The Cover letter: the first impression

What distinguishes me? Why am I the ideal candidate for this position? The focus keyword doesn’t appear in the first paragraph of the copy. Make sure the topic is clear immediately. Precisely these questions are the ones that you have to answer in a cover letter. The cover letter is the personal part of a job application, where you argue in a nutshell why you are especially suitable for the job.

In a nutshell means: do not repeat your whole CV! Instead, enumerate the skills, experiences and qualifications that are relevant for the new job. Only point out the parts in your CV that coincide with the new position – this applies to the extent of the letter too: the text should fit without fail in a DIN A4 page.

Step by step: this is how a cover letter looks like

The subject line

The addressee should be able to allocate the application at a glance just by reading the subject line. This is why it should contain the following information:

  • What type of application is it? (Application for a job vacancy or an unsolicited application)
  • As what am I applying for? (Profession, occupation, e. g. bricklayer, sales representative).
  • What job advertisement am I referring to? (Source of information, e. g. newspaper with publication date).

Form of address

The following applies to the form of address: better to be specific than general. If possible, address the recipient directly by their name. The name is often mentioned in the job advertisement. Should this not be the case, you can call and ask to whom it should be addressed. Instead of writing a formal ‘Sehr geehrte Frau …’ (‘Dear Ms. …’), a more casual approach like ‘Guten Tag Frau…’ (‘Hello, Ms. …’) is also suitable. You cannot find out who the contact person is? When in doubt, you can resort to the more general form of address ‘Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren’ (‘Dear Sir or Madam’).

The text

The main text of a cover letter can be structured in the following order:

1. Motive for the application

why am I applying exactly for this position?
You should refer to your interest in the position and the company in the first part of the letter. What motivated you to apply there? What part of the job advertisement appealed to you? You should answer these questions in this section. In the first line you can refer to, for example, a previous contact (‘nach unserem Telefongespräch vom…’ (‘After our telephone callfrom… ‘)), or a source of information (‘die in Ihrer Annonce beschriebene Tätigkeit…‘, ‘über Ihren Mitarbeiter XY konnte ich erfahren…‘ (‘the position described in your advertisement’, ‘through your employee XY I was able to find out that…’)).

2. Qualifications and experience

What can I contribute to this position?
Your knowledge, skills and experiences are in the foreground in the second part of the letter. Focus on the qualifications that are relevant for the new job. What skills and experiences were you able to acquire in your previous studies and jobs that are now sought after for this particular position? (‘Ich verfüge über umfangreiche Erfahrungen…’, ‘Ich habe gelernt…’ or ‘Ich konnte bereits…’ (‘My experience in … is wide ranged’, ‘I learnt to…’ or ‘I was already able to…’)).

3. Motives for the application

Why do I want this job? What do I like to do? What do I want? Why there?
Show that you really want the job! Your motivation for the new tasks should become apparent in the third part of the cover letter.For example, you can positively emphasize specific characteristics of the position according to your point of view (‘An dieser Stelle (Tätigkeit) gefällt mir besonders…’, ‘Ich will gerne…’, ‘Ich kann…’, ‘…neue Herausforderung.’ oder ‘…reizt mich.’ (‘What I like the most about this position (job) is…’, ‘I would like to…’, ‘I can …’, ‘… is a new challenge’ or ‘… appeal(s) to me’)).

4. Closing of the cover letter

Contact me!
The main goal of the application is that the addressee becomes interested in you and thus contacts you. This is what you indicate in the last part of the letter. Here you should express the wish to be invited to an interview. If asked for in the job advertisement, this is where you also indicate your salary expectations and your earliest starting date. You can also include a brief explanation regarding special aspects of your CV. The text ends with the following: ‘Mit freundlichem Gruß’ or ‘Mit freundlichen Grüßen’. Do not forget your signature!

Courage to act – the unsolicited application

You want to work for a certain company – but they do not have any job vacancies at the moment? Then an unsolicited application is the right way to go! With an unsolicited application you enquire in a company if there is a vacant job post or if there will be one in the near future. For this matter, you offer your work and present yourself along with your skills and knowledge.

1. Motivation: Why am I applying?

Why am I applying for a job in this very company? Is there a special reason for my application? What am I applying for exactly? These are the questions that you should answer in the first part of the unsolicited application. You are unemployed or the mood in your current job is negative?

These are not persuasive reasons! It is better to express your interest in the company and a new position (‘…will ich meine Erfahrungen bei Ihnen einbringen’ (‘… I want to share my experience with you’) or ‘Ich suche ein neues Aufgabenfeld, wo ich … kann.’ (‘I am looking for a new scope of tasks, where I can…’)).

2. Skills: What can I contribute?

What knowledge and skills can I contribute with? What advantage does the company have by employing me? Show them what you can do! Elaborate on a selection of your experiences and knowledge that could be interesting for the prospective position or employer.

3. Conclusion: Contact me!

A good final line will convince the addressee to contact you and invite you to a personal interview. In addition, you can write that you are in expectation of a prospect or suggestion regarding a further course of action or you can express your hopes of being hired.

Your signboard – the application documents

The order of the documents in a job application portfolio is the following:

1. Cover letter

In an envelope, either lose in the job application portfolio or as the first page in a (clip) file folder. If using another type of portfolio or folder, do not put the letter in a clear pocket or bind it.

2. Curriculum vitae

For some work sectors, it is common to create a cover page for the job application portfolio. If you do add one, by all means with a picture and your signature.

3. School Certificates

All important leaving certificates/degrees and job references should be arranged consecutively in a chronological order: The most recent one behind your CV and the oldest one right in the back.

4. Further Certificates

Arranged in the proper order between the school certificates or directly behind the CV, if they might be relevant for the desired position.

Checklist for your documents

  • Use a font that looks good and is easy to read (e. g. Verdana, Tahoma, Europa, Comic Sans, etc.).
  • Spelling, grammar and punctuation should be flawless. If you have difficulties with this, let a competent person look over your application.
  • Stick your application photo to the cover page or CV. Do not hold it with a paperclip at all!
  • Check if your cover letter and CV are signed.
  • Only send photocopies of your certificates and diplomas.
  • The name of the company must be written correctly and be complete.