By Ellen Zhang
Chief Marketing Officer
Besides the resume, cover letters are your first impression to an organization. A cover letter weaves together the different elements on your resume to create a cohesive story for your potential employer. By reading your cover letter, the hiring manager should understand your background, specific aspects of your background that qualify you for the internship, why you want that internship in particular, and how you’re different from other applicants. It’s important to carve out sufficient time to craft a well-written cover letter to make a good impression and help get your foot in the door for an interview.
Tips for Writing Successful Internship Cover Letters
1. KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid). Most cover letters should not be essays. Limit your letter to one page maximum. The hiring manager has their full-time job and is probably wading through multiple applications. They will not only appreciate your ability to say a lot with little, but will probably not read anything past one page. There may be special circumstances where you might have to write more than one page but that is the exception not the rule.
2. Personalize. It’s important to personalize your cover letters. Match your specific skills with the job description. Some employers may even ask for non-traditional cover letters. Personalizing will show that you read the job description and care enough about the job and application. You should also try to personalize your letter to a specific person. If you can find the name of your hiring manager, direct the cover letter to them.
3. Talk about what you can do for the organization, not what the organization can do for you. The hiring manager does not need to read about how this internship is your dream job and can transform your life. They want to know what your unique experiences in life can bring to the table and how you can help the organization.
4. If you don’t have previous work experience, write about your academics and any extracurriculars. Many intern managers understand that not every applicant will have previous work experience or work experience that’s directly related to the position. However, you’ve probably taken related academic classwork or maybe done extracurriculars that demonstrate your work ethic, leadership, and other relevant skills that are important for an intern.
5. Proofread. For many hiring managers, typos are a huge red flag. Lack of attention in a job application can signal potential lack of attention on the job. It is important to make sure both your cover letter and your resume are spot-free. Use spell check and read over your letter several times.
6. Ask others to review. Looking at the same thing over again can make it easy to miss mistakes. Have another person read your cover letter. It may also spark additional ideas that you can include in the letter.
Sample Cover Letters
Here are some examples of cover letters Team Symba has written that have gotten us into internships. Companies are anonymized.
Dear Hiring Manager at Company ABC:
I’m Ellen Zhang, a senior studying Marketing and Information Systems at Boston College. I’ve explored many career options from practicing law to playwriting, but I have never changed my desire to help others tell their stories. Marketing initially appealed to me because it involves telling the stories of products and brands to inspire consumer intention. When I took Consumer Behavior, I loved learning how both conscious and subconscious perceptions result in different buyer responses and it solidified my desire to pursue a career in marketing.
During my freshman year at BC, I planned a flash mob. Over the month that we marketed our event, we had grown to over 600 interested attendees on our Facebook event page and had the support of Boston radio station Kiss 108’s street team. We performed the 300-person flash mob successfully and made it to the local news channel. Our flash mob has also accumulated hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube. Besides honing my organizational skills, I learned the importance of an adaptable leadership style, of appropriately delegating tasks to team members, and of a constant line of effective communication. This flash mob also piqued my interest in inbound marketing since all our marketing efforts were through social media. I find it amazing how powerful and cost-efficient social media marketing can be, so subsequently, I took a class on Social Media for Managers, where we acquainted ourselves with the rapidly evolving world of social marketing. A little less than a year after the flash mob, I started my first internship at a boutique sports agency and worked with the marketing director. When I was tasked with making the new logo for the 2013 Vince Wilfork Foundation (VWF) Draft Night Fundraiser, I had my first professional taste of graphic design. It was very satisfying seeing my logo design on every event collateral, especially when the logo was sent out on gift bag invites to the Patriot players. My interest in marketing aesthetics and branding grew as I helped to build the image of the VWF and tell their story through visual media. During my next internship at the Computer Clubhouse, I was also tasked with helping build their brand image through web design and social media, and as an occasional mentor to the kids, I helped them shape and develop their own creative identities so they could tell their own stories.
Though I do love graphic design and am constantly practicing my skills, I would also love to be more involved with the strategy behind digital marketing and branding as well as work with analytics, which my market research class introduced me to. I hope that during an internship and my future career, my ideas and my work can inspire people, and I find it so rewarding that the stories that I can tell through brands and products can breathe life into intangible ideas and infuse character into inanimate objects. I believe that my previous work experience at my both my internships and my research position, my diverse marketing and IS coursework, and my love of story-telling make me a good fit as an intern for Company ABC. Thank you very much for your time and consideration!
Dear HIRING MANAGER at COMPANY ABC,
I’m writing to share my sincere interest in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Internship Position. My name is Ahva Sadeghi, and I am Master’s student in Human Rights at the London School of Economics and Political Science. I recently graduated in May 2015 with my Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Political Science, Economics and Law from the University of Arizona Honors College as the Outstanding Senior. In 2013, I studied International Relations at Georgetown University. Throughout my studies, I have visited the MENA Programme site numerous times to study policy research on the region, and I am sincerely thrilled to have the opportunity to apply.
My personal academic interests are heavily vested in the Middle East. I am presently writing my Master’s dissertation on economic sanctions and human rights with a concentration on the Middle East. In my undergraduate studies, I wrote my Honors Thesis on women’s rights, political resistance and government policies on veiling in Iran. As an Iranian American, I have strong cultural and familial ties to the region, which prompts my passion, curiosity and research in international affairs and the Middle East.
My individual academic appeal to the Middle East is coupled with professional research positions on the region. Last year, I contributed to the 2014-2015 Human Rights Report on the Middle East as a Human Rights Research intern with the U.S. Department of State. I researched human rights violations, government affairs and policies concerning my delegated countries (Iran, Iraq, Qatar, and Syria), utilizing my Persian and Arabic language skills to access various forms of media. In 2014, I conducted research and data collection to contribute to the 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report as an intern with the Office to Combat and Monitor Trafficking in Persons with the U.S. Department of State. During my undergraduate studies, I was the Middle East Correspondent for my university’s international current events journal, and I founded my university’s international human rights awareness student organization. Throughout these positions, I have sincerely enjoyed learning and developing my understanding of the region.
It would be a privilege to continue my research on the Middle East with the MENA Programme at COMPANY ABC. The work produced by the MENA Programme has had a strong impact on my studies and understanding of the region, and I would be humbled to participate in the MENA Programme’s activities. Please feel free contact me via phone or email with any further questions. I look forward to discussing my application with you soon.
Every cover letter should be unique to the job application and tell a story of where you’re from, how your skills and experiences complement the job requirements, and where you want to go. For additional help on crafting a cover letter, UC Davis has a great internship cover letter starter kit with a content worksheet to help you write.