You’ve had your eye on the company for a while—you love the mission, it provides a great benefits package, you met an employee at a networking event and she raved about the work she does, and landing a job there would be the perfect next step in your career.
But according to their website, they’re not hiring. How can you get the attention of an employer that doesn’t appear to be looking for any new hires?
Meet the cover letter’s lesser known (and very successful) cousin, the letter of interest.
What is a letter of interest?
A letter of interest, sometimes called a letter of inquiry, is a letter written to an employer to express your interest in working for them, usually if they don’t have any job openings or openings that suit you.
Wait, does that actually work?
It sure can. Even though the company doesn’t advertise any openings at the moment, they might still be interested in taking on new talent, a hiring manager may know of an employee who’s about to make an exit, or you might be able to meet a need the company wasn’t yet aware they had.
Writing a letter of interest is your way to introduce yourself to the company. It shows initiative, and employers love that.
You might also like: How to Find a Job You Love (No, Really)
How do I send a letter of interest?
Keep the body of the email short, with a brief note, like,
Hello Ms. Richards,
My name is Elaine Benes and I am writing to express my interest in ACME’s business development department. Attached you will find my letter of interest that details my accomplishments as business development manager at SolarPower Inc. and what I can bring to ACME.
Letter of interest example #1 - basic letter
Here's an example of what you might say in your letter of interest.
Dear Ms. Richards,
I'm a business development professional with more than eight years experience in growing mid-size businesses efficiently. In my most recent positions at A Company and B Company, I grew revenue by 70 and 74 percent, respectively, in my first 12 months, securing major partnerships with D Company and D Company. I believe I could do the same for ACME.
I met a coworker of yours, Judy Dench, at the most recent annual conference, and we had a wonderful conversation about the new products you plan to launch in the coming year. She encouraged me to contact you. I would be thrilled to take you to coffee next week to discuss current or future opportunities with ACME. Coffee's on me.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Letter of interest example #2 - a slight career change
Dear Dr. Genarri,
I'm writing to introduce myself because I believe I would be an asset to the Bedau House Foundation.
For the past seven years, I've worked in fundraising and alumni relations at Central State University, and under my leadership, our annual fund has increased by more than 30 percent year over year for the last three years. I'm writing not because I hope you could use my fundraising skills, but because I'm looking to shift my career to focus on operations in the nonprofit sector. Certainly, though, my track record in community relations and development will serve me well.
I've had my eye on Bedau House since I saw you speak at last year's chamber of commerce roundtable, and I'd just love the chance to chat with you about your needs at the foundation now and in the future.
Would you be willing to meet with me for an hour or so next month?
To whom do you address your letter?
Ideally, you can address the letter to the person who might be the hiring manager for the position or department you're interested in. For example, if you want to work in analytics, you might find the email address of the director or VP of analytics (how to find the hiring manager's email here).
You could also send your letter of interest to a member of the recruiting or human resources team.
But please, whatever you do, don't address your letter, "To whom it may concern."
Read more: How to Address a Cover Letter with No Name
Cover letter vs. letter of interest
Cover letters and letters of interest do share many similarities and are often mistakenly used interchangeably. However there are a couple of differences you should be aware of.
The intent of the letters
Both letters share a similar structure, including who you are, a brief explanation of why you are writing, your relevant skills and interests, and the next steps you anticipate.
But the difference in content between a cover letter and a letter of interest has to do with why you are writing the letter.
Cover letters are written with a specific job in mind. For example, if an event company has an opening for a wedding planner, you would write a cover letter detailing how you meet the requirements of the job description they have created.
A letter of interest is used when there’s no job openings listed or advertised and should address your work experience and what you believe you could offer the company.
The goal when sending a letter of interest is to get your name in front of a hiring manager or executive so that when a job does become available, you have a foot in the door and have already made a connection at the company.
Networking fills 85 percent of jobs, so simply building a connection doesn’t sound too shabby after all, does it?
When you send the letters
Typically, job listings will ask for a cover letter to accompany your resume and any additional documents. If the posting does not specifically ask for a cover letter, it’s okay to include it as long as it strongly supports your application.
But letters of interest can be sent at any time, so take your time to get it right.
If you do your homework, you may be able to send the letter before a period when you know the company will be transitioning or looking to hire to give yourself a one-up on the competition.
Whom to address in the letter
Job listings sometimes have the name of a recruiter or hiring manager who will be reading the applications. If this is the case, you should follow those instructions exactly. If there’s no posting, you will need to do some homework.
You should address your letter of interest to a specific person whenever possible. This might be a manager in the department you’re interested in or it might be a recruiter. Some companies may have a meet our team page, others will be more easily found on LinkedIn.
The best person to address your letter to is someone who has hiring power but is not so busy that they won’t read a letter. The CEO of a Fortune 500 company? Not the person for a letter of interest. The CEO of a startup? That’s a better bet.
Read more: 12 Questions You Should Be Asking Recruiters
What to include in a letter of interest
Now let’s look at how to build the perfect letter of interest.
1. Name and contact info
In the header of your letter, include your name and relevant title (i.e., registered nurse, chemical engineer, or writer), your email, phone number, a short link to your portfolio or website (if you have one), and any other method of reaching you (social media handles, for example, if they’re relevant).
2. The name of the person you’re writing to
One expert hiring manager says she will automatically dismiss any letter that begins with either Dear Sir or Madam or To Whom It May Concern.
Don’t just send your letter to a general email, prove that you did your research and know exactly who you are addressing.
If you hope to work for a company’s marketing department, you might email the department head. Alternatively, you could send it to a recruiter at the company, but you should still do so by name.
3. Why you’re writing
Open your letter by explaining what hooked you about the company and how your goals and align.
Don’t be afraid to add in proof of your previous success and ideas on how you hope to use your experience and skills to help both the department and the company grow.
I am writing to express my interest in working for ACME Corp. You are an unprecedented leader in the clean energy space with a commitment to local economic development. I work in the solar industry where I develop new tools and distribution strategies, and would love the opportunity to join ACME and expand to the excellent work you do.
4. What position you are seeking
Ideally you should mention a position or type of position that already exists within the company. If you are unsure of a particular description that matches your skills, name a couple of positions within your scope that similar companies typically employ.
I would love the opportunity to join your company’s business development department or in a business strategy capacity.
5. Why you’re a great fit for the company
The bulk of your letter should detail why you’re a great fit for the company, their goals or initiatives, the values you share, and what you hope to bring to the organization.
While your letter doesn’t need to be long, the reader should come away with a sense of your skills and accomplishments.
If you choose to send a resume with your letter of interest, take care to not repeat yourself two much between the two (same as you would with a cover letter).
6. Anticipated next steps
You should wrap up the letter with what you hope to happen next. A phone call, an interview, etc., and how you prefer to be contacted.
Letters that end with general phrases like, I hope to talk to you soon, are less likely to garner a response.
If you believe I am a good fit for ACME, please contact me by email. I would love the chance to set up a time to discuss opportunities with you on the phone or in person.
7. A note of thanks
Close with a note of thanks for the reader’s time and attention. Sign off with a professional sign-off such as Sincerely or Best and use your full name in your signature.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter and consider my qualifications.
Tips for writing an inquiry letter
Proofread, proofread, proofread! Your letter should be well-written and proofread for errors (especially in the hiring manager’s or recruiter’s name).
Keep it short and to the point. Recruiters take about 60 seconds to decide if you sound good enough on paper to move on to the next steps. Use it wisely!
Do some basic research on the company. Take some extra time to learn about the culture and people that excel in the company, and make sure that sounds just like you—then show them in the letter that you’re a good fit.
Keep your language professional. You should sound the part.
Focus on what you can do for the company. Don’t litter your letter with phrases like, the company provides great benefits and I love company’s culture. Instead, describe how you fit into those standards, and how you plan to add value.
Follow up. If you haven’t heard anything back from the company, you can follow up about a week later.
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