How to Write a Prospecting Letter, and When and Why You Need One
Contacting Organizations about Potential Internships
A prospecting letter, or letter of inquiry, is used to inquire about potential internships or job opportunities with a specific company when you’re unsure if they have any current openings. Prospecting letters are similar to cover letters in that they’re written in hopes of ultimately generating an interview; you just aren’t applying for an open position. Before you start writing, there are four things you should know:
Know Your Network
Take a moment to assess your network of contacts. If you’re a college student or graduate, check with your career development office to see if there are any alumni contacts at the company to which you’d like to apply. Maybe you share a LinkedIn connection with a current employee at the said company or you’re active in the same professional organization. Having a good connection never hurts and it can only boost your chances of obtaining a position.
Forget about addressing your prospecting letter “To whom it may concern.” It’s better to address your letter to a specific person within the organization: preferably someone with the authority to hire. You’re taking a chance by sending a prospecting letter, so odds are you’re truly interested in being a part of the company. Your enthusiasm should come across in the letter, but instead of writing something generic and gauche, like, “I’d love to have the opportunity to work for ABC, Inc. because it seems like such a cool company,” get into the details.
Research. Maybe you identify with their philosophy or you read a news article about the company that piqued your interest. Establishing a personal connection will make your interest evident.
Prospecting letter templates (like the one below) are great starting points, but you shouldn’t follow them word for word. Following a template simply helps to keep the letter organized, but following one too closely will make the letter read like you copied and pasted, plugging in certain information when necessary. Hiring managers pick up on that kind of inauthenticity. If you don’t think you sound like yourself, you probably don’t sound like yourself.
Keep the letter concise, too, and try to keep it under a page in length.
How to Send it
You want your prospecting letter to fall into the right hands and get results, so how should you send it? Email is fast and free, and if you email a recruiter, they can easily forward your letter to the appropriate contacts within the company. But inboxes fill up quickly, and your letter could end up getting lost in the shuffle. Unless you’re emailing human resources directly, there’s no way of knowing your letter got to the right people.
A hard-copy letter printed on nice paper, however, can really set you apart. Sure, you’ll have to pay for postage, but it’s a gutsy move that will show hiring managers and other higher-ups at the company that you’re really interested.
Sample Internship Inquiry Letter
415 Ocean Highway Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 11234
March 23, 20XX
Executive Marketing Director
Greenhouse Marketing Company
45 Blackhorse Rd.
Santa Anna, CA 34567
Dear Ms. White:
After researching a number of organizations for summer internships in the field of marketing, I was especially impressed with what I have read about Greenhouse Marketing Company and its mission to work directly with small businesses to increase visibility in the marketplace while creating an environment where they can compete with larger and more established firms.
In May, I will be completing my sophomore year at the University of Southern California and my plan is to major in marketing. I have a strong interest in business and management issues with a specific interest in the area of marketing. Through this type of hands-on experience, I hope to further develop my professional background in preparation for a position in the marketing field after graduating from college.
Enclosed is my resume offering a summary of my educational background and my previous internship experience in marketing. In addition to marketing, I also worked as a sales associate for Crystals in Los Angeles. I would appreciate the opportunity to further discuss the possibility of an internship with Greenhouse Marketing Company during a follow-up phone call next week. You can also contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (415) 324 – 5673.