Cover letters and letters of interest seem to have similar functions. Both are used by prospective job applicants to make initial connect with a potential employer. However, the specific purposes, content and timing of each type of letter is very distinct. Knowing how to create the right letter based on your situation in the job search process is important.
A cover letter is typically used when contacting a hiring manager about your interest and qualifications for a specific job. A letter of interest, often called an inquiry, can be written by a college student looking for an internship opportunity or trying to find out about potential jobs with employers upon graduation. Working professionals use a letter of interest to feel out opportunities for positions at other companies.
A cover letter usually includes content specific to the job you target, whereas a letter of intent is more an overview of your background and mentions your interests. In a cover letter, you generally begin by stating your recognition of the company and the specific needs of the position. You then lay out how your accomplishments and experiences fit well with those critical job requirements. In a letter of interest, you share education or work experience, depending on your situation, and indicate why you want to know about opportunities with the company.
A cover letter is written in response to a specific job posting. Your cover letter is normally submitted along with your resume, application and other materials requested by the hiring manager. A letter of interest is sent to a company without acknowledging a specific position. Instead, the interest letter is a lead into potential discussions about possible openings now or in the future.
The timing of the letters is distinct as well. You can send a letter of interest while still in college in the case of seeking an internship. As a worker, you can send a letter of interest anytime you want to learn about a company's opportunities. A cover letter is sent in the midst of a job search when you actively apply for certain positions. Effective cover letters should target the needs of each particular employer and job. Letters of interest are more often written similarly if you send them to multiple companies. Each generally outlines your background and interests. Whichever letter you write, customization is important to impacting a hiring manager.
Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.