one thing clear: When applying for an internship, chances are that you need the company more than it needs you. That isn’t to say you can’t make an impact once you’ve landed the gig. It’s just a reminder to stay humble, do your research, and make your opening paragraph about the company, not you.

When applying for an internship, Google the hiring manager’s name so you can avoid generic statements such as “to whom it may concern.” Within the salutation, address your letter directly to the individual, state how you found out about the internship, and explain why you’re excited about the position. This is one surefire way to demonstrate that you’ve taken the time to identify the key players and research the role.

2. Weave Together Your Past Experience

If this is the first internship you ever applied for, then you may not have any “real” work experience, and that’s OK. Everyone starts somewhere, including the hiring manager.

Recruiters understand that you’re in the beginning stage of your career. They also know relevant experience can be found outside the standard walls of a 9-5 job. Therefore, weave together a story on how you have excellent time management skills, can solve problems with the best of them, and are always on the hunt for innovative ideas.

Below are a few scenarios that show how you can highlight your experience, however limited it might be:

  • Did you serve as a hostess at a restaurant while in high school? You probably have a few anecdotes about how you professionally and politely handled a disgruntled guest, thereby showing off your customer service skills.
  • Did you compete in university athletics? This can demonstrate discipline, as you had to balance a full course load, conditioning, and practice times.
  • Did you petition your school to revamp its recycling program? Such an accomplishment underscores your initiative, not to mention the written and verbal communication skills necessary for any great internship.

3. Proofread and Follow Up

When applying for a job — not just an internship — remember to do three things: Proofread, proofread again, and follow up.

Don’t forget that the person reading your cover letter is searching for reasons to eliminate you from consideration. Even a great cover letter will land in the trash can if it’s covered in typos. Ask a friend, mentor, or professor to proofread your work before submitting it.

Once you submit your application, follow up with the hiring manager via email. (One week is usually a suitable amount of time to wait.) Ask if there’s any other information you can provide, and reiterate your interest in the position. You’d be surprised at how many applications get read only after you’ve followed up.

Sample Internship Cover Letter Template 

Close-up of a person holding an internship cover letter

It’s time to put each of the above components into practice. Below is a sample cover letter for a fictitious internship position. Remember, always tailor your cover letter to the specific internship program for which you’re applying.

Dear Ms. Garcia,

I am reaching out in regards to the marketing and sales internship posted on Scholars. As a marketing major and collegiate athlete, I understand the value that stems from being part of a community. After attending CEO Richard Bransen’s on-campus talk on “Community Through Content,” it’s clear that I would make an excellent fit within your team at MC Marketing.

I founded and continue to lead an Athletes in Business group where student-athletes assist locally-owned businesses in the areas of operations, client management, social media, and public relations.

As the founder of the organization, I’m continually searching for new opportunities within the community. Through cold email outreach, management of our social media channels, and referrals through our alumni network, we’ve successfully placed athletes at 23 independently-owned businesses.

When I’m not studying for classes or managing the Athletes in Business group, I play tennis for Duke University. Athletics have taught me how to stay disciplined, balance a tight schedule, and be part of a team. I believe that you can accomplish more within a group of people than you ever could as an individual, and this team-based attitude is one I hope to bring to your agency.

I also aim to bring my ambitious nature to MC Marketing, and I’m excited about the new content solutions your agency offers. I will reach out next week to see if there’s a convenient time to discuss joining your team.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

All my best,

Your Name

Stand Out From the Cover Letter Stack

When competing against dozens upon dozens of other internship applicants, it can be tough to differentiate yourself. Rather than sending out your expertly crafted cover letter to job posting sites, you can stand out from the crowd with Scholars, which puts you directly in touch with hiring managers.

Scholars connects you to great internships and entry-level job positions. When a hiring manager is interested in your profile, you’ll receive a text to help you land an interview. So go ahead and create your profile on Scholars — it takes just a few minutes to get started on the path to career success.

About Scholars

Scholars helps companies build engaging candidate experiences at scale. Create personalized journeys for all of your candidates from application through onboarding.

About Scholars

Internships and early-career jobs are unlike any others. They are often accepted months, if not years, in advance of the start date leaving plenty of time for candidates to change their minds and decide to work elsewhere, costing your team time and money.

There are two ways that have been proven to decrease renege rates for any company: keeping candidates engaged by sharing personalized information and helping them make connections with their future teammates. Companies use Scholars to accomplish both of these at scale.