Letter Of Intent Cover Letter Difference Between Type

What is the difference between a cover letter vs motivation letter? In most cases they both fall under the name of cover letter despite there being an extremely subtle variation. There are many other names used for a cover letter such as a covering letter, a motivational letter, a letter of interest and many more. However, they are all used in job or academic applications to persuade the recipient that they are the right choice.

What is the Difference Between a Cover Letter vs Motivation Letter?

A cover letter technically refers to the accompanying letter you use when applying for a job, while a motivation letter is for applying to university or a non-paid position. However, the word that most organisations will use for both criteria is the cover letter. It is more commonly used and more commonly understood, whether that be by professionals or students. To see the request of a motivation letter on any type of application will be rare but will encompass the same cover letter format whether you are required to write a cover letter for a job or a motivation letter for university. Generally speaking, the content of both letters is quite similar and the purposes are the same which is why using the title of cover letter to represent all types of letter of persuasion is much easier.

Subcategories of a Cover Letter

Despite the title cover letter being a general term used for all types of letters in this category, you might come across other names and be wondering what the differences are. These slight differentiations in title do not alter the cover letter format as they will all follow the same guidelines, instead adding some extra information to alter them for slightly different purpose:

  • Letter of Interest = asking about a possible job opening rather than a specific application
  • Networking Cover Letter = requesting help and assistance to look for a job
  • Referral Cover Letter = specific mention of someone who has referred you to this job position

Take a look at some cover letter examples that might be helpful in seeing the difference between a cover letter vs motivation letter.

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Cover letters and letters of interest seem to have similar functions. Both are used by prospective job applicants to make initial connect with a potential employer. However, the specific purposes, content and timing of each type of letter is very distinct. Knowing how to create the right letter based on your situation in the job search process is important.


A cover letter is typically used when contacting a hiring manager about your interest and qualifications for a specific job. A letter of interest, often called an inquiry, can be written by a college student looking for an internship opportunity or trying to find out about potential jobs with employers upon graduation. Working professionals use a letter of interest to feel out opportunities for positions at other companies.


A cover letter usually includes content specific to the job you target, whereas a letter of intent is more an overview of your background and mentions your interests. In a cover letter, you generally begin by stating your recognition of the company and the specific needs of the position. You then lay out how your accomplishments and experiences fit well with those critical job requirements. In a letter of interest, you share education or work experience, depending on your situation, and indicate why you want to know about opportunities with the company.

Job Status

A cover letter is written in response to a specific job posting. Your cover letter is normally submitted along with your resume, application and other materials requested by the hiring manager. A letter of interest is sent to a company without acknowledging a specific position. Instead, the interest letter is a lead into potential discussions about possible openings now or in the future.

Other Factors

The timing of the letters is distinct as well. You can send a letter of interest while still in college in the case of seeking an internship. As a worker, you can send a letter of interest anytime you want to learn about a company's opportunities. A cover letter is sent in the midst of a job search when you actively apply for certain positions. Effective cover letters should target the needs of each particular employer and job. Letters of interest are more often written similarly if you send them to multiple companies. Each generally outlines your background and interests. Whichever letter you write, customization is important to impacting a hiring manager.


About the Author

Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.

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