I was about to add this internship with a New York Public Radio podcast to our internship lineup, and I happen to notice the following information in the application instructions:
This ad gives you the prompt for this particular internship — but the basic principle behind the prompt applies to any internship you apply for, any cover letter you write. Employers want to know what you can do for them. They are looking for evidence that you
- understand and value what they do;
- are motivated to make a difference in their organization;
- have skills, interests, knowledge, or strengths to contribute; and
- have some experience with their particular line of work.
The threshold of “experience” isn’t necessarily high (“what podcasts do you listen to,” instead of “what podcasts have you worked on…”), but it requires authenticity (“…regularly?”).
It takes a lot more time to write a cover letter that demonstrates this depth of interest than it does to summarize your resume and assert your enthusiasm — particularly if don’t listen to NPR podcasts in the first place. However, the cover letter that responds to the prompt effectively is more likely to get an interview request.
When employers want a cover letter, this is the kind of information they’re looking for, whether they give you a specific prompt (the way NYPR does) or not. Only you can decide whether or not it’s worth your while to craft the letter that speaks to their needs. Know, however, that a letter that ignores these implicit questions is almost certainly a waste of your time.