When applying for an internship in the U.S., you’ll need to submit, at a minimum, a resume and a cover letter outlining your education, experience, and why you feel you’re the best candidate for the position. Many employers also require you to submit several references, either at the time you apply or following an interview. We’ve compiled a few guidelines and resources to help you prepare your resume and other documents.
Tips on Writing Your Resume
First, consult our guide, which explains how to format your resume and the information that belongs in each section.
- Your resume should be no more than one page for interns and no more than two pages for trainees.
- Do not include personal information, such as your age or date of birth, marital status, religion, or photos.
As you saw in the guide, your resume should be divided into a few main sections that highlight your experience. Here's how you can make the most of each section.
- Make your objectives specific. Show that you understand both the industry and your personal goals for your proposed internship or traineeship. Also, tailor your objective to each specific position to which you apply.
- Limit this section to one or two sentences. Keep your objectives concise.
- Search for descriptions of internship/traineeship positions that you would be interested in and incorporate some of the language and ideas into your own objectives.
- List your education in chronological order, beginning with your current or most recent degree program and ending with your first post-secondary school education.
- List your major or primary area of study (and your minor, if applicable).
- List your work experience in chronological order, beginning with your current or most recent employment; include internships if they are relevant.
- Everything you include should be related to the industry in which you are interested in working.
- Each job description should be brief.
- Focus on important contributions you made to your employer or your team.
- Instead of listing duties, use active verbs to describe your position. Include quantitative data if relevant (e.g. I designed a call system that saved time and raised sales by 8%).
- This is your opportunity to let employers know what special skills you can contribute.
- Be sure to list languages and computer skills.
- You should also include certifications or professional organization memberships relevant to your field.
- This field is optional, but it can be used to make your resume stand out.
- You can show employers that you are a well-rounded person, so interests can be anything; just make sure they are healthy and positive.
With these tips in mind, take a look at this sample resume to see what your completed resume should look like.
Now you are ready to create your own resume using our resume template. Simply type your information into the appropriate spaces.
Tips on Writing a Cover Letter
When you submit an application to an American employer, you must include a cover letter. The purpose of the letter is to describe why you are a good candidate for an internship or training program and what skills and talents you will bring to the company. Cover letters are an excellent opportunity to share some unique attributes and experiences that do not come across through your resume.
Your cover letter should first include your contact information (Name, Address, Phone Number, Contact Email), as well as the contact information of the person you are addressing. If you do not know the name of this person, you can address the letter to the Hiring Manager, Hiring Director or To Whom it May Concern. The body of the cover letter should explain three important points: 1) Why you are writing 2) Why you are a good fit for the position 3) How you are going to follow up.
Here are a few helpful tips to write an effective cover letter for U.S. employers:
Why you are writing: Tell the hiring manager how you learned of this position and why you have chosen to apply. If you found out about the job posting through a website, indicate which website.
Why you are a good fit for the position: Read through the job description carefully so you understand exactly what the employer is looking for. Select qualities from the job description that you have or job functions in which you have previous experience, and explain those to the employer.
How you will conduct follow up: You should summarize your cover letter by emphasizing that you are not only interested in the position, but that your personal background makes you a great candidate for the position. Close out by stating when you plan to follow up with the employer about your application status and provide them with information regarding how you can be reached.
What to include: Because your cover letter accompanies your resume, you do not need to summarize your resume in essay form. The cover letter should discuss your relevant experience and link it to the job responsibilities of the position you are seeking. Finding a way to tie your previous experience to the specific position can give employers a better understanding of how your experience is suited to their position. Whether you discuss your educational background or your professional experience, it will always benefit you to explain how the credentials from your resume have helped prepare you for the position at hand.
Show, don't tell: Don't just write that you are a hardworking and highly motivated individual; you need to use real life examples that demonstrate what makes you hardworking and motivated. Cite work projects and experiences or academic achievements. You can also include your involvement in extracurricular activities; all of these can serve as proof that you are just as good as you say you are.
Additionally, make sure to:
- Tailor each cover letter to the specific job and company you are applying to.
- Mention that although you are not a U.S. citizen, you are eligible for a J-1 Visa and that InterExchange will be able to assist you in the visa sponsorship process.
- Explain the benefits an international intern can bring to an American company, including diversity, language skills, and an international perspective.
- Mention that the company will not have to sponsor your visa or pay any program fees; InterExchange is the visa sponsor.
Tips on Letters of Reference
Since U.S. employers may be unable to interview you in person, you are more likely to be considered for an internship if you can provide letters of reference from past or current employers and professors.
- Letters should indicate how your references know you, how long they have known you, and how you performed as a student or employee.
- Letters should be written in English and printed on official letterhead.
- Do not submit a letter of reference without the writer’s consent.
- Ask your references if American employers may contact them. If so, verify their contact information (email address, phone number, etc.) and include it when you submit the letters of reference.
InterExchange is proud to have an experienced team that is dedicated to international cultural exchange. We come from a variety of backgrounds, but nearly every member of our New York City-based staff has extensive experience traveling, working, or living abroad.