Sometimes, the employment listings don’t exactly line up with your idea of a dream job. Even if you have suitable employment, it’s normal to envision a better opportunity. In both scenarios, you may want to consider sending a letter of interest, also called a letter of inquiry or a prospecting letter, to further your career. This letter allows you to introduce yourself to a hiring manager or department head within a company that you admire. Even though the recipients may not be hiring for a specific job now, they’ll have your information on file when a job opening becomes available in the future. In your letter, you can also ask for an informational interview, which gives you a chance to learn more about the company and how they hire.
Imagine you received a letter out of the blue from someone who wanted to work with you. If he or she threatened to ask you a bunch of questions without offering you anything in return, you would probably throw the request in the trash. You might even suspect corporate espionage! On the other hand, picture a scenario where the person wanted to suggest some innovative product ideas or provide you with sample social media content. You’d be much more likely to take him or her up on that meeting. After all, such a meeting could be productive and worthy of your time.
In a letter of inquiry, the sender must accomplish two main goals:
- Establish credibility | What makes you qualified to share your insights?
- Provide Value | You need to give the recipient some good advice or ideas, free of charge.
Do Your Research
Don’t begin your letter of inquiry with “To Whom It May Concern.” No matter what kind of job you want, show off your ability to do basic internet research. Normally, you can find the mailing address of the company’s headquarters online. Often, you can find the names of employees on LinkedIn. Try to find the name and job title of the person most likely to become your manager. Alternatively, you could look for someone who has the job you want. At a number of companies, employees get referral incentives to recommend new hires. Either way, you should identify an individual to whom you can address your letter.
We advise tracking down a coworker or hiring manager rather than an employee in human resources. The reason? Well, if you have industry experience, you’ll be able to offer more value to someone working in your field. On the other hand, a student looking for an internship might be more successful reaching out to an HR professional. In that scenario, the student can offer to be a liaison with a student group or volunteer to drop off recruiting materials with career services.
Before you write to recipients, you should learn as much as possible about their jobs and their companies. Be sure to look at the company website, blog, social media channels, and any other resources you can find. You should also familiarize yourself with the company’s competitors and recent press.
Don’t Send a Cover Letter
You’ve probably already prepared a cover letter as part of your job search. A cover letter addresses your qualifications for a specific job posting. It’s sent as part of a job application, along with your resume. For a letter of inquiry, you won’t be able to use a job description to guide the language you use. Whereas a cover letter allows you to parrot the phrases of the posting to describe your skill set and previous employment, a letter of interest must be an authentic expression of what makes you unique.
The letter of inquiry should not contain a lengthy summary of your previous work. We recommend focusing on the inventive ways that you can add value. Only mention your work experience in order to establish your credibility. Otherwise, you can let your resume speak for itself.
When you write a letter of intent or a letter of inquiry, you should be as formal as possible in your presentation.
Here’s a template for the correct way to address a business letter:
[Sender’s Contact Information]
[Recipient’s Name with Honorific or Personal Title
In the first paragraph of your letter, introduce yourself and establish your credibility. Explain how you came to know about the particular company. Mention any employees you’ve met or conference presentations you’ve seen employees give. Make it clear that you would be interested in employment when an open role becomes available.
In the second paragraph, show that you would be a great potential employee by humbly offering to add value. Make sure that your recommendations are respectful. Even if you point out shortcomings (such as typos on a newsletter), try to approach the team as a problem-solver. Don’t suggest an initiative that the company has tried before or a partner that they’ve worked with in the past. Tailor your recommendations to your target company and showcase your research. Lastly, make suggestions that reflect the type of job you want. As an example, don’t offer to design new product packaging if you hope to secure a job in the finance department.
End With a Call to Action
An effective letter of interest ends with a call to action. We suggest requesting an informational interview, which will give you a chance to explain your ideas in more detail. Compared to a job interview, an informational interview has a more subtle goal. Meeting face-to-face allows you to make a human connection. That way, if you apply for a job later, the hiring manager will remember you.
During the meeting, you can also get information about the company’s challenges and hiring practices that could give you an advantage over other job seekers. For instance, you could learn that the company does most of their hiring through a particular recruiter. Small pieces of information can give you a head start, later, when you apply for a specific position.
When you’re done with your letter, sign off with a simple closing phase, such as “best regards” or “sincerely,” and your name. Don’t forget to attach your resume. Email or mail your letter of inquiry, and plan to follow up in two weeks if you don’t hear anything in response.