Creating Successful Resumes and Cover Letters


7 minutes

When applying for an internship in the U.S., you’ll need to submit a resume and a cover letter outlining your education, experience, and why you feel you’re the best candidate for the position. We’ve compiled a few guidelines and resources below to help you prepare these documents.

You can also find more tips in our Career Guidance Webinar on this topic:

The Resume

A resume is a one-page summary of your work experience and background relevant to the internship or training program to which you are applying. On average, hiring managers look at resumes for less than 30 seconds, so you want to be sure yours stands out.

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.

  • Aesthetics are important. Make sure your resume is readable by focusing on quality over quantity. Leave some white space on the page!

  • Do not include personal information, such as your age or date of birth, marital status, religion, or photos.

  • Tailor your resume to each internship or training program you are applying for. Try to use key words from the job posting within your resume.

There are a variety of resume formats you can choose from, including a chronological format or a functional format. When deciding which format to use, consider what best highlights your experiences and skills. You’ll also want to consider your industry and the culture of the company to which you are applying. Regardless of the format you choose, your resume will most likely be divided into two or more of the sections listed below. Here’s how you can make the most of each section.

Objective or Summary

A resume objective states your internship or employment goals. Including an objective or summary at the top of your resume is optional, but if you do include one, make sure to keep the following tips in mind.

  • Make your objectives specific. Show that you understand both the industry and your personal goals for your proposed internship or traineeship.

  • 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.

Education

List names of academic institutions, universities, language schools, technical schools attended, both past and present, if applicable. Do not include your high school education or list any grades or final marks.

  • 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).

  • Include any academic honors, awards, or significant achievements.

Work Experience

List the work history or previous internship experience that is relevant to your background and the type of internship you are seeking. Do not include work experience that is not relevant or that is unprofessional in nature. List in at least 2-3 sentences details regarding the specific job responsibilities related to the position.

  • 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 interning or working.

  • Each job summary should be brief.

  • Focus on important contributions you made to your employer or your team, not just your job description. Highlight any significant contributions you made, new initiatives you started, or major projects you managed.

  • 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%).

Skills

Including a skills section is optional. If you do include a list or summary of your skills, be sure to highlight only the skills relevant to the industry in which you are seeking an internship.

  • This is your opportunity to let employers know what special skills you can contribute.

  • Be sure to list language abilities and any technical skills you have.

  • You should also include certifications or professional organization memberships relevant to your field.

Interests

This field is also optional, but it can be used to make your resume stand out.

  • You are showing employers that you are a well-rounded person, so your interests can highlight 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.

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 show your personality and share some unique attributes and experiences that maybe aren’t included in your resume.

Cover Letter Outline

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. Do some research on the company to try to find the name of the hiring manager so that you can address them directly. If you can’t find the name of the hiring manager, you can also address the letter to the individual at the company who would be supervising you in this position. Oftentimes a Google or LinkedIn search will help you find these contacts.

The body of the cover letter should explain three important points:

  • Why you are writing: This is your introduction so you want it to be strong and help differentiate your application. You want to demonstrate your interest in the position and tell the hiring manager what drew you to their organization. Include details about your career goals and how they align with the company. You can also mention how you learned of this position and why you have chosen to apply.

  • 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. Include relevant anecdotes that demonstrate you’re well suited for the job. Fill in any information that might not be on your resume but which will help show why you’d be perfect for the position. 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 this position.

  • How you can be contacted for an interview: You should summarize your cover letter in one concise sentence that emphasizes that you are not only interested in the position but that your personal background makes you a great candidate for the position, too. You’ll want to thank the hiring manager for taking the time to read your cover letter and considering you for the position. Ask them for an interview! Don’t be too aggressive here by saying you’ll call their office to follow-up; just make sure they have the best contact details to reach you and show gratitude and enthusiasm for the opportunity to discuss the position with them further.

Tips on Writing a Cover Letter

  • Don’t simply repurpose your resume! 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.

  • 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.

  • Tailor each cover letter to the specific position and company to which you are applying. Make sure you also adjust your tone to the specific industry and company.

  • Keep it short and sweet. It shouldn’t be longer than 3-4 paragraphs. You want to make sure the hiring manager actually reads it and is intrigued enough to call you for an interview.

  • Introduce yourself and show your personality, but also make sure to show that you read the job description and are knowledgeable about the company.

  • Unless the instructions specifically ask for it, don’t include salary discussions in your cover letter.

  • Consider highlighting the benefits an international intern can bring to an American company, including diversity, language skills, and an international perspective.

InterExchange Staff

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.

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