6 Secrets to the Perfect Cover Letter for an Internship
Sep 25, 2018
Internships are a brilliant way of launching your career. By offering vital work experience and excellent networking opportunities, they're a great option for students and graduates alike.
But the fact is, internships are becoming more competitive. So how can you give yourself the best possible chance?
Well here's the thing.
It's tough. It's really tough. Along the way, you may have to negotiate assessments, interviews and even psychometric tests. But that journey starts with the perfect cover letter.
That's why we've put together 6 essential tips for crafting the perfect one.
Show Your Understanding
Internships work differently to jobs. While permanent positions often target the finished article, internships are designed for candidates who can learn as well as contribute.
And when it comes to your cover letter, it pays to be specific.
Explore the company's website and social media channels (alongside any internship description) and look at what projects they're currently working on.
Say in your letter where you think you'd be most useful. Though you may not be assigned to your ideal project, being specific demonstrates confidence and ambition.
It's the same case with skills. Depending on the internship, you may gain technical skills like design or coding or soft skills like communication and problem-solving.
The key is to assess what skills YOU want to develop. Again, be specific and let put them down in your cover letter, not just skills you already possess.
Make It Personal
Nothing ruins an application like a cookie cutter cover letter. And with so many candidates to consider, a personalised letter can really set you apart.
But how can you tailor yours for maximum effect?
Well, the answer is… research. It's easy to say ‘I really want to work for this company', but, to truly demonstrate your enthusiasm, you have to show them why. Your cover letter should be as much about the company as it is about you.
So take some time to investigate their ethos, projects and goals and use your cover letter to highlight your understanding of them. Perhaps you could pick a specific campaign or product and discuss why you enjoyed it.
Not only does this demonstrate a real desire to work for the company, but it also shows them that your research skills are up to scratch.
Hit the Brief
Trying to decide the best way to sell yourself?
Here's a little secret:
Job descriptions are a ready-made checklist for your cover letter. Most postings will list the key attributes the company is looking for. And you can use your cover letter to systematically highlight yours.
Are they asking for organisational ability? Then list a time when you used yours. Commitment to teamwork? Ditto. Use specific examples to show them that you understand both the role and your suitability for it.
And while internships are more flexible with their criteria compared to full-time jobs, there are a few skills that will always come in handy.
Time management, critical thinking, research and analysis are universally useful. So make sure your cover letter highlights these abilities.
Sell Yourself - no experience? Show you’re willing to learn
Many candidates can be put off applying for roles by a lack of workplace experience.
Internships aren't looking for experience. They're looking for ambitious, intelligent people who can grow into great employees.
And a cover letter is the perfect place to show them you're just that. So rather than highlighting a lack of experience, fill your cover letter with alternative examples. List any extracurricular activities that you feel may be useful.
And don't be shy:
Even the most bizarre of sports or societies can demonstrate useful assets. Dissect your personal experience and extract some examples that highlight your unique set of skills.
Format Correctly - email or old school
It's no use painting a masterpiece if you put it in the wrong frame. It's the same case with cover letters.
While a huge majority of them are now sent online, it's invaluable to know the correct cover letter structure.
If you are sending your cover letter as a separate file, rather than in the body of an email, be sure to include your address and contact details in the top right-hand corner.
At this point, it's worth double checking your email address presents you as professional (firstname.lastname@example.org may need a rethink).
Next, write the company’s address and date on the left-hand side of the page.
Again, it pays to do your research and find out who will be handling your application. You can then start your letter with ‘Dear [Title - Name]'.
In terms of structure, stick to this formula:
· Paragraph one – State why you're writing the letter, the internship you're applying for and how you found it.
· Paragraph two- Give a brief summary of your skills and achievements.
· Paragraph three – Demonstrate your understanding of the company and why you'd make a great fit for them.
· Paragraph four – The call to action. Let them know of your availability for potential interviews and that you ‘look forward to hearing' from them.
Finally, thank them for their time and sign off with a formal ‘Yours sincerely' or if it is in the email body, ‘Kind regards'. Remember, a great cover letter should be short and sweet. So keep it to one sheet of A4.
Check, Check and Check Again
Don’t underestimate the value of cover letters or treat them as an afterthought.
Did you know, over 51% of professionals in the UK think cover letters are an essential part of an application?
And with so much riding on it, proper spelling, grammar and punctuation are pivotal.
So have a friend or parent proofread it for any spelling mistakes. Alternatively, you can run it through online services like Grammarly or Hemingway Editor.
If you want to proofread it yourself, here are a few tips to remember:
· Print it out – Our eyes become accustomed to screens meaning we are less likely to spot errors. Reading a hard copy will make any errors easier to spot.
· Break it down – Rather than proofreading your entire cover letter in one go, break it down into paragraphs.
· Work backwards – Though it sounds bizarre, reading backwards, one word at a time, improves your focus and is a great way of finding mistakes.
Follow these six steps and you'll have an internship cover letter that's just as impressive as you are. For more advice on acing your internship application check out our guide to getting the internship you want.
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