Good Intentions: Writing the Letter of Intent

JANUARY 08, 2018
So, the initial meet-and-greet encounter at Midyear went well. You have selected the “perfect” program. Now, it is time to declare your intention in writing.

The letter of intent will be your first written statement expressing interest in the residency program. Take some time to develop your ideas for this letter. Explain why this program is a unique match for you, and be specific.

The letter should address:
  • Why is this specific residency program important to your success? Express how specific aspects of the program would help you meet and even exceed future career goals.
  • Do you have a unique experience that led you to choose this program? Your letter should separate you from other candidates. Remember that most people applying want to help patients and learn about pharmacy. Define what makes you uniquely able to follow your passions. Make your connection in the letter, and move to how you would grow from it. (My relative had breast cancer → I have a passion to study oncology, do research, talk to patients → I think your clinical team will provide the opportunities to make this possible.)
  • What types of residency rotations do you anticipate? What electives are you interested in completing? This is the time to state how past experiences from rotations, school, and work would help you benefit the prospective workplace. Be specific and concise.
  • Match your interests in the letter with experiences and rotations that your prospective program has to offer. If you want a teaching certificate, student precepting, etc., state it, but do your research. Do not request a component that the program does not offer.
  • Thank them for the taking the time to review your application, and evaluate your application for an interview.
Quick points:
  • Keep it to 1 page. The reviewer’s time and attention span are limited. Be respectful.
  • Write in letter format. Do not address the letter “To Whom It May Concern." Personalize greetings when possible.
  • Draft a different letter for each program with their unique advantages.
  • Have a trusted colleague or mentor critically evaluate the letter for goals, grammar, spelling, and tone. A letter of intent is personal, and it may be hard to receive constructive criticism. Remember you are sending it to future employers, and you do not want them to be your first critique. Grammar and spell check it twice.
  • Do not repeat your curriculum vitae. Tell them something they do not know about you.
  • The words in this letter should be heartfelt and honest. You will want to build on these themes in your interview.
If the letter of intent is being critically reviewed by the selection committee, you have made the first elimination round. Congratulations! Make each word and thought of the letter express your desire to be involved in their program. Plan, prepare, and execute. Good Luck!

This article was written with Emily Bilas, PharmD, PGY-1 resident, who is a clinical pharmacist at HCA West Florida Hospital in Pensacola, Florida. 

Jerry A. Barbee Jr., PharmD, BCPS, CPh
Jerry Barbee Jr., PharmD, BCPS, CPh, is a clinical hospital pharmacist in Pensacola, Florida. He is board-certified in Pharmacotherapy, a consultant pharmacist, ASHP immunizer and MAD-ID pharmacist. He has utilized these clinical pharmacist skills in both the community and institutional settings. Dr. Barbee is a residency preceptor and mentor to many students from multiple schools across the United States. He is honored to precept residents, introductory pharmacy practice students, and advanced pharmacy practice experience students. His primary area of interests are adult internal medicine and infectious disease, but his passion is for mentoring residents and students.