Job Search Tips

How to Write a Letter of Intent (With Examples)

how-to-write-a-letter-of-intent
Written by Kate Lopaze

By now, you probably think you’re familiar with all the pieces of an application package and process. You have your resume (or CV), your cover letter, your list of interview questions. And if you have those together, updated and ready to go, awesome! But there’s another potential piece lurking out there: a letter of intent. Wait, what? Is that the same as a cover letter? And if not, how do you write one?

Spoiler alert: a letter of intent is not the same as a cover letter. They’re similar (being letters and all, and focused on yourself), but are actually used in different situations. Your cover letter is what you write when you’re applying to a specific job you found through traditional channels (online job search, referral, recruiter). It details why you’re a great fit for this particular job. A letter of intent is what you write when you’re cold-calling (leaving a resume without being solicited for one), or applying for a job in a more general situation, like a job fair or submitting your resume to a general pool. The letter of intent is similar in that you’re selling yourself, but tends to be less granular about a particular position. Letters of intent are often more networking-related, or aspirational, than position-oriented.

So what goes into your letter of intent? Let’s break one down into pieces as an example.

The Greeting

Because you may have fewer specifics in hand about what you’re applying for and who will be reading your application package, it’s likely you won’t have the most personalized opener. That’s okay! Be general, but professional, formal, and polite.

Bad Examples

Hi,

[No opening]

Hey hiring manager,

Dearest sirs and madams of JobTech, Incorporated,

Good examples:

To whom it may concern:

Dear JobTech team,

As with any professional correspondence, you don’t want to seem too stiff or formal, like you’re writing a letter from a Victorian template or a bad spam email asking someone to send money to a deposed prince overseas—but you also don’t want to be too conversational. You’re not in a dialogue yet, so it’s important to treat this like a professional first interaction, and not like you’re skipping several steps and asking to meet for coffee. The tone you’re reaching for is, “You don’t know me yet, but I’m interested in your company and want to tell you more about why.”

The Body

Here’s where the difference comes in between a cover letter and a letter of intent. With a cover letter, you likely already have a solid idea of what the job opportunity is, and how to position yourself for it. With a letter of intent, you have to make a slightly trickier balance—positioning yourself as qualified for a job that may not be clear yet. To do that, align your self talk around the company or the industry, making sure to highlight your skills and achievements that would make you a good fit for the company. You can also be specific about your level and experience. For example, you should make it clear that you’re looking for a manager-level position if you don’t want to be considered for more junior or entry-level roles.

Without job-level specifics, it can be tempting to get stuck in an “I’m awesome” loop without giving enough specifics. If you have a general idea of what job groove you’d be seeking at this particular company, build your letter body around that. If you’re truly just trying to get a foot in the door at a company, you can use clues from your research about the company. What does their website say about their mission and priorities? What do current and past employees say about the company in online chatter? Even without specifics, you can cobble together a pretty good idea of what the company is seeking in potential employees. Sell your skills and experience points that are special to you, and especially relevant to your industry.

Some Dos and Don’ts
  • DO be specific about your accomplishments and skills.
  • DON’T get into details about why you left your last job.
  • DO mention what drew you to the company.
  • DO keep paragraphs short. Long-windedness is the enemy when it comes to fighting for attention in a crowded resume pool. Consider following this formula for the body:
    • Paragraph 1: introduce yourself and summarize your intent (goal) in sending the letter
    • Paragraph 2: background information (brief summary of most relevant education, skills, and experience)
    • Paragraph 3: call to action/summary
A Bad Example

Please allow me to introduce myself. I am Jean, slayer of sales goals and all-around great coworker. I have a B.A., and my people skills are superior. I am interested in JobTech for my next career opportunity, and have attached my resume for consideration. I hear you’re hiring, and given that I’m seeking a job, it sounds like a great fit.

I hear good things about JobTech, and since I quit my job at Career Industries after working with a nightmare boss (never work with a Scorpio, ha!), I am very interested in your opportunities for an experienced sales manager like me.

I’ll be calling you as well to make sure you received my letter, and are considering me for a position at JobTech.

A Good Example

My name is Jean Smith, and I am writing to you today to submit my resume for consideration on your Sales and Marketing teams. As a proven leader with more than a decade of beating aggressive sales goals and working with diverse teams to produce great results, I am very interested in opportunities to bring that experience and growth to JobTech.

With 12 years of experience in Sales and Marketing in a variety of different roles (from an all-hands-on-deck startup to a Fortune 500 company), I know I can bring a strong, customer-oriented strategy to your company. Since graduating with a B.A. in Marketing from Benjamin Franklin University in 2005, I’ve built my career on using customer data and strategic campaigns to get results. Most recently, as Sales Leader at Career Industries, my innovative sales strategies and overhaul of our social media lead generation program increased widget sales by more than 200% from 2013 to 2016. While my time at Career Industries has been a valuable experience, I’m ready to move on and grow into a senior manager position that better blends sales, marketing, and innovative strategy. Based on JobTech’s commitment to being on the cutting edge of widget sales, I believe my skills and background jibe well with that mission.

I look forward to talking with you about my qualifications, and potential opportunities with JobTech. I am attaching my resume, and have a comprehensive career profile at www.joblinkcareernetworking.com/JeanSmith. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach me at J_Smith@emaildomain.com. Thank you for your time and consideration!

In the bad example, Jean is too vague, and has a few red flags, like suggesting that her last job didn’t end well, and making an inappropriate joke about Scorpios to gloss it over. You can tell people you’re great, but it’s better to prove it by offering specifics, like she does in the better example. In the second example, Jean’s letter body is more clearly organized, and makes sure to give the most relevant details about her career so far.

Also, her closing call to action sounds more like a threat. You want to leave the reader with an avenue for follow-up, but don’t intimidate them into responding. After all, they’re not obligated to respond. You want to make them want to reach out to you for more information or next steps.

The Closer

You want your closing statement to be the Mariano Rivera of letters of intent: a clean win, effective, and unambiguous. Don’t overthink it! Basic, professional closings are the way to go.

Bad Examples

[No closing] Jean Smith

Call me please,

Email me if you read this,

Bye,

Fondest wishes to you and yours,

Good Examples

Sincerely,

Best wishes,

Regards,

Go with one of the classics, because they’re used for a reason. If you sound too stiff and formal, it comes off like a holiday card. If you reiterate your call to action, it can carry a whiff of desperation. Just get out gracefully and quickly once you’ve said your piece.

Assess Your Final Draft

At this point, you’re ready to send it off, either in the mail, handing it off, or sending it through the Internet tubes. Let’s take a last look at the good examples put together, Jean’s better draft.

Dear JobTech team,

My name is Jean Smith, and I am writing to you today to submit my resume for consideration on your Sales and Marketing teams. As a proven leader with more than a decade of beating aggressive sales goals and working with diverse teams to produce great results, I am very interested in opportunities to bring that experience and growth to JobTech.

With 12 years of experience in Sales and Marketing in a variety of different roles (from an all-hands-on-deck startup to a Fortune 500 company), I know I can bring a strong, customer-oriented strategy to your company. Since graduating with a B.A. in Marketing from Benjamin Franklin University in 2005, I’ve built my career on using customer data and strategic campaigns to get results. Most recently, as Sales Leader at Career Industries, my innovative sales strategies and overhaul of our social media lead generation program increased widget sales by more than 200% from 2013 to 2016. While my time at Career Industries has been a valuable experience, I’m ready to move on and grow into a senior manager position that better blends sales, marketing, and innovative strategy. Based on JobTech’s commitment to being on the cutting edge of widget sales, I believe my skills and background jibe well with that mission.

I look forward to talking with you about my qualifications, and potential opportunities with JobTech. I am attaching my resume, and have a comprehensive career profile at www.joblinkcareernetworking.com/JeanSmith. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach me at J_Smith@emaildomain.com. Thank you for your time and consideration!

Regards,

Jean Smith

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