By now, most job seekers have heard of the cover letter. More importantly, most of them have some idea about why they need to send that cover letter with their resume. What many people do not know, however, is that there are times when a cover letter may not be the right option for a job search.
That is especially true in cases when job seekers are struggling to find job openings that meet their needs. For those situations, another type of letter–the letter of interest–can be a far more effective way to accelerate your job search. In this post, we’ll examine the cover letter and letter of interest to help you identify which tool to use for your job seeking needs.
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Cover letter vs letter of interest
When it comes to differentiating between the cover letters and letters of interest, the differences are subtle but important.
Cover letters are indispensable tools that you should always send along with a job application and resume. Your cover letter provides a chance to encapsulate the most important information contained in your resume, while emphasizing why you want the job and the value that you can bring to the position. A great cover letter can go a long way toward convincing a hiring manager that you’re the best candidate for the job.
Letter of Interest:
On the other hand, a letter of interest is designed for those times when you don’t have a solid lead on an open position in a company, but still want to get your foot in the door. It’s often used by students who lack job experience, or employees who are looking for a better job.
It is basically a reconnaissance tool that helps you scout out opportunities. As such, it can provide a proactive job candidate with a way to potentially secure employment even when the company has yet to advertise a job opening.
What should the documents contain?
Another difference between a cover letter and letter of interest is found in their differing content.
Cover letters should do 3 things:
- A great cover letter will introduce you to the decision maker and identify the position that you’re interested in filling.
- It will provide the most relevant information about skills and qualifications, to help the decision maker see the value you can add to the company.
- Finally, it provides all the contact information needed to make it easy for a hiring manager to reach you.
That’s specificity is a clear difference between the cover letter and letter of interest. Whereas the cover letter addresses a specific open position, the letter of interest takes a different approach. Since you will be unaware of any job openings, your letter of interest will instead take a broader view.
Letters of interest should do 1 thing:
- Convey your potential value for the company, despite not having a current position available for your skills.
That letter will describe and showcase your unique skills and abilities. Moreover, it should focus on the types of positions you can fill in the company, should an opening exist. Most importantly, however, your letter of interest should emphasize why you are interested in a position with the target employer. It should describe why you want to become part of the company’s team and culture. You should include details about why you selected that company over its rivals, to demonstrate your level of interest.
As you can see, the cover letter and letter of interest, take very different approaches to contacting potential employers. The cover letter is a summary of your qualifications and a tool to sell your potential value to an employer. The letter of interest is an exploratory document that seeks information about job prospects within the company. The former rarely seeks more information. The latter almost always requests a meeting or additional information about current or future openings.
How to write a letter of interest
Let’s start with an example of an effectie letter of interest provided by one of our career experts.
Dear [Contact Name]:
I have been following your company’s growth and success for some time, and recently saw Daily News Story highlighting your innovative approach to incorporating new technologies into your customer management processes. I am writing to discover if you currently have any open positions for experienced IT specialists.
For more than a decade now, I have worked as an IT specialist for two firms in the greater [Company City] area. In that time, I have led teams that dramatically overhauled both companies’ internal technology systems. Those efforts increased each company’s online presence, tripling customer site visits and increasing customer internet sales by more than 150%. Just as important, we improved internal efficiencies by 60% and boosted sales by more than 15% annually.
I have enclosed my resume for your consideration, highlighting my qualifications and achievements. I would love to have the chance to speak to you to provide you an opportunity to determine how my skills and experience can provide the most value to your firm.
Thank you for your time. I am looking forward to a more in-depth discussion with you soon.
When to send a letter of interest
While you should send a cover letter with every resume, it can sometimes be difficult to know when to send a letter of interest. Here are some basic rules to follow when choosing between a cover letter and letter of interest:
- If you’re sending out a resume for an advertised open position, always send a cover letter (not a letter of interest). The only exception is if the company specifically says not to do so.
- When you’re sending a resume to a company that hasn’t advertised an open position, send a letter of interest as well.
Send a letter of interest whenever you’re exploring potential opportunities. Choose a cover letter for submissions for specific job openings.
In short, you use a letter of interest to learn about job openings and get your name in front of the right decision makers. As such, it can be a great tool to locate the job you need, even when there are no advertised positions in your field. Most important, hiring managers often appreciate the initiative displayed by job seekers who proactively search for job prospects even before the positions are available.
Good luck with your job search!