A letter of interest, also known as a prospecting letter or inquiry letter, is a special kind of cover letter. Though the term is sometimes used interchangeably with cover letter, the letter of interest refers more specifically to an unsolicited letter in which you tell about your professional background, achievements, and abilities and express interest in learning more about or in working for a particular company in a particular position.
Letters of interest can be an effective tool in helping you find a job, but, like all business correspondence, they must be done well in order to be successful. One way you can help ensure success is to do your homework. Before writing your letter of interest, find out as much as possible about the company to which you are writing your letter. Identify their mission and goals, and become familiar with the products or services they offer. Then, weave your knowledge of that information into your letter.
Tips for Writing Your Letter of Interest
- Address the prospecting letter to a specific person. If you are serious about your job search, you will make the effort to call the company and find out to whom you should direct your inquiry letter.
- Send an original, signed letter to each company—not just a photocopy. If you are sending out several letters at one time, use your word processor's mail merge feature to insert the unique address and salutation for each recipient. As much as possible, tailor each letter to the company to which you are sending it. After customizing each letter as much as possible and then printing the letters, be sure to sign each one in your closing.
- Maintain a professional tone in your letter. Moreover, keep your letter focused on your professional accomplishments and skills and on what you can bring to the company. Leave out personal information such as hobbies or other interests, marital status, and the like.
- In your letter of interest, you will generally want to make reference to your résumé, and then you should send the résumé with your letter of interest. When referring to your résumé, you might say, for example, "As you can see from my enclosed résumé . . ."
- Your letter of interest and résumé should each have enough information to be able to stand alone as independent documents. That being said, your résumé should not be merely a reconstruction of your cover letter. Though it is fine to repeat some of the main information, the letter of interest is an excellent place to expound on your work experience in a way that you can not easily do in the résumé because of space constraints.
- In addition to your résumé, refer readers to your enclosed reference page and to any other enclosed documents (such as letters of recommendation).
- As with any piece of business correspondence, make sure to edit and then do a final proofread of your letter before sending it in order to catch errors or typos. Then ask someone else to read it for you, such as a colleague, friend or family member, or professional writer or editor.
- Keep your letter to one single-spaced, 8½ x 11 inch page.
- After you send the letter, make sure you follow up. Doing so will greatly increase your likelihood of finding employment.
- If the company accepts e-mail or other electronic submissions of cover letters and résumés, use that method, but consider sending a hard copy, as well. Doing so might help you stand out from other applicants and be remembered.
Organizing Your Letter of Interest
As indicated above, you should begin your letter with a salutation to a specific individual (rather than using a generic salutation such as Dear Sir or Madam or To whom it may concern).
In the first paragraph, you should explain why you are writing the letter of interest. Indicate how you became familiar with the company, tell the position or type of work you are seeking, and identify why you are interested in learning more about or seeking employment with the company. (This is a great place to demonstrate the homework you have done in researching the company.)
In the next paragraph or paragraphs, illustrate how you are qualified for the position you seek—tell the reader why the company should hire you. Identify your skills, accomplishments, education, positive personal characteristics, and other strengths. Explain how hiring you would benefit or meet the specific needs of the company. As you talk about your qualifications, make sure to refer to your résumé, reference page, and any other documents you have enclosed with your letter.
In your closing paragraph, indicate that you would like to meet with the reader at a time that is convenient for him or her in order to learn more about the organization and to discuss the possibility of working for the company. Give a specific date and time when you will call the letter recipient in order to follow up. Also, indicate when and how you can most easily be contacted (for example, on your cell phone or through e-mail).
Conclude your letter with a cordial farewell (such as Sincerely or Thank you) before typing your name. Don't forget to sign your letter before sending it!
After you have sent your letter, make sure to follow up, as you have said you would. If, when you make your follow-up call, the person indicates that there are no positions available at that time, still try to set up a meeting where you can learn more about the company and during which the contact can get to know you. If that is not possible, request that the hiring manager or human resources representative keep your letter of interest and résumé on file so that these documents will be readily available in the future when the company is hiring someone for the position you are seeking.
As is true with any method of job seeking, the act of researching companies, writing and sending out letters of interest, and following up on those letters takes a fair amount of work. If you send a letter of interest to a potential employer, you must be highly motivated and qualified in order to be successful because you are sending an unsolicited letter, and therefore there is a high likelihood that the company will not be actively hiring at the time that they receive your letter. Consequently, though it is possible that you will receive a job offer from the first company you send a letter to, this is not the norm. In general, you should expect to send out many letters and make many phone calls before receiving a job offer. However, do not let that discourage you; just be persistent in your efforts and you will find success.
Remember, as with any cover letter, the letter of interest is generally the first impression that you make on a prospective employer, so make sure you leave a good one!