Letter of Interest vs. Cover Letter: When to Utilize Each

Published October 12, 2021
employer reading cover letter of job applicant

Letters of interest and cover letters are both tools that job seekers can use when seeking employment. These documents are similar, but they are not exactly the same. The biggest difference lies with the circumstances under which one is needed instead of the other. Find out when to use a letter of interest vs. when to use a cover letter, and explore the differences between these two types of letters.

When to Use a Cover Letter

The time to use a cover letter is when you are applying for an open job at a company. If you are submitting an application or resume in response to an advertised job opening, you would need to submit a cover letter. Additionally, if you know of an open position at a company because you know someone who works there and they've offered to submit your resume for you, the letter you send should be a cover letter.

  • Some companies require cover letters with job applications. Even when a cover letter is not required, it is a good idea to send one to distinguish yourself from other job seekers.
  • Sending a cover letter with your application or resume allows you to pitch yourself in an engaging way to the person who is screening what is likely to be a lot of job applications.
  • A good cover letter lets your personality shine through more so than a resume or job application form does. As such, it adds a personal touch to your application and lets you make a case for why you should be considered for the role.
  • A cover letter also provides the person who is screening applications with insight into your ability to communicate effectively in writing, a skill that is necessary for most jobs.

The audience for a cover letter may be an HR or administrative employee whose job involves screening a barrage of applications. They need to narrow down candidates who will be invited to interview, or they may be the actual person who will make the hiring decision. In either case, a well-written cover letter will make your application stand out from the pack.

When to Use a Letter of Interest

A letter of interest is not submitted to apply to a specific open position. Instead, this type of letter is used to let a hiring manager or HR professional know that you are interested in joining the company's team whenever a position that you're qualified for becomes available. Job seekers send these types of letters as a way of promoting themselves to prospective employers who are not currently looking to fill a specific position.

  • A primary reason to send a letter of interest is to make a connection with a decision-maker at the company, who may then recognize your name and want to interview you when a position becomes available.
  • People who send letters of interest often get invited to participate in an informational interview, which allows them to learn more about the company, while making a positive impression on a decision-maker.
  • The person who receives your letter of interest may even invite you to interview before advertising the next position that becomes available, which could mean that you'll face less competition for the job.
  • Even if a position does not become available, the relationship that you initiate by sending a letter of interest can help you build your professional network and lead to referrals to other job opportunities.

The audience for a letter of interest is generally the person who oversees the department for which you would like to work. You'll need to research ahead of time to find out the name and title of the person who should be the addressee.

Powerful Tools for a Successful Job Search

Cover letters and letters of interest are both powerful tools for anyone who is searching for a job. When you're in the market for a new job, you definitely need to know how to write a cover letter to sell yourself to prospective employers. If you want to go beyond simply applying to open job postings, you may also find it beneficial to learn how to write a letter of interest that will help you stand out. Pairing this kind of letter with your resume and some follow-up phone calls may help you open doors to employment opportunities that you might never have learned about otherwise.

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Letter of Interest vs. Cover Letter: When to Utilize Each