My Process for Writing a Letter of Intent

I just finished writing a letter of intent for a position I applied to.  I thought it would be valuable to share my process, to serve as inspiration for you if you are stuck or struggling with what to write.

Step 1) Review the job description.  I read through the entire job description, even though I have a pretty good idea of what it entails.  There weren’t any surprises, but if I had noticed anything noteworthy, I would have addressed it in my letter.

Step 2) What do they want? The job description specified they want a CV, three references, and “letter of interest describing teaching, research, leadership/administrative philosophies, and a vision of the Department’s role in the College and University.”  This is a little bit different from a faculty letter of intent description, particularly the vision piece.  Fortunately, I’ve written some applications for administrative positions before so have some experience writing vision statements.

Step 3) Research.  I reviewed the Office of Academic Affairs’ website, copied the mission to the top of my letter for reference, and researched the search chair’s information.  I already knew the people involved, since I am applying where I already work, but I re-read the mission statement several times while I wrote my letter to make sure I was addressing the key components.

Step 4) Re-read old letters.  As I mentioned, I have written letters with a vision statement before, and written dozens of letters of intent.  I reviewed the most recent ones for turns of phrase I liked, or concepts I think are important to include.  I originally tried copying and pasting them, but ultimately decided I needed to do a letter from scratch.  I did copy and paste some specific segments and sentences.

Step 5) Outline.  I know this seems like something you don’t do after leaving middle school, but trust me, it’s valuable.  I had four domains to touch on: teaching, research, leadership, and a vision.  I started with broad concepts that underlie my whole professional approach.  Then I put each of those domains into their own section and wrote.

Step 6) Review.  I re-read the whole thing a few times and used the spelling/grammar checker.

Step 7) Peer review.  I just sent 13 emails to friends, peers, former supervisors, former mentees, and my wife for feedback.  As I always say, have others review your materials!  I got some substantive, very helpful feedback which dramatically improved the letter while keeping it my own work.

Step 8) Revise.  Take the various pieces of conflicting advice you get from soliciting feedback and make it your own.  Once you are happy with the revisions, you are done!

It can be daunting tackling such an intimidating task as writing a letter of intent.  Particularly for internships and residencies, the letter is a very important part of your application.  If you have trouble, see my basic guide for writing a letter, and I hope my process here is inspirational.

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