Job hunting can be fierce, and overcoming competition has never been tougher. Taking initiative and contacting the hiring manager with a formal letter can help you stand out from the crowd.
But the question is: do you need to send a letter of interest or a cover letter? Is there even a difference?
Well, at first glance, both letters seem similar, but a thorough letter of interest vs cover letter comparison tells a different story!
- Letter of Interest vs Cover Letter: Overview
- Letter of Interest vs Cover Letter: Contents
- Letter of Interest vs Cover Letter: Length
- Letter of Interest vs Cover Letter: When to Send Them
- Letter of Interest vs Cover Letter: How to Write Them
- Sample Letter of Interest for a Job
- Cover Letter Examples
- Wrapping Up
Letter of Interest vs Cover Letter: Overview
A look at the basic definitions can help us understand the subtle differences between the two letters.
Is a Letter of Interest the Same as a Cover Letter?
No, despite having similarities in formatting, letters of interest and cover letters aren’t the same.
One is sent in response to a specific job posting, while the other is more exploratory.
What is a Letter of Interest?
A letter of interest is a formal document that a job seeker sends to an employer to show an interest in joining their company.
What is a Cover Letter?
Historically, cover letters were formal business letters that added context to an accompanying document.
In the world of recruitment and job hunting, a cover letter is sent with a resume to show the recruiter why the candidate is interested in a job posting and why they’re a good fit.
Letter of Interest vs Cover Letter: Contents
Both are formal documents that follow the standard business letter layout and include the following contents:
- Contact information
- Recipient address
- Opening paragraph
- Middle paragraph(s)
- Closing paragraph
That said, a close inspection will show you that the content isn’t the same in both cases.
Letter of Interest Contents
Since the letter of interest is sent unpromoted, the opening paragraph is your chance to add some context. You’ll want to let the employer know how you came across their company and why you’re interested in working there.
You’ll get a chance to boast about your achievements in the middle paragraph. This section should “sell” your skill sets to a potential employer.
Cover Letter Contents
The opening paragraph of a cover letter is heavily focused on the job ad. It gives the applicant a chance to know that they understand the job description well.
Middle sections in cover letters also have more content than the average letter of interest. In fact, you can use two paragraphs in the middle to tie your skill sets to specific keywords in the job requirements.
Letter of Interest vs Cover Letter: Length
Both formal letters should be brief—they’ll hardly ever fill an entire page!
Yet, the context behind each one demands that letters of interest be shorter than the average cover letter.
How Long is a Letter of Interest?
A hiring manager doesn’t expect to receive a letter of interest, so you need to be concise and get right to the point. Otherwise, you’ll lose their interest in a blink.
Ideally, the letter of interest should be three paragraphs long, with around 200 words.
That’s why some job seekers craft letters of interest by summing up their cover letters.
How Long is a Cover Letter?
Cover letters are less of a “surprise” to employers since they probably asked for them explicitly in the job posting. This means you can make them longer, but you still don’t want to turn them into a full-blown essay.
Aim to keep the cover letter at 3-4 paragraphs. The document should be around half a page long with a word count of 200-400 words.
That said, the exact length will vary depending on the cover letter formats you choose.
Letter of Interest vs Cover Letter: When to Send Them
Unlike resumes and CVs, letters of interest and cover letters aren’t a standard requirement for every application. The trick is to know when to use each one.
When to Send a Letter of Interest
You can send a letter of interest if you have your eye on a particular position, but can’t find a suitable match on job search sites.
In this case, you’ll look for the top employers in the field and craft a letter of interest for each one to see if they’re hiring.
Even if they’re not hiring at the moment, a letter of interest is a great way to get yourself into their talent pool. This way, the recruiter can get in touch when they have a vacancy.
Some people use the letters to boost their chances of getting into their desired residency programs.
When to Send a Cover Letter
People send cover letters along with their resumes or CV in response to an ad for a job opening.
Some experts recommend sending a cover letter even if the employer doesn’t explicitly ask for it. In fact, one survey found that more than 70% of hiring managers think a cover letter gives the candidate a competitive edge.
Cover letters also come in handy if you have a personal connection with the recruiter or are applying through a referral.
Letter of Interest vs Cover Letter: How to Write Them
The main difference between writing a cover letter and a letter of interest is the amount of research you’ll need.
Other than that, the writing steps are more or less the same.
How to Write a Letter of Interest
Here’s how you can gather information and use it to shape your letter of interest:
- Search the company’s website for its vision, goals, achievements, and culture.
- Use the information from the previous step to praise the company in the opening paragraph.
- Find the company’s employers in the same department you want to join on LinkedIn to see if they don’t mind sharing their duties and career paths.
- In the middle paragraph, tie your skills and work experience to the information from the previous step.
- Wrap up the letter of interest with a closing paragraph that includes a call to action (CTA).
- Pick a neutral sign-off like “Best Regards.”
How to Write a Cover Letter
To craft an efficient cover letter, follow these steps:
- Start with a business letter in block format (left-justified text without indents).
- Tweak the cover letter greeting if you know the hiring manager’s name.
- Steer away from generic openers like “My name is X” and use a creative hook.
- Explain how your skills match the job requirements in the first middle paragraph.
- Use the second middle paragraph to highlight achievements (use statistics!).
- Add a compelling CTA when you’re ending a cover letter.
Sample Letter of Interest for a Job
To get the creative juices flowing, check out the following sample letter of interest for an English teacher:
Your contact information
Dear Hiring Manager/employer’s name,
As an English teacher with six years of experience, I was thrilled to come across an article about your reputable school on . Your unique perspective on empowering students through reading initiatives compelled me to get in touch.
I currently teach bright eighth-graders at [school name], with a particular passion for planning extracurricular activities. The highlight of my job is seeing my students celebrate their reading lists at the end of the year. So far, 63% of my students have achieved their extracurricular reading goals without compromising their academic performance.
The idea of extending my career at [school name] is exciting, and I’d appreciate the chance to discuss my plans for the academic year with you. I’m available all weekdays after 2 pm at [phone number].
I look forward to hearing from you.
Cover Letter Examples
Here’s how the previous letter would look if it was sent in response to a job ad:
Your contact information
Dear Hiring Manager/employer’s name,
I’ve been following your institute’s teaching techniques and goals for a while, so my thrill was unmatched when I came across the job opening for an English teacher at [school name]. I believe you’re searching for a seasoned teacher capable of handling large classes and channeling students’ energy into productive activities. That’s why I think you’ll find the skill sets in my enclosed resume to be a good fit for the role.
Your job listing mentions that you need someone familiar with [software], which is one of my areas of expertise since I’ve used it to plan my classes for more than six years at [current school name]. When my current school first started using [software], I was glad to take a couple of training sessions and pass on the tips to my fellow teachers.
I was also excited to see that [school name] caters to students’ development through reading initiatives and competitions. The highlight of my job is always seeing my students celebrate their reading lists at the end of the year. So far, 63% of my students have achieved their extracurricular reading goals without compromising their academic performance. In fact, I managed to improve the average grade in my class from 75% to 91% last year!
I’d love the chance to help your school excel in its extracurricular programs. I’m available at [phone number] and would greatly appreciate the chance to discuss my qualifications and work experience in detail.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Letters of interest are similar to cover letters in format, but the main difference is that they’re sent unsolicited instead of being a response to a job posting.
Once you get the hang of it, you should be able to write both cover letters and letters of interest in under an hour!
Leave a comment below if you still have questions about the subtle differences between the two formal letters, and we’ll get back to you.