You can’t get a job without experience, and you can’t get experience without a job.
Internships are a great way to get around this problem. A study by Zippia found that 70% of surveyed interns were hired by the same company they interned for at the end of their placement.
For the other 30% of interns, highlighting experience and success on your internship cover letter is essential for convincing potential employers that they are the right candidate for the job.
A cover letter, by the way, is a one-page letter that accompanies your CV and specifies why you're the best candidate for the job.
Why it’s important to include internship experience on your cover letter
First off, cover letters are always worth the extra effort it takes to write them. In one recent report, 94% of hiring managers said that cover letters were at least 'slightly important' when deciding whether to invite an applicant for an interview, and 60% of companies surveyed explicitly required them.
Even if a company doesn't require job applicants to submit a cover letter, you should still write one. A good cover letter:
explain your motivations for applying to the specific job
mention anything employers should know about you that’s not covered in your CV
expand upon parts of your CV that you want employers to understand better
If you’re an entry-level applicant, highlighting internship experience in your cover letter is essential to achieving these objectives.
Detailing the skills and interests that you developed as an intern can demonstrate your desire for career progression and show that you have the knowledge to take on the responsibilities of the role.
These details show the employer that your internship was a valuable learning experience — you weren’t just fetching coffees.
6 ways to highlight your internship experience on your own cover letter
Well-written cover letters aren’t very long (only about 250-400 words), and there’s a lot you need to include in that word count. So you need to be efficient in how you highlight your internship experience.
Here are six ways you can emphasise your internship and improve your chances of getting a job interview.
1. Speak to your internship manager about the job
A major advantage of doing an internship is you can build your professional network, and your manager is often one of the most valuable connections you’ll make. Getting your manager to vouch for you makes your internship experience more attractive because it shows you excelled in the role.
Provided you have a good relationship with your manager, let them know that you’re looking for a job and ask them if you can add them to your cover letter.
Including a manager’s name also lends credibility to your achievements, as the employer knows who to contact if they want to know more about you. This is especially useful if you want to emphasise a specific achievement. Here’s an example of how to do that from a cover letter for an entry-level software developer position:
As an intern for Apex, I worked closely with senior developer Elena Rosillo on a web application used by the sales team. One of my standout achievements was identifying and fixing a critical bug in the application that had been causing errors for the sales team. Elena later told me that my solution had both saved the company significant costs and improved the overall performance of the application.
2. Emphasise your relevant skills
An internship is meant to equip you with the practical skills you need to progress in your chosen career. Highlighting these skills and showing how they’ll benefit the hiring team is one of the best ways you can show an employer you’re right for the job.
Reflect on what you learned while you were interning, as well as your tasks and responsibilities. Then, relate that experience to the role you’re applying for.
For example, imagine an intern at a local newspaper who is looking for work as a goal is to be a book editor. Although the two jobs are slightly different, they both share various transferable skills. The intern’s cover letter might explain:
At The Hartlebury Post, I was in charge of reading incoming articles and editing them before they went to our head editor, George Smith. George wrote on my performance review that my edits made his job ‘significantly easier’ and that I had a ‘great eye for sentence structure’.
3. Describe your specific tasks and achievements
Employers only care about your internship if they think it suitably prepared you to work in their field. So it’s important to describe the specific tasks and achievements that relate to the responsibilities outlined in the job description.
Think about relevant daily responsibilities you had during your internship and how they have equipped you with the skills the present job requires.
For example, if the job description asks for “strong computer skills", you might use your internship experience to outline your Excel skills. For example, “during my internship, I streamlined an existing Excel database and created a mail merge to simplify internal communications.”
You’ve just outlined your computer skills and provided an example of how you benefited your team.
Using hard numbers to back up your skills is even better as it makes your achievements more noticeable and easier to understand.
For example, “I grew our social media presence” is great, but “I executed a Facebook campaign that increased reach by 20% in one month” is far more persuasive.
Remember, while highlighting specific tasks and achievements makes your cover letter significantly more competitive, it’s important to be concise. Limit yourself to two or three experiences that are highly relevant to the job you’re applying for.
4. Explain how your internship has prepared you for the current role
Hiring managers want to hire employees that will grow with the company. Therefore, it’s important to show that you’re serious about the job opportunity and ready to take on the tasks it involves.
Use previous work experience to demonstrate your eagerness to take on the role. Outline relevant achievements from your internship to show that you’re prepared for new responsibilities, and highlight areas of your field that you’re eager to learn about:
During my studies, I had the opportunity to intern at Zapp Communications where I accumulated practical experience creating and managing paid media campaigns. This experience allowed me to apply the theories and concepts I had learned in school. More importantly though, it helped me identify paid media as the area of marketing that best suits my analytical and budgeting skills, which is what motivated me to apply to your agency.
Showing career progression between your internship and desired role signals to the employer that you intend to stay put if you’re hired. It also proves to your employer that you know what it takes to be a member of their organisation.
5. Write for an employer, not a professor
Coming out of school, it’s easy to write in the same the way you have been used to. Remember that your cover letter is being read by a potential employer, not a professor. The goal isn’t to impress with complex words or to cite research; it is to clearly explain why you’re the best candidate for the job.
Write in plain, scannable English. Keep in mind that many cover letters are initially assessed not by an employer, but by an applicant tracking system (ATS). Pepper job-related keywords into your cover letter to ensure it passes the initial check and gets your employer’s attention.
6. Keep it brief
Hiring managers have a lot of applications to read. If your cover letter is too long, it may get overlooked entirely. So, keep your writing brief and to the point.
Ideally, your cover letter should be 250-400 words, and it should fit on one page. Review your cover letter carefully when you’re finished writing it, and remove any unnecessary words. Use free apps like Grammarly or the Hemingway Editor to cut the fluff and ensure your grammar is watertight.
Land your dream job by drafting a great cover letter
Your cover letter is the first impression you make on potential employers. Therefore, you should write clearly, succinctly, and show how your previous work experience has prepared you for the job.
As an entry-level applicant, your internship experience is essential to arguing that you’re well-prepared for the position. By showing that you’ve used your trainee position to gain valuable expertise in your industry, you can present yourself as a driven applicant with a promising future in your chosen industry.
Digital Content Writer, Resume Genius.
Sebastian Morgan is a career expert and digital content writer at Resume Genius, where he writes about employment and productivity. He's written for a number of publications including NewsLens International, Time Out, and Taiwan Scene