What Actually Is a Letter of Intent (and How Is it Different From a Cover Letter)?

What Actually Is a Letter of Intent (and How Is it Different From a Cover Letter)?

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What Is a Letter of Intent?

To play off the name, a letter of intent (also sometimes called a letter of interest) is about stating your intentions to work for a particular company. There may be a specific role you (or the employer) has in mind, but more often you’re interested in tossing your name into the hat for any opportunities an organization may offer.

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How Does a Letter of Intent Differ From a Cover Letter?

It can be easy to confuse a cover letter with a letter of intent. In her experience working with job seekers, Kea differentiates them this way: “Intent letters tend to be a bit more company focused—you’re talking a little more about the employer than the specific job.” They’re also more general in terms of how you talk about your skill set.

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How Does a Letter of Intent Differ From a Cover Letter?

For example, says Kea, with a cover letter you might say, “I’m highly interested in a product manager role at [Company] for the following reasons,” while with a letter of intent you’re more likely to say something along the lines of, “I’m highly interested in a managerial role at [Company] for the following reasons.”

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How Does a Letter of Intent Differ From a Cover Letter?

Letters of intent can also present themselves in situations outside the application process—for example, if you want to follow up after a job fair or a networking event. “Again, there may not be a specific role listed that you’re interested in or that you can apply for at that time,” Kea says.

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Why Do Companies Ask for Letters of Intent?

Companies ask for letters of intent mainly when they’re as torn about what they’re looking for as you might be. “In some cases, employers might have several jobs posted at once for one department or for one specific project,” says Kea.

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Why Do Companies Ask for Letters of Intent?

They may ask for a letter of intent because they’re not entirely sure what kind of person they need to fill the gaps in those departments.  Letters of intent are also frequently used to hire for contractors or freelancers who aren’t your standard W2 employees, because if, for example, a contract falls through, companies can easily line up the next qualified candidate for the job.

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Why Do Companies Ask for Letters of Intent?

The type of letter can also vary across sectors. “In my experience, the more established organizations [and] private companies typically go with a cover letter,” says Kea, while letters of intent might present themselves at startups or nonprofits that are more mission-focused and growing at a greater rate.

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How Do You Go About Writing a Letter of Intent?

First off, you want to express plenty of interest in the company itself. “A lot of people get really wrapped up [in saying] ‘I’m the perfect person for this job, I want this job, I’m great for this job, hire me for this job,’” says Kea.

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How Do You Go About Writing a Letter of Intent?

And there’s nothing wrong with that…but one of the things that makes an intent letter so successful is really showing that you identify with the company’s mission, their values, their goals.” Letters of intent can also be more current. For example, rather than talk broadly about the company, you may mention something about them in the news or a recent update to their product. 

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How Do You Go About Writing a Letter of Intent?

And, as with a great opening line to a cover letter, “it helps to capture their interest and encourage them to keep reading; that’s of course the goal,” she adds.Overall, you want to make it general enough that you’re showing interest in the company as a whole, “but also specific enough so that the employer walks away with at least one key takeaway from you 

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A Sample Letter of Intent

and your skill set and what you can bring to this organization,” she says. If you were writing a letter of intent, you’d instead want to focus on how you’d be great for a managerial role—whether it’s as a product manager or something else entirely. 

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A Sample Letter of Intent

In this case, rather than mention your product manager experience, you might talk about how you led a team, managed expectations, or coordinated logistics for meetings. You’re referencing specific skills, sure—and your resume is highlighting both sets of skills—but you’re tailoring your letter to what the hiring manager may be looking for.

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