A letter of interest can open career doors that may otherwise have remained closed.
There doesn't always have to be a job for you to get in touch with a potential employer. Speculative applications create opportunities if the fit is there and the time is right.
Whether you are applying speculatively because you love a company, have heard on the grapevine that a position is coming up and want to beat the crowd, or want to promote your case to an internal audience outside of a formal process, you have to find the best medium for the task. Employers are used to receiving cover letter pitches, so why not use one for a job that doesn't (yet) exist? If the letter of interest is good enough, they may create one for you.
We explore why a letter of interest could be the option for you:
- What is a letter of interest and what is its purpose?
- When a letter of interest is used and how to format it.
- The differences between a letter of interest and a cover letter.
- A letter of interest sample from a typical situation.
- Expression of interest writing tips and things to consider.
Be brave and back yourself. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. A targeted letter of interest could change your life.
Will I annoy a hiring manager with a speculative application? If you are a great fit for the role and if you have a reasonable belief that a job could be created for someone with your skills, then a letter of interest is a valid tool in a job seeker’s armoury. Hiring managers are interested in any way to improve the results of their department and that certainly includes adding people who are worth the investment.
You may need to be careful with how you initially approach a hiring manager if you do not know them (more on this later), but an exploratory message with the attachment of a carefully-targeted letter of interest has started the ball rolling on many a successful job search. Make sure that you do your research.
Let’s get into the detail of what makes this letter of interest application format so effective:
What is a letter of interest?
A letter of interest is a one-page document that outlines your interest in working for a company in a specific role. It contains an explanation of how your experience and personality fit make you a great candidate for the job.
It should be highly tailored towards the company culture and knowledge of what the future role requires. If you show that you understand the demands of the job, your case for being invited to a first interview is that bit stronger. You need to surprise them by just how much you know - tailoring the letter will take time, but it is the only option if you want them to invite you for a chat.
99% of your job competitors will fail to take such initiative. Sure, the majority of the time such an approach will result in a "no" but if you do it in the right way, you won't spoil any relationships for the future.
What is the purpose of a letter of interest?
Think of your letter of interest sample like a business proposal. You outline the demand, and you then provide a solution for supplying that demand (you). Such a speculative approach has to make use of subtle sales techniques to convince the hiring manager that you are worth an exploratory phone call.
There is a danger here that you do not know enough about the company to correctly judge the opportunity. If you get your assessment of the demand wrong, hiring managers will automatically discount you. They will also likely remember your name for when a real position open up. Be careful.
The speculative nature of a letter of interest will make its tone and content different from a cover letter, which is used in tandem with a resume when applying for an advertised role. Be polite but insistent in your belief that you have what it takes to make a difference. If you are too "hopeful" you will convince no one.
Ask questions rather than make assumptions. As you will not have a job description upon which to base your letter of interest, the tone of the letter should be explorative and curious rather than definitive and demanding.
Using exploratory sentence starters such as “I wonder whether….” and “I am curious to find out….” will soften the tone of the expression of interest and make a hiring manager feel that they have a choice to respond (if the questions are valid) rather than an obligation. You have to get them wondering about what else you have to offer - you only have so much space in a letter of interest. Whet their appetites. Get them asking questions, too.
When is a letter of interest used?
Letters of interest are also called “letters of intent” or “expressions of interest.” As with many job search media, they have different names in different geographies. While not as prevalent as the cover letter, it is still a relatively common job search tool, but when is it most used?
Letter of interest sample for the hidden job market
Figures vary as to the size of the “hidden job market,” but if even lower end estimates of 40-50% are correct, there are a lot of unadvertised roles out there for the taking. Just imagine that you are a boss just about to give a colleague a role and then you get a letter of interest from an external applicant who is far better qualified. What do you do? Hang internal politics - you take the person who will do the best job for you.
Don’t think that other applicants won’t be highlighting their interest and suitability. If you are able to fill a page with relevant and compelling reasons why you are the best person for a job (that happens not to formally “exist”), why wouldn’t you try to give yourself a chance? Tap your network for potential openings over the coming months and get writing.
Expression of interest for promotion
You have been smashing your performance reviews for a while and your job responsibilities are widening in front of your eyes. But you still have your previous title and pay grade. Not many would disagree, but an expression of interest for promotion is a way of formally asking the question. Show that you are a frontrunner is looking for a new challenge (but who also wouldn't be scared to look elsewhere if it doesn't come).
Don’t fall into the trap of assuming that everyone is talking about how awesome you are and that you are a dead cert for the role. If you don’t push your case forcefully enough, before you know it, they will be advertising externally, and you will have a whole heap more competition. Get that promotion buttoned down before it gets to that point and show your employer that you are dedicated to growing your career with them rather than elsewhere.
Letter of intent sample for an internal job or project
Mary Smith has let it be known that she is going to retire soon. You find out about a project that may require someone with your skills. The headcount budget for your department has increased by 50% but they haven’t quite finished the organizational redesign yet. But how do you write an expression of interest for an internal job?
Getting in “early” with a letter of intent to detail how you can contribute can give you an advantage in such situations. There is nothing wrong with showing some initiative and selling yourself for various opportunities that are not yet “officially” on HR’s list of roles to fill. It shows a certain kind of resolve to head off the crowd at the pass. Don;t wait for a job description to be concocted or the recruitment campaign to get sign off. Get yourself in there!
Letter of interest for internship
Not all companies will have a limit to the number of interns that they will take on at any given time. Interns come and go, so if you feel that you can make a difference in a specific area it is always worth making your case. It also isn't hard to add a little more onto the headcount budget for an intern as they are often counted and part-time employees.
By nature, intern applications are always more speculative. As interns may not have a large resume, a letter of interest can be created for the heavy persuasive lifting. Be sure to talk about the results that your internship will bring for the company. Share some of your personality and let the hiring manager know how you will contribute to the running of the team. Interns can be a welcome injection of energy and ideas when business is tough.
Speculative letter of interest
None of the above may be true and there may be no other reason for you to write your letter of interest other than you deeply love the company and what they are doing. It is true that you should only do this once every couple of years (or you will seem like a stalker), but the dumb luck of right-place-right-time has played a part in many a career.
If the letter is purely speculative, make sure that you get the tone of approach right, keep it a little shorter than usual and don’t follow it up with countless reminders. Put your hope out into the world and see what comes back. You never know. Maybe one gentle reminder a few weeks later, but don't push it.
How to write a letter of interest for a job
So, how do you write a letter of interest for your next job? The answer to this question is best explained through the goals of this application document. A letter of interest should demonstrate that you:
- Have an intimate understanding of the demands of the potential role.
- Possess the skills and experience to excel in the position.
- Understand the company culture and that your personality would fit.
It is the ultimate job search sales pitch, and it needs a carefully structured argument. Be logical, not emotional.
How do you format a letter of interest?
When people ask “How do I format a letter of interest?” they usually mean one of two things:
- What format should I choose for my letter of interest and what elements does the letter include?
- What formatting do I use in a letter of interest so it’s attractive, readable and is accepted based on formal requirements?
Let’s answer each of these questions in turn, before diving into more detail in the following chapters.
The widely accepted format for a letter of interest sample includes the following elements:
- The letter of interest sample greeting
- The letter of interest starting paragraph (or intro paragraph)
- The middle part of a letter of interest (middle paragraphs)
- Ending part of a letter of interest.
When it comes to formatting, you should follow the best practices already used in similar documents such as application letters and cover letters: leave enough room for standard margins (Word or Google Docs usually has this covered for you), don’t overload the page with text (leave enough white space so that the reader’s eyes don’t hurt), use a legible font that’s either sans serif (such as Arial or Calibri) or a “traditional” font such as Helvetica or Georgia.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s analyze the specific elements/paragraphs of a letter of interest in more depth.
How do you address a letter of interest without a name?
It may well be that you do not know to whom the letter of interest should be addressed. While it is advisable to always address a cover letter to the person who authored the job description, writing directly to a hiring manager seems a little pushy if you do not know them.
Our suggestion would be to connect with them on social media (usually LinkedIn) and then you can send them a direct message with their name in the letter. Cold emails are not recommended in this case as they will be unlikely to be read. This solves both issues. Even if they do not respond to your initial social media message, you can at least show that you have taken the time to look them up and find out their name.
If you do not have a name and are sending it directly to a general inbox, a warmer greeting such as “Dear Company team” is preferable to the colder “To whom it may concern.”
How do you start a letter of interest?
The first paragraph of a letter of interest should be very specific about exactly where and how you see yourself making a difference to the company.
As the role in question may not currently exist in the form that you envisage, you take a deep dive into the inner workings of the company to work out where you fit in. In those first crucial lines you need to identify the problem(s) and propose yourself as a solution. Remain humble – suggest rather than insist.
In addition to the company-specific perspective, your personal angle at the start of the letter will be similar to how you might start a cover letter:
- Start your letter of interest with an achievement.
- Launch your expression of interest letter with a personal story.
- Open your letter with a relevant statistic or fact.
- Let your letter of intent intro highlight a strong connection to the job or company.
- Begin with a belief or value statement shared by the company.
How do I write a letter of interest – main body section?
The body of the letter of interest should follow the logical flow of your argument.
Firstly, set the scene. Share details about why the business needs to hire you for the particular role. Talk about the financial and human impact. Paint a picture of how life could be that little bit better.
Don’t be shy about highlighting your potential contribution. Back up your arguments with evidence of relevant past performance and be specific about what you think that you could deliver. Quantify everything that you can. If you believe that your contribution could add $300,000 to the bottom line, let a potential employer know how you envisage doing it. Err on the side of ambitious.
Make the body of your letter of interest as relevant as possible to the industry in terms of the language you use, the examples that you share and the skills that you possess. The more it shouts “hey, I am one of you” the more chance you will have of getting your foot in the door.
Use bullet points for your accomplishments to save space. While you will want to create a flowing and persuasive piece of writing, using bullet points in the middle of the letter to communicate your key accomplishments can be a powerful way of leaving a good impression. Bullets automatically draw the reader’s eye and if you combine them with powerful action verbs at the beginning, your achievements won’t be forgotten in a hurry.
How do you end a letter of interest?
The main aim of a letter of interest is to awaken a curiosity in the hiring manager. You are planting a seed that may not germinate for a while, so you cannot end on the strong call-to-action interview request that a cover letter should. It is entirely reasonable, however, to question whether the hiring manager would be open to a discussion at some point.
Make it easy for the hiring manager to contact you, make sure that you have included your email and a mobile number and state that you are happy to have a phone call or meet at any time that works for them. Flexibility is key at this delicate stage.
Move mountains to enable conversations and reply to emails as soon as you receive them (well, within an hour anyway - you don;t want to seem too desperate). Make the process of getting to know you as smooth as possible. This will be outside official recruitment channels to begin with, so it should be possible.
Letter of interest sample
There is nothing like reading an example of a letter of interest to see what we mean. Simon heard that there may be a job coming up in the marketing department and he wants to register his interest to the hiring manager before the deluge of other applicants.
Dear Ms. Allcott,
After discussing digital transformation with your colleague James Blinker at the recent TEFL committee meeting, I understand that you are planning to increase your online teaching provision over the coming two years.
Having led a digital transformation team at TriLingua in Toronto, I have spent three years shaping such a provision. As I plan a move to New York, I write to see whether there may be an opportunity to discuss whether my skills could contribute to your journey?
My eight-year career has been spent teaching languages to young adults and as digital devices have come to dominate their lives, I have realised that the learning environment now follows the student wherever they might be at the moment that they decide (or have a chance) to learn. Digital language learning has been an obsession of mine for four years, but with blended teaching from real teachers rather than relying just on software and algorithms.
My digital successes at TriLingua included:
Introducing a digital learning suite that improved test scores by 35%.
Migrating 40% of learning onto our digital platform, freeing up 10hrs/week per teacher.
Winning a DigTeach award for the redeveloped TriLingua mobile app (220k subscribers).
I would welcome the chance to discuss your plans at any convenient point and hope that my knowledge might be able to play a part in your future success.
You can use this letter of interest sample as a basic inspiration or even edit some specific parts of this, inserting your own info (just remember that your end result should be a unique document, nobody likes generic cover letters).
Expression of interest writing tips
There are a few more subtleties to consider when writing a letter of interest. You need to write something that fits your specific goals, make sure that the length is appropriate and ensure that you are sending it in a way that will maximise its chances of being read.
Is a letter of interest the same as a cover letter?
There are definite similarities between a letter of interest and a cover letter, but as our “ Cover Letter vs. Letter of Interest” article explains, the main difference lies in whether the role has been advertised or whether the application is more speculative. This is an important distinction as both the content and language will vary.
A cover letter is sent in response to an advertised job opening and is designed to empower your resume. A letter of interest is a slightly more stand-alone document with more intent, as it’s designed to address (or inquire about) an employer's needs rather than answer a job advertisement.
How long is a letter of interest?
A letter of interest should be as short as possible in order to create a strong case for initiating a discussion. If a role doesn’t formally exist, you shouldn’t be writing a mammoth 2-page application letter, but you still need the word count to make your arguments count. 200-250 words is a typical length for a letter of interest, so maybe a little shorter than a typical cover letter.
How do you send a letter of interest?
As previously mentioned, it is advisable to make contact with a potential hiring manager on social media before sending a letter of interest to ensure that it is not entirely cold. You can then mention them by name, and they might have already seen you around on socials.
Social media platforms allow attachments, so that is a convenient way to ensure that they get it and it doesn’t get lost in their work inbox. Investing in a LinkedIn premium account is a good idea for the duration of your job search as you can then send over InMails to people that you are not connected with.
Some people might feel comfortable in calling a potential future boss to let them know that they are sending over the letter. This needn’t be a long phone call and even leaving a phone message is better than sending it totally out of the blue. You never know, you might catch the hiring manager at a good moment, and they may want a brief chat there and then. Then email it over and cross your fingers.
Whatever you do, make sure that you do not harass them with multiple calls or emails!
When you sit down to write a letter of interest:
- Be logical and persuasive
- Ask questions and be curious
- Show you understand the company
- Be polite and hopeful
- Plant a seed that may germinate later
- Be vague and irrelevant
- Act demanding and insistent
- Only talk about yourself
- Be expectant and entitled
- Expect things to move quickly
Our other cover letter and resume guides may offer further food for thought as they will be related to this area. Writing a letter of interest is like any job search activity – it is tough to begin with, but once you get into it, you will realize just how much you have to offer.
Remember: if you think you are good enough, it is likely that others will think that too.
Having the courage to send a letter of interest when you are unsure whether there is a role is not for the faint hearted, but if you are keen on the employer and believe that you can make a difference to them, the letter will not be dismissed out of hand by a hiring manager.
- Make sure that you understand the "fit" of your application
- Be as commercial as possible in explaining your worth
- Try to beat the crowd and get first-mover advantage
- Don't be apologetic - hiring you is a business transaction
- Don't send your resume or any other documents before they have been requested
They will view it as a business proposal, so make your case with confidence.