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.
About the Author
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.
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Some job positions request a cover letter while others request an application letter. Others might not request any type of letter, while others might specifically request that you not submit a letter at all. If you are tempted to pull your hair out, don't sweat it. Job applications that ask for a cover letter or application letter are essentially requesting the same item. The differences in meaning are very subtle.
A cover letter is essentially like the book cover for the rest of your job application. Like a book cover, it should capture the reader's attention and convince him that it's worth taking the time to turn the page. When it comes to applying for jobs, cover letters can fall into two categories: Letters of application -- for open positions -- and letters of inquiry, which express interest in an organization when you're not sure if there are any openings.
Uses for Cover Letters
Cover letters aren't just for job applications, although this is the context many people think of when they hear the term. Cover letters can be used on any collection of documents or media for the purpose of describing reasons for sending them. You may put a cover letter on a fax, on a proposal or anything that needs an explanation. Cover letters don't always need to be very long. For example, if you're sending a fax to a familiar recipient who knows the documents are coming, you really only need a sentence or two explanation along with the sender and recipient information.
An application letter is a specific type of cover letter that is -- you guessed it -- used on an application. Application letters can accompany job applications, but they can also go with applications for admissions to schools, applications for grants or any other types of application materials you can think of. They are usually more detailed than general cover letters. For example, an application letter for a job should contain at least two to three paragraphs explaining why you're interested in the job, highlighting your qualifications, requesting an interview and thanking the reviewer for his time.
Making Sense of the Terms
When someone asks for a cover letter or application letter, don't worry about the differences. Their purposes are the same; they can just apply to different circumstances. An application letter is really only a specific type of cover letter. In the context of applying for a job, the differences in the terms are essentially meaningless.
About the Author
Gina Poirier has a professional background in nonprofit administration and management, primarily with youth development organizations. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in international studies from the University of Washington and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Alaska Anchorage.
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