The optimal online application: cover letter

Everything you need to know about form, structure, and phrasing

"Please send us your complete application documents by mail." You rarely read this sentence nowadays, because online applications have long since become standard. But there are a few things to keep in mind when writing a cover letter.*

1. Cover letter: Form and format

Here you will find recommendations and standards for the form of the cover letter for your Online application.

The cover letter according to DIN 5008

The DIN 5008 standard applies voluntary standard for formatting business letters, which has also become established for the design of cover letters. DIN 5008 provides information on line spacing, emphasis and font types, font sizes, margins and other design elements.

The specifications are recommendations – and especially for applications, which are supposed to stand out from the rest of the mass of applicants through individuality, is not set in stone!


Basically three font families distinguish:

  • Serif fonts (Antiqua fonts) such as Times New Roman are used in book and newspaper printing and owe their name to the serifs, the small hooks on the letters. They are suitable above all for longer flow texts.
  • Sans serif fonts (Grotesque fonts) like Arial are used in advertising or magazines. They do without flourishes and check marks and are best readable due to their clear, straight-lined typeface.
  • cover letter like Monotype are based on the sweep of a brush or a quill and convey an artistic, playful image.

For online applications you should use sans serif fonts, because they are more readable on the screen than serif fonts.

The choice of font also depends on the position of the letter, for which you are applying. Extravagant fonts are not suitable for jobs in which a high degree of seriousness and trustworthiness is expected, such as in banks or legal departments. Here you rely on sans serif classics like Arial, Helvetica or Calibri.

The situation is different, however, in the Creative industry from: When applying for PR and advertising agencies or in the Marketing The font (as well as the entire page layout) can be a bit more unconventional. Garamond, Georgia, Verdana, or Cambria? The main thing is that the overall picture fits.

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Photo: fizkes/gettyimages

Font sizes

Good legibility is everything! For the font size in the cover letter, you should use the 12-14-16 rule (if you use serif fonts), or. 11-13-15 rule (if you use sans serif fonts), orient:

  • Font size 11 pt (or. 12 pt) for body text
  • Font size 13 pt (or. 14 pt) for subheadings, date and address fields
  • Font size 15 pt (or. 16 pt) for your own name in the header (and only there!)

Page margins

When choosing the margins you have a certain scope for design. Based on the page layout according to DIN 5008, the following margins have proven to be useful:

  • Left: 2.5cm (no smaller than 2.41 cm)
  • Right: 2.0 cm (at least 1.0 cm)
  • Top: 2.0 cm (at least 0.5 cm)
  • Bottom: 2.0 cm (at least 0.5 cm)

Line breaks and line spacing

The line spacing should be between 1-fold and 1.5-fold. Here you orientate yourself on the text length of your letter Cover letter. 1.15 line spacing is optimal; for shorter body text, increase this gradually until your cover letter is no longer "too empty" (at least 1.0 cm) appears.

After your own contact information (name, address and city, telephone and e-mail), the address field for the company to which you are applying is left-aligned. The address field always comprises 9 lines, where the first three lines are reserved for post notes. In the fourth line begins the company address. If the remaining 6 lines are not sufficient for the company address, you can use the 3 lines of the memo field.

2 blank lines follow, then right-justified the date, optionally in one of these formats:

  • 2015-10-15 Year-Month-Day
  • 15.10.2015 day.Month.Year
  • 15. October 2015 (note spaces!)

The subject line follows with a space of 2 blank lines from the date.

At a glance – line breaks in the cover letter:

  • 3 lines of notes
  • 6 lines company address
  • 2 blank lines
  • Date, right-justified
  • 2 blank lines
  • Subject
  • 2 blank lines
  • Salutation
  • 1 blank line
  • Letter text
  • Blank line
  • Greeting
  • Blank line
  • Your own name
  • 1 to 6 blank lines (signature and if applicable. postscript)
  • Appendix

Subject line

Most common mistake: Start the subject with "Subject:" begin. This is outdated and should be avoided at all costs! Only the exact job description belongs in the first subject line, supplemented by the reference number if necessary. It is possible to include further additions in a second reference line, such as "Please keep confidential", "Our telephone call from ?" or "Your job advertisement in the UNICUM Career Center from ?". The subject line is highlighted in bold.

The subject could look like this:

Junior Project Manager Application
Our phone call from 13. July 2015


In most Job advertisements will also indicate a contact person to whom you should address your application. If not, inquire on the company homepage or by phone for the responsible person.

If you are unable to find a contact person, write "Dear Sir or Madam, ?".

If two contact persons are indicated, you should name them one below the other and the "higher-ranking" contact person Staff First:

"Dear Ms. Schmidt,
Dear Mr. Muller, ?"

2. Cover letter: Structure and outline

The framework for your application is ready. Now it is time for, strike the right tone and convince the hiring manager of your merits. A basic formula of advertising psychology, the AIDA formula, can help here:

A Attention – create attention
I Interest – arouse interest
D Desire – to trigger a desire (to invite you for an interview)
A Action – Cause action (to invite you for an interview)

All four impulses should trigger your cover letter.

Job application experts recommend the I-Thou-We principle. In the "I" section of your application, you describe your skills, your suitability for the job and your motivation. This section starts with the introduction and should be the largest part of your cover letter. In the "you" section, you describe what prompted you to apply to the company, and in the "we" section, you establish a connection between your previous career and your intended job with the company.


As a rule, recruiters are allergic to introductory sentences such as "I hereby apply for the position of ?" – Finally, you have already stated the purpose of your letter in the subject line. Such phrases are redundant, show unimaginativeness and have no place in a cover letter.

As in Journalism and advertising also applies to the application: The first sentence should arouse the reader’s curiosity and interest. Start with the strongest argument why you are the right candidate for the position you are applying for.

There is often a fine line between self-confidence and megalomania.
And your strongest argument should be your qualifications: Relevant professional experience, further training, specialist knowledge and internships that match the job requirements, or a successfully completed degree.

Showcase your strengths confidently, but don’t let delusions of grandeur get the best of you! Sentences like "I am the ideal person for this job" make your application folder ideal for the wastebasket in the personnel office. Assess your knowledge realistically and emphasize objectively, what you are really good at.

Main body

Ideally, in the body of your cover letter, you should link your qualifications with your motivation for applying for this exact position at this exact company. You can do this, for example, by citing the inspiring interview with the head of the company or by expressing your fascination with a particular product of the company.

Furthermore, you justify your suitability for the job by going into detail about the specific job requirements from the job advertisement and by mentioning your knowledge and skills. If you have done similar work before, describe it in detail and make it clear how it will benefit you in the desired position.

You are a team player, committed and flexible? Your competitors are sure to do the same in their application texts. Evidence is better than mere assertions. If you have already been responsible for a successful group project in your previous job, you can use this to demonstrate your ability to work in a team. You have worked abroad for your last company for a few months? A helpful indication of your flexibility and mobility.

Conclusion& Greeting

In the final sentence you signal your intention to introduce yourself in a personal interview. Avoid the subjunctive ("I would be pleased to receive an invitation to an interview") and overly demanding phrases ("When may I appear for the interview?")?"). Better: I am pleased about your invitation to a personal interview.

3. Cover letter: Formulations

An appealing cover letter provides the right arguments for a job appointment. Oh-what-is-your-company-awesome-exclamations, exaggerations, relativizations (maybe, actually, pretty, etc.) and low-level talk you should save yourself and provide justifications without further ado, Why you deserve the job.

You package your arguments in short, precise sentences. Use active language with strong verbs and avoid auxiliary verbs ("I am proficient in several programming languages") instead of "I have learned several programming languages").

At a glance – how to make your cover letter a success:

  • NoIntroductory sentence example from the application guide verbatim!
  • No standard phrases ("herewith I apply", "with great interest")!
  • put yourself in the role of the personnel manager and read your cover letter thoroughly – Would you hire you?
  • No convoluted sentences and unnecessarily complicated wording, but rather Short sentences in clear language!
  • Avoid redundancy: Does every sentence really contain new information?
  • Active language, Avoid passive constructions

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