How to write a letter of intent (hint: it’s not the same as a cover letter)
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Throughout your job search, you may have noticed that some job postings ask for a letter of intent with your application. Exactly what this means, and how it is different from a cover letter, may not be clear. In this article we will discuss letters of intent, their uses, and how they are different from cover letters.

What is a letter of intent?

A letter of intent is a brief document, usually paired with a resume, that states your intention to work for a particular company. It should summarize your relevant skills and express why you are a good fit for that organization. Letters of intent are highly tailored to the company they are addressed to, and can be sent when requested by a job posting or independently.

What is the difference between a letter of intent and a cover letter?

Whereas cover letters are specific to an open position and tailored to suit the needs of that role, letters of intent tend to focus on the larger company. Instead of detailing why you are the best person for a job based on a job posting, a letter of intent will show your interest in the company as a whole by showing your respect for the company’s values, the relevant skills you have to contribute, and your ideas for how you could fit right in if hired. Even if the company does not have a position open right now, this enthusiasm is a great way to get your name in the running for the next one.

Why write a letter of intent?

Letters of intent are most often used by job-seekers when they are requested by a job posting. Cover letters are more common, but if a job posting specifically asks for a letter of intent you should be ready to write one.

You can also send a letter of intent when it hasn’t been requested to show your enthusiasm for a company. When you have a specific organization that you would like to work for but they aren’t hiring, a letter of intent is a great way to make yourself known. The hiring manager may not have a position open for you now, but with a good letter of intent that shows your personality and qualifications you will be at the top of their mind when they do.

Why do companies ask for letters of intent?

Letters of intent are most commonly asked for by small or new companies who do not have clearly defined roles like larger companies. Where a large company would likely be hiring for an established position with specific requirements, positions at newer companies are often flexible, with employees wearing many hats. A letter of intent allows you as the job seeker to express what experience you bring to the company and how you can create value in your own unique way. When the responsibilities of a role are not yet clearly defined, allowing applicants to define their niche is a great way for companies to get new ideas for what they need.

What should I include in my letter of intent?

The contents of a letter of intent are flexible, as the specific skills or anecdotes you choose to highlight will depend on your experience and industry. However, you should still make sure that your letter contains everything you need to impress an employer. When you write your letter of intent, it can be useful to use a standard format to make sure it is readable and professional.

  • Greeting. Begin your letter of intent with a polite salutation. If possible, find the name of the hiring manager or department head that you would like to reach so that you can address your letter to them directly. This information is likely available on the company’s website, or you can browse the company’s employee’s profiles on LinkedIn.
  • Introduction. Open the body of your letter with a sentence or brief paragraph that introduces you, including your name and skillset, and what your intention is for the letter. This can be as simple as saying “My name is Sam Rogers. I am a recent graduate of NYU’s business program and I am writing to express my interest in your company,” though including more details, such as how you discovered the company, will better show your personality.
  • Body. The bulk of your letter will be in the two or three body paragraphs. This is where you can show that you are passionate about your industry, admire the company, and have the right skills to make an impact.
    • Mirroring the language that the company uses will let them know that you share similar values. If you are writing in response to a job listing, you can use the key words found there to choose the skills you highlight. If you are sending the letter unrequested, use what you know about the company and your industry to choose the skills you emphasize.
    • Be very clear about what level of experience you can bring and what type of responsibility you are looking for. If you are an experienced manager, you don’t want to write a great letter of intent only to be considered for an entry level role.
    • Show that you are the right fit for the company, and show that you have the right attitude to make a difference. Explain what draws you to the company, why your skills are a match, and how you can contribute to company culture.
  • Call to action. Before signing off, it is important to give the employer an easy way to follow up with you. This can be as simple as saying that you look forward to their response and leaving your number, or you can say that you will be following up yourself at a later date. Either way, if you want to hear from that employer again you must make sure they know that you would like to hear from them and how they can contact you.
  • Closing. “Sincerely,” “Best,” “Cheers,’—use whichever sign-off best suits your personality, so long as it is professional and appropriate. Leave them with your name, email, phone number, and any online portfolios that may help, such as LinkedIn.

example-letter-of-intent

Tips for writing a letter of intent

  • Research the company. Before writing your letter, make sure you know your audience. Browse the company’s website and social media, and see if they have been featured in any news items. You will be much more able to describe your interest in the company if you really do know them well.
  • Format your letter well. Use a readable, professional font, and keep paragraphs short and readable. No employer likes reading a huge block of text. VisualCV’s cover letter builder works great for both cover letters and letters of intent.
  • Be brief. Your letter should not be longer than a page. Even if you are a great candidate, employers are unlikely to read much more than a page, if that.
  • Proofread. Typos and spelling errors will leave a terrible first impression. No matter how perfect you are for the company, employers will find it difficult to look past spelling mistakes. It is important to read and reread your letter to check for errors, and if you are not a confident writer, you may even want to have a friend look it over for mistakes.

Letter of intent example

Dear Susan Williams,

My name is Rob Stanfield. I am a front-end developer and user experience specialist with 8 years of experience and I am writing to express my interest in working for the product team at TrueTeach. As the child of two teachers I understand the importance of education and I believe that educators deserve the best possible platform for delivering content online, and I think that TrueTeach can be that platform.

I am currently the UX team lead at the social media management start-up Dashbored, where I work with the product team to develop an efficient, customer-focused platform. Our user base has grown 300% in the time that I have been a part of this team, and as proud as I am of this business and the Dashbored community, I have always known that my career journey would lead me to education eventually. As an undergraduate, I volunteered at a local elementary school teaching introductory coding, and my master’s thesis focused on accessible content delivery for distance learning.

I am familiar with the tech stack used at TrueTeach and I believe strongly in the TrueTeach mission. My experience in product development and my passion for education make me an ideal fit for your team.

I would love to schedule some time to discuss my qualifications and the future of TrueTeach with you. I can be reached at r.stan@exampleemail.com, or by phone at 555-5555. Thank you for your time.

Best,

Rob Stanfield

Ben Temple

Written By

Ben Temple

VisualCV Customer Success Manager

Ben is a writer and customer support specialist with 5 years of experience helping job-seekers create their careers. He believes in the importance of a great resume and the power of coffee.

See more posts from Ben Temple

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