Cover Letters and Resumes

When applying to most internships or training positions, you will have to submit both a cover letter and résumé. Prospective host organizations will use these to evaluate your skills, your experiences, and your English proficiency. Therefore, it is important to take care when writing and formatting these documents.

Below please find helpful tips, advice, and guidelines.

Cover Letter

In the U.S., submitting a cover letter when applying for internships or training positions is standard practice. Keep in mind the following when writing yours:

  • Keep it short and specific to the position you are applying for.
  • If you know the name of the person who will read your letter, address it personally; otherwise use ‘To Whom It May Concern’.
  • Start with a short introduction. Explain why you are a good candidate and include two or three specific examples of relevant skills, experiences, and personal strengths.
  • Mention that you are applying for a J-1 visa through the CIEE Internship USA or Professional Career Training USA program. If a host organization knows that it is not responsible for your visa, they will be more likely to welcome you. (If you are a participant of the 1-Year Graduate USA Visa Program, you will have already secured your visa. Be sure to mention that.)
  • Reinforce your interest in the position with a brief closing paragraph requesting a phone or Skype interview.
  • In addition to your cover letter, you may consider submitting the Dear Prospective Host Organization letter. This letter describes the J-1 visa requirements and application process to a potential host organization. Note that this letter is an additional resource and does not replace your cover letter. (Not applicable to participants of the 1-Year Graduate USA Visa Program.)

American-style résumés are different from CV formats used in many other countries. They vary in length and style; however, there are some guidelines you can follow:

  • Shorter is better. One page should be enough.
  • Tailor your résumé to the position you are seeking. Find ways to make your experiences in other areas relevant to the prospective host organization.
  • When listing your education and work experience, start with the most recent and work backward from there.
  • Be sure to include any academic achievements.
  • Be specific about your accomplishments in past internships or jobs. What did you learn? How did your work help improve your company’s performance?
  • Carefully consider formatting. Organize the information logically. Remember that simple is almost always better. Do not use elaborate fonts.
  • Do not include graphics, photographs, or icons unless specifically requested.
  • Leave out personal information such as your age or marital status.

The guidelines below apply to both cover letters and résumés.

  • If possible, use the standard page size of 8.5 x 11 inches—whether you are printing or submitting electronically.
  • For most companies, emailing your résumé and cover letter is appropriate, but sending a paper copy as well is a good way to stand out from the crowd.
  • If submitting electronically, use logical filenames. Companies receive hundreds of email attachments named “résumé.pdf” and “cover letter.pdf”; make it easier for them by including your name and the date in addition to the document type. For example, the filename of a cover letter for someone named Andrew Martin should be: A_Martin_Cover_Letter_2016.pdf.
  • Unless a company states otherwise, send your documents as PDF files. This ensures that your original formatting will be preserved and your documents will be read as intended.
  • In addition to attaching the files, paste the text of the cover letter into the body of the email.
  • In both your cover letter and résumé, be clear about how and when you can be reached. Make it as easy as possible for companies to contact you if they are interested: by phone, by email, or by post.

Review our templates to familiarize yourself with common styles of résumés and cover letters in the U.S. We have also created a sample resumé and cover letter, with additional samples for three specific types of positions:

After Submitting Your Cover Letter & Resumé

Keep In Touch

If you have not heard back from a prospective host organization after a week, contact them to check on the status of the internship or training position to which you applied. While it is never a good idea to be too persistent, it is reasonable to make contact more than once.

Stay Positive

Employers may not return your email or phone call. Others may send a standard rejection letter. But do not give up! The more companies you contact, the better your chances of getting the internship or training position of your dreams.

Stay Organized

You never know when hiring managers will get back to you, so make sure you know who they are when they respond, what company they represent, and when you last contacted them.