What was universally known in the business world as a cover letter is now called a letter of intent, but its purpose is the same. The letter of intent allows an applicant to express interest in a job and describe his qualifications for attaining it. The real challenge in writing a letter of intent is to avoid excessive detail. Save your complete work history and a comprehensive list of your skills for your resume, which you will probably send with the letter. View the letter of intent as an instrument you will use to pique the interest of a potential employer so he will invite you for an interview.
Begin your letter with a clear statement of purpose. Without using the word “intent,” articulate who you are and why you are writing. Your statement should explain what you can do for the company and not why the company might be a good fit for you. Prune this statement until you concisely convey your purpose in one sentence.
Synthesize your work history in one paragraph. State your current position and company affiliation, as many potential employers are most interested in knowing that first. Show a progression in status if you've been at one company for a long time or a diversity of titles and responsibility if you've worked at several different companies. End this paragraph on a poignant note by saying you believe your “collective experience makes you well suited” for the position you seek.
Segue to the third paragraph by linking your work history with your work accomplishments, and be specific. For example, you might say, “At ABC Company and others, I consistently...” If you consistently broke sales records, say so. If you consistently launched successful programs, say so. Wrap up this paragraph by saying that your consistent, successful work history makes you confident that you can make similar contributions to this company. With subtle repetition, you will make a bigger point: that you are a consistent, reliable and successful person.
Describe personal attributes you believe the employer would prize in someone in the position you seek, but avoid clichés or references to such nuanced attributes as a “good attitude” or a “strong work ethic.” Think of the skills you can discuss and elaborate on during a job interview, such as your analytical or conflict resolution skills. End this paragraph on a confident note by explaining that your references will be “pleased” to expound on your personal characteristics if asked.
Close your letter of intent on a polite, enthusiastic and forward-looking note. Thank the recipient for considering you as a candidate, and express your enthusiasm about the position and the possibility of deeper discussions during an interview. Provide your contact information. End by saying that you look forward to hearing from the employer soon.
Leverage every advantage you have in your letter of intent. For example, if a company employee referred you to the job you seek, say so in the first paragraph of the letter.
Take your time and proofread and edit your letter carefully before sending it.
- Purdue University Online Writing Lab: Quick Content Tips for Cover Letters
- Virginia Tech: Division of Student Affairs -- Cover Letters -- Types and Samples
- Colorado State University: Writing Guide -- Business Letters
- The New St. Martin’s Handbook; Andrea Lunsford and Robert Connors
- Best-Job-Interview: Letter of Intent for Employment
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