The cover letter is a crucial part of your application for an internship placement. While your CV communicates information about your educational and professional history to prospective employers, the cover letter is where you will be able to explain why you want the placement, why you will be good at the role and, most importantly, why the employer should hire you!
There are certain expectations with cover letters so be sure to check out our tips below before you start.
Format the Letter Correctly
Remember you are writing a formal letter and therefore you must format it correctly. Put your name and contact details (telephone, email address and home address) at the top of the page – this will make it easier for the employer to contact you if necessary. The date should also be written on the top left-hand side of the page.
For the greeting, remember this is a formal letter, and so you should use Mr/Mrs/Ms with the surname to start the letter (if you are provided with a specific name). Otherwise, use Dear Sir/Madam to start the letter. Ensure that you use a formal tone throughout and that the content is split into paragraphs.
When signing off the letter, be sure to use the correct ending. If you opened the letter with the person’s name (e.g. Dear Ms. Smith), finish the letter with ‘Yours sincerely’. If you started the letter with Dear Sir/Madam, finish the letter with ‘Yours faithfully’.
Employers will expect cover letters to be typed, not handwritten (although you should sign the letter by hand). Try to keep the length to one A4 page – this will also help you to ensure that the content is concise and stop you waffling!
Personalize the Letter to That Internship at That Company
When applying for internships always ensure that the cover letter refers specifically to each job and company. Employers don’t want to receive a generic letter that you have sent out to hundreds of companies – they want to know why you want this job at this company so badly. From the pool of applications that they receive, employers are trying to seek out the very best candidates.
To personalize the letter, make reference to the name of the company, what they do and why that interests you; also include references to the types of tasks you will undertake during the placement (you should find this list of duties or expectations in the job advert).
Link Your Skills and Experience to the Duties You Will Need to Perform
Now that you have personalized the letter to the company, you now need to explain why you are the best candidate for the role. To do this, you need to link your skills, experience, and ambitions to the types of tasks the company will require you to undertake. For instance, if the company is looking for a candidate with excellent teamwork skills, you could say:
Teamwork skills are a real strength of mine. Having been a committed member of my school’s netball team for the past 5 years, I understand the support and encouragement we must show one another, in order to work successfully as a team.
Notice here that after making the initial point, “I have good teamwork skills”, the statement is backed up with an example of where these skills were developed (on the netball team) and an explanation of what was learned or what is now understood about teamwork (that it requires support and encouragement). Try using this point, for example, explanation structure throughout your cover letter.
Write Short, Concise Paragraphs – No Waffling!
It is recommended that paragraphs are kept short and that your writing is concise and to the point – remember employers may have hundreds, or even thousands, of these to read. To do this, make a plan before writing. Think about the top 5-6 points you want to make in the main content of the letter (that link to either the requirements for this post or your own skills/ambitions).
Many of your paragraphs will be just three sentences long, stating the point, providing an example and giving further explanation, although at times you may need more than one sentence for the example/explanation.
Try Using an Engaging Topic Sentence
When making the point at the start of each paragraph, try to write it in a way that will capture the reader’s attention, e.g. instead of saying “I have very good teamwork skills. Having played for the school…” you could say “Teamwork is essential to the success of any organization. Having played for the school…”
Finish On a Powerful Sentence
The last sentence that the employer reads in your cover letter is the one that will leave the lasting memory of you. Ensure that the employer remembers you positively by writing a powerful finishing sentence. Ideally, this would be a future-focused statement that flatters the company and demonstrates your keen ambition. For instance:
Working at CBRP would provide me with the perfect opportunity to further develop my coding skills, and I would be privileged to have the chance to work alongside and learn from some of the top pioneers in this field.
Check Your Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar
Employers will receive a considerable amount of applications for each placement available and will need to go through a strict narrowing down process. To do this, it is likely that employers will firstly sift through CVs and take out those without the required skills or study experience that the employer is looking for. After that, cover letters will be read.
On initial reading, employers will be looking for two main things: a reason to eliminate a candidate from the process and a reason to keep a candidate in the process. If you have made spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes, it is likely that you will be quickly added to the ‘no’ list as it demonstrates laziness of checking and poor quality of work.
There are many websites and programmes offering spelling and grammar checks – be sure to use them. Make sure you read through your letter with a clear, focused mind before submitting also.