Striking up a conversation with a stranger can be difficult, especially when all you want to do is talk about yourself and your career goals. Writing a letter of introduction to a potential employer or professional contact can be far easier, and this kind of introduction can be a successful way to cold call about a job or explore a new career. A cover letter it's not. A cover letter merely transmits your resume, while a letter of introduction may stand on its own, so it needs to be interesting and engaging.
A letter of introduction that you send via email or regular mail is most appropriate when you want to express an interest in the company, especially when you need to explain why you're writing to the hiring manager. You send a cover letter to transmit your resume or if the job ad instructed applicants to include one. On the other hand, a letter of introduction can stand on its own. You're not applying for a specific job; you may not know if an opening even exists. Your goal is to introduce yourself to the manager.
Keep It Brief
Three to four paragraphs are fine for letter of introduction; one complete page should be sufficient area within which to introduce yourself to the reader and summarize your expertise. Include meaningful content, such as a synopsis of your sales records, a list of relevant publications or speaking engagements or, for lawyers, even a list of cases in which you've prevailed. This summary differs from what you would include in a cover letter because you needn't tailor it to a specific job or advertisement. Your letter of introduction can be a general overview of your career. Your points do need need to match the bullets in a job posting to prove how qualified you are for that particular role.
Capture Reader's Attention
The first paragraph of your introduction should compel the reader to learn more about you, and ideally, make plans to call or meet face-to-face. Start your letter with a short description of who you are and why you're writing. For example, if you learned from a colleague that the company is hiring sales reps for its new location, your introduction should contain the name of the person who referred you. You could write, "Last week, I bumped into John Smith, your sales manager. He spoke so highly of you and your company that I felt compelled to introduce myself and my capabilities in light of your search for extremely competent sales professionals." This isn't name dropping. It is merely using the mutual acquaintance's name to make the connection. The difference between this letter and a cover letter is that you're not responding to a job ad, and you can usually afford to be slightly less formal than you would in a cover letter.
Never copy and paste your resume into a letter of introduction, regardless of how impressive your background is. Naturally, you'll mention your current employment or the industry in which you're interested if you're unemployed. Summarize your work history in a paragraph or two, depending on the length of your career. In addition, explain why you're looking to make a change. Perhaps you're in pharmaceutical sales and you want to make the transition to medical device sales. Explain why you came to the conclusion that you'd be perfect for the field or the employer in which you're interested.
Not Your Typical Application
When you make new acquaintances, you probably share with them something about your personal interests. The rules for a letter of introduction may differ slightly from the ones that apply to employment applications -- but not much. Include personal interests such as belonging to a fraternal organization, coaching Little League or your love for traveling abroad only if it's relevant. For example, if you're interested in a teaching job overseas, weave into your introduction your level of cultural fluency gained through your travels.
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