We all bang our heads against the wall trying to come up with the perfect cover letter. The one with the catchy first line that entices HR to read the second sentence and, hopefully, the entire letter. You’ve got 3 seconds.
But what do you do if you have no experience?
Internships. Whether you’re still in school or out of school, you can land an internship. The secret is being able to write a perfect cover letter for internships with no experience.
Make a list of your experiences and skills within each of these four critical areas to begin to craft your cover letter.
- Focus on soft skills
Soft skills are things like communication and ability to solve problems. According to Indeed.com “soft skills demonstrate that you understand the different characteristics that will help you succeed.” Often soft skills make the determining factor between which of two candidates to hire. When thinking about your soft skills, think about what you want from the position. Are you looking for experience working as part of a team? If so, list skills such active listening and flexibility. Here are some top soft skills to include on your resume:
- Ability to accept and implement feedback
- Build professional relationships to facility growth
- Effectively communicate to foster attention to detail
- Demonstrated initiative to motivate teammates
Avoid a laundry list of soft skills you think the internship coordinator wants to hear such as effective communicator and attention to detail. Be specific. And be able to back it up in an interview – you have to have the soft skills you tout. For example: Ability to accept and implement feedback. Back up: While playing intercollegiate sports, our team would always lose in the last few seconds of the game. I overheard some of the parents saying that we always thought we had the game in bag, so we let our guard down just enough for the other team to score. While the feedback wasn’t directed specifically to me, I was able to accept that feedback and share it with my teammates. As a result, I became a team leader able to keep our team focused on the game through the final buzzer. We went on to win regional championships.
- College projects, intermural sports, and clubs
Remember when your professor asked you to pick a partner and solve a problem? Or your coach told your teammates to pass the ball to you for the winning goal? Or when you stepped up to host the gala for the book club? Find the nuggets in these experiences.
What kinds of problems did you encounter? How did you work through those problems? What were the outcomes? These challenges and commitments give you experience. Expand on that experience.
- Highlight volunteer work
Research shows that millennials are more likely to volunteer than older generations. Show off your mad volunteer skills. If you haven’t had a chance to volunteer, find volunteer opportunities on Idealist.org or Catchafire.org. Not only with these volunteer opportunities build real-life experience, they will likely become a referral source for future employment or internship possibilities.
- Share your results
We live in a results-driven economy. Show off your results, whether it was in a previous job, college club, or volunteer event. Don’t be afraid to show off your personal results either. Not only will this show that you set personal goals but that you achieve those.
Putting it together to craft a cover letter for an internship when experience is lacking is an art. Now that you have a list of things within each of these areas, use these tips to craft your letter.
- Always find out who to address the letter to, rather than “Dear Hiring Manager.”
- At first glance, your cover letter shouldn’t look the first page a 1200-page novel. Keep it short. Use 2-3 sentence paragraphs. Bullet experiences or skills and use examples.
- Show the company you know a little about them and how you are the person with the skills to benefit them specifically.
- Use relevant keywords specific to the internship. Often resumes and cover letters are pre-screened by an automated tracking system. Make sure your cover letter and resume will get past the software filters to be read by a human.
- Create a cohesive package – your cover letter and resume should complement each other. Use the same headers and footers, tag lines, and font. Use appropriate keywords.
Make sure to tailor your cover letter and your resume for the internship you want.