Complementing Your Resume with a Cover Letter

Conveying Your Interests & Goals

Girl writing letter at table
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The initial phase of the internship application process begins by submitting a resume, oftentimes accompanied by a cover letter to positions and employers of interest. With these documents, applicants then have approximately 30 seconds or less to gain the employer’s attention.

With all of the resumes employers receive on a daily basis, I can guarantee you if you don’t impress them with your initial documents, you will never get a chance to move to the next level.

Creating a Resume to Apply for an Internship

A common question I receive from students is if they need to do a separate resume and cover letter for each employer? If they don’t have a resume to begin with, creating a resume for each employer of interest may seem like an insurmountable task to accomplish; but it’s really not all that difficult once you get your first resume started.

Targeting Your Resume

Once you have an initial resume, it’s rather easy to make changes to target it to a particular internship/job or industry.  Looking at the key words in the position description can give you a good indication as to the type of skills required to do the job and what key words you will want to include in your resume.  For undergraduates, many internships seek candidates that possess specific transferable skills, such as: communication, interpersonal, organization, computer, and leadership. To illustrate your competency you can focus on your coursework, previous internships and jobs, and any club or volunteer activities in which you have participated.

Although resumes being used for specific positions and industries can be almost identical, you will definitely want to include more specific information in your cover letter.  A cover letter is where you can let an employer know your interests and specific reasons why you want to work for their specific company.

Oftentimes it’s quite easy to find this information by looking at the internship description while other times you will want to take a look at the company’s website and look over their mission statement to see what the employer’s business is all about.  By identifying what an employer is seeking in a qualified candidate, you can begin focusing your cover letter on exactly what the employer is looking for.

Finding Internships Online

You may also decide to search sites such as Google, Indeed.com, SimplyHired.com, Idealist.org, or other sites where you can find information about just any type of internship you are looking for.  You may also check with your college to see if they offer Careershift, which provides every position on every job board that exist online. Be sure to use the Advanced Search Options on these sites to ensure that you are getting a filtered, and more targeted list of internships. You may include specific key words, a particular industry or job function, a location plus other criteria that will help to keep the listings to exactly what you are looking for.

You may also sign up for sites or an employer’s email or newsletter to receive information when new listings come available.

  This may seem like a lot of work but once you get the hang of it you will find yourself saving time by being more organized.  I often recommend that students use a spreadsheet where they can list all of the internships they are interested and the deadlines to apply.  Once they begin applying, they will want to keep track of those positions they have applied for. Some sites let you save these sites right on their website which also makes it a whole lot easier to stay organized and follow up.

Targeting Your Cover Letter

If you have several areas of interest you will want to have several resume and cover letters prepared.  You will always want to have a section of your cover letter that speaks directly to the employer.  You want them to understand that you know what they are about and you want to list exactly what knowledge and skills you have to offer the company.

With so many applicants for each position, it is the applicant’s responsibility to convey their strengths and abilities that speak directly to what the company is looking for in an applicant.