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How to write a cover letter for your internships

I’m looking for an internship: Do I really need to write a cover letter?

As the manager of a busy publishing department for five years, I was always amazed at the number of CVs sent in by graduates looking for an internship or permanent position but hadn’t bothered to write a cover letter.

I was less likely to consider a CV if there was no cover letter as the cover letter is an essential tool for finding out crucial information about the applicant, such as why they want the position and whether they can communicate well enough for me to consider asking them to an interview.

Whether you are looking for an internship (especially if you are looking for an internship in London where competition tends to be higher) or applying for a permanent position, never send your CV without a cover letter otherwise you could be placing yourself at a significant disadvantage to other candidates.

Writing a cover letter for an internship or employment

Whether you are applying for an internship or a paid position, the aim of writing a good cover letter remains the same: to convince someone to choose you over another candidate.

Your cover letter should consist of about five paragraphs with every word made relevant to the job or internship you want.

The first paragraph should summarise why you are writing to apply for the job or internship, and where you heard about it.

The middle two to three paragraphs should say why you want to work for the company you are applying to. Try to demonstrate your knowledge of what the company does. This is where your thorough research into the industry is handy.

Explain briefly your interest in the industry and the relevance of your past experience, skills and talents, if any, to the role.

Now briefly explain what you feel you could learn during your time there and how this will help your career. Keep it simple.

The final paragraph should include your availability. Include a mention of your willingness to supply references and any other information that’s relevant, like a portfolio of previous work.

Additional tips for writing your cover letter

Your main aim in the cover letter is to show your enthusiasm, interest and insight into the industry, to convince the employer that you can do the job well. Use your common sense. If you are going for a placement in a law firm, include industry related keywords in your letter. Same with a film production company: you can be a bit more casual than with the law firm and show some creativity.

Convey some personality, but don’t be too personal. Don’t include anything that requires an exclamation mark.

Although your letter should be formal, avoid using ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ if possible. This should be easy if you have found out the details of a contact. Sign off letters with ‘Yours sincerely’ or ‘Kind regards’.

If you haven’t managed to find a contact name, begin your letter with ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ and sign off with ‘Yours faithfully’.

Your letter should end along the lines of ‘I look forward to hearing from you’ or ‘I very much hope you will consider me for the position.’

Sign off with your name.

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