Let’s take a look at six quick tips on how to write a cover letter for an internship. This kind of letter typically covers – i.e., introduces – your resume and any other supporting materials, as part of your application for an internship. It is also your reader’s introduction to you, which is why nothing less than perfection will do. This is one of those so-simple yet bears-repeating maxims: your writing, like your speech, can tell a lot about you.
That’s why it’s so important to get the address details right: addressee’s name, title, organization (preceded, if necessary, by the name of the appropriate division, group, or department), physical address (recommended, even if the cover letter is an email). Get these from the organization’s website.
I can’t overemphasize the importance of spelling the addressee’s name correctly. A flaw in this area can undermine your credibility in a major way (“If they can’t get my name right, what else can they screw up?”).
Pick your salutation carefully to reflect your relationship with the reader. Avoid the stiff, legal-sounding To whom it may concern, Dear Sir/Madam, and Gentlemen.
The default is Dear+TITLE+NAME. Alternates include Dear + NAME, e.g., Dear Henry Adams, and Dear +TITLE, e.g., Dear Human Resources Manager.
If conditions warrant, you can go with a first name only: Dear James, (with a comma; I use the comma all the time – it makes the salutation a little less formal).
Hello has recently appeared and spread as an informal, jovial salutation: Hello James, (no comma after Hello in this usage).
Even more informal is Hi or Hi +NAME,
A name-alone salutation is reserved for brief, familiar communications. You’ll have to assess the degree of familiarity between yourself and the addressee.
General hint: how does the person address you?
Addressing a group or a department
What if the recipient is a group or department?
First, make sure you get the name exactly right. Use the organization’s nomenclature. Don’t call it a “department” if they consider it as a “division,” “group,” or some other collective name.
You can start with Dear English Department – but it’s a bit awkward. I recommend starting with To….
Here’s the salutation I like when you have to deal with collective recipients: To the (members of the) English Department, (with a comma, to connote informality; also “members” makes it personal).
We have a great article on addressing multiple people here.
Double check the email address!
Make sure your communication gets to the right place; double-check each email address. Again, check the organization’s address and maybe copy/paste it so that you refer to them correctly and don’t miss a single number in their zip code.
Sell – but briefly. Let’s assume you don’t yet have the position. This is the place where you assure the reader that indeed you are the perfect person. But don’t say that. Instead, cut to the core of what the internship is all about, show that you understand it, and say that you’re looking forward to it (stretch this as far as you can, without sounding fake — maybe as far as I’m really excited about… — whatever fits your degree of preparedness and anticipation).
Mention what you hope to get out of it, but focus on what you can do for them.
Do all of this in, at most, the number of words I just used to explain it.
Thanks. In whatever words feel comfortable, thank the person for their attention or tell them you appreciate their consideration. You can have a look at this article in business email sign-off to get inspired.
If you want to learn more about how to write a cover letter for an internship, or cover letters in general, we invite you to explore our other articles on this topic: Cover Letters: Rising to the Top, How To End a Cover Letter, Cover Letter Outline, Writing Intro Sentences for Cover Letters