The cover letter should convince recruiters that you are the perfect fit for the job and that you are also a good human fit for the company. And it’s best to do it without standard phrases, so you stand out from the crowd. We give you tips on how to build your cover letter step by step and additionally free samples to download.
How to write a cover letter?
- The cover letter should state the position you are applying for, why you would like to work for this company and why you are the perfect person for the job.
- The cover letter does not simply summarize your resume. In the motivation letter, you combine the requirements from the job advertisement with your skills.
- The cover letter is usually one A4 page long.
- Make sure that the layout of the cover letter is consistent. Font: Arial, Helvetica, Calibri o.a., Font size: 10 to 12 point.
- Depending on the industry, you need to communicate the right skills.
- The cover letter differs only slightly from the motivation letter or the English cover letter. Letter of Motivation; often the terms are used synonymously.
Tips for the job search
The cover letter must be absolutely error-free! So be very careful when writing a cover letter for your application and be sure to have someone proofread it before you send it out.
Cover letter: This belongs in the content
Regardless of whether it is called a cover letter, a letter of motivation or a letter of application, they all have the same structure. Your cover letter should be at best one DIN A4 page long, at most two. And in contrast to the resume, where you have a lot of creative freedom, there are standards for the layout and structure here.
We have illustrated the structure of the cover letter once again in a sample:
You start at the top with the sender, i.e. your address, and directly below that follows the address of the company that will receive your application. Place and date are right-justified below the letter.
This is followed by the subject, which is the only element in the cover letter that is written in bold. Then the body text begins with the salutation of the contact person. In the first paragraph you should formulate a short introduction, followed by the main part of the cover letter. Here you describe why you are applying to exactly this company for exactly this advertised position and why you are perfectly suited for this position.
The cover letter ends with a paragraph of farewell, in which you ask for a personal meeting or interview. The last element in the cover letter is your digital or hand signature.
Cover letter – free samples
Writing is often easier if you are not sitting in front of a blank sheet of paper. There are samples and templates for exactly this purpose. Whether for the long-established traditional company or the hip start-up: with our free templates, we want to give you ideas of what your cover letter could look like. You can choose between a classic sample, a creative sample or a modern sample – so you have a great template for every industry and every type of person. You can download the samples as a Word file or as a PDF.
Subject and salutation in the cover letter.
The cover letter of an application always has a subject. It is usually formatted in bold as the only part of the text. In the past, the first word in the subject line was "Subject" – this is now considered obsolete. In the subject of the cover letter, write only the exact position you are applying for, with reference number if given, for example:
- Application for the position of Sales Manager, Ref.-No. 0123-4567
- Unsolicited application for an internship in HR/Personnel Development
After the subject follows the salutation. Here you should definitely write to a contact person. In many job offers, contact persons are already mentioned, usually employees from the personnel department. If the job offer does not contain a name, you can ask for the exact contact persons on the company’s homepage or by phone. In an extreme emergency, write as a salutation "Dear Sir or Madam, …". But you should really avoid this!
The salutation "You" and "Your" is always capitalized in letters and thus also in the cover letter!
The introduction of your cover letter
Already in the subject line you have referred to the position you are applying for or., Which job ad you are responding to or whether you have started a speculative application. So you don’t have to repeat this line.
- The introduction is now mainly about arousing interest.
- The introduction in the cover letter should not be longer than three to four lines.
Don’t be afraid of the blank page. You don’t have to be insanely creative. But 08/15 formulations such as "I hereby apply for the position as …" or "Enthusiastically I have read your job advertisement …", you should forget immediately. It’s just boring and shows you put little effort into it. Quotes or sayings from any poets, thinkers and intellectuals are also out of place in a job application.
It is much more individual if you directly include your qualifications from your studies, work experience or internships in the first sentence of your cover letter. Here are a few examples as a template:
- "For the position as Display Manager, I already bring initial experience in Google Analytics through an internship at XYZ."
- "What do you need for the position as Sales Assistant? Ambition and communication skills! These are exactly the qualities I was able to demonstrate as the campaign manager for our student newspaper."
- "Solving problems and bringing about change are qualities that drive me as a design engineer and that I will also demonstrate at XYZ."
Or you can start with a short question that fits the position and the industry. For example:
- "You are looking for someone with an interest in working with people and experience in personnel development?"
- "What makes for good content and how do you manage to get readers excited about a product?? These are the questions I will get to the bottom of during my internship in the online editorial department at XYZ."
A good way to start is to refer to a telephone conversation you have already had with recruiters, if you have called before. It does not get more personal than this.
If it’s a formal position, z. B. a finance job, the cover letter should be a bit more formal. For a marketing job, on the other hand, it’s okay to be a little more fancy. But in any case, the first sentence must be individual, so that the application immediately stands out positively.
Convince in the main part with soft skills and motivation
Once you’ve got your introduction in the bag, the body of your cover letter will go into detail about why you’re perfect for the job. As the name implies, this is where you lay out your motivation for applying. It is important to go through the job advertisement carefully. In the "Requirements" or "What you bring to the table" field, list what skills are required.
Take out these points and write a bullet point for each requirement, how you can support it with your experience and acquired qualifications. Example:
- "Experience working with CRM programs" = working student job
- "Fluency in English" = three-month stay abroad in Canada
- "Confident appearance and creation of presentations" = seminar project in cooperation with a company
Then you can formulate these key points for the cover letter: "During my three-month stay abroad in Canada, I was not only able to gain experience in a different culture, but also to perfect my English skills, both written and spoken, by participating in school classes."
If you’re not sure about this, you can read our article on language skills for job applications to find out how best to state them.
In addition, so-called soft skills are also always required at the end of the job advertisement. You should also elaborate on these in bullet points, and support them with longer stays abroad (studies, internship, work& Travel), honorary positions, awards, hobbies, special talents, and extraordinary experiences provide evidence. Example:
- "Ability to work in a team" = organization of school parties or member of a sports club
- "Analytical thinking skills" = university project to create a prototype
- "Assertiveness" = acting as a tutor for younger students
You then have to formulate complete sentences from this, for example: "As a tutor at my school, I organized the summer festival for the fifth grade as part of the team. Especially when working with younger students, a high level of assertiveness is required to ensure that procedures run smoothly and the previously agreed framework points are adhered to."
A mere list of positive competencies is dismissed by recruiters as a standard phrase. However, if you link your soft skills to specific activities in the cover letter, the self-portrayal will appear authentic. This is how you arouse the interest of HR managers and also create points of contact for the interview.
The last paragraph in the cover letter
The last paragraph of the cover letter provides additional information, e.g. B. The earliest possible start date or salary requirement, if this is requested in the job advertisement. You always state the salary as a gross amount. You don’t really have an idea of what salary to state? Then take a look at our salary comparison in order to determine a realistic gross salary.
In addition, you should refer to a personal interview in the last paragraph of your motivation letter. However, avoid subjunctive phrases such as: "I would be happy to hear from you". Such formulations come across as too coy. Better:
- "I am looking forward to an invitation to Stuttgart for a job interview. I would like to convince you in a personal interview of my abilities and my motivation for the job as a business economist."
- "Are you convinced? Then I would be pleased to have the opportunity for a personal interview in your company."
- "If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me by phone or e-mail."
Before your signature, there is the obligatory "Sincerely yours". Put your full name below it or. Your digital or hand signature.
After the greeting formula "Sincerely yours" you don’t put a comma, but directly a line break.
Signature: This is how your cover letter ends
Your cover letter ends with your signature between the greeting "Sincerely yours" and your typed name (first and last). A signature is not mandatory for an electronic application, but for an e-mail or online application, it looks more complete and professional if you scan your signature for the cover letter and insert it between the greeting and the typed name.
Avoid signatures with felt-tip pens, pencils, fineliners, etc. and use only a ballpoint pen or fountain pen instead.
Signatures are made only in blue or black ink.
PS in the cover letter?
The postscript, or PS for short, is used to append something to a text that does not quite fit the body of the text, for example. It is very short; the PS is one or at most two sentences long and is hardly ever used nowadays. A PS is very rarely used in a cover letter, but that doesn’t mean you should never use it. Because while a cover letter might be skimmed by recruiters, a PS will always be read. A PS finally catches the eye.
If you decide to use a PS in your cover letter, the most important thing is to use a professional and relevant phrase. A sentence like: "PS: I don’t know how to convert my resume from Word to a PDF, hope that’s ok" is an absolute no-go.
Especially in a creative cover letter, however, you could use a PS like: "PS: You are looking for a candidate who also shines in front of the camera? Then take a look at my YouTube channel "Example three"." Add important information to your cover letter. Also a call-to-action such as: "PS: You can reach me in the evenings or at weekends on 0123 456 78 9" may go over well with recruiters.
Whether or not you ultimately decide to apply for a PS should depend on the company and the position you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for a position in consulting at a traditional company, a PS is probably not appropriate. You should also note that your signature belongs in front of the PS, otherwise it wouldn’t be a PS after all.
The PS is written only in English with a dot after the letters (P.S.), if you write your cover letter in German, you only need to append a colon (PS:).
While we’ve already given you some cover letter samples and examples earlier in the article, there are certain situations where you need to adapt your cover letter. That’s exactly why you’ll get special sample letters here again. You then only have to copy the appropriate example and adapt it to your cover letter. Of course, you must not use the examples 1:1. You can also combine them with the other examples and samples as you wish.
Especially in larger companies, speculative applications can be very worthwhile, because there are often many positions there that have not yet been advertised. A cover letter for a speculative application could look like this:
Unsolicited application as Recruiting Manager at the Boblingen location
Dear Ms. Bahlsen,
Only the convinced convince! We are not only united by our fascination for automobiles, but above all by the guiding principle that employees are the engine of a company. Since CARMOBIL AG, according to a press release, is expanding its Boblingen location in the next few months and new positions will be filled for this purpose, I would be happy if I could successfully support you in the recruiting process with my professional and personal skills. I see your expansion as an opportunity for me to send you a speculative application for the recruiting department.
Already during my master studies I focused on human resource management and dealt with the "influence of digitalization on the recruiting process of medium-sized companies", especially with the possibilities of using social media for applicant recruitment and applicant analysis. I would also like to share the insights gained in this example with your company and apply them in practice.
In addition, as part of my compulsory internship at Sinclair-Jones, I gained initial experience in applicant administration – from writing the requirements profile and entering applicants in the database to preparing and conducting interviews. Since your company also operates internationally, it goes without saying that I can also communicate fluently and confidently in English.
I hope to benefit from your collegial team and expertise in the job and applicant environment, as well as help shape and execute the application process from A to Z. In addition, I take great pleasure in the further development of personnel marketing and it is a personal concern of mine to support people on their career path. So it would be not only a professional but also a personal enrichment for me to become part of the CARMOBIL family and to keep the engine running successfully.
I am at your disposal from June this year. I would also be happy to convince you in a personal interview.
The cover letter for an internship is particularly difficult – after all, it is often the first cover letter in your life. A cover letter for an internship could look like this:
Application for an internship in the area of controlling/finance
Dear Ms. Hess,
I see my professional perspective with you, the world market leader in the field of health and nutrition, and would therefore like to take the opportunity to apply for an internship in the field of finance and controlling. I would be happy to gain new experience with you – are you ready for this as well??
I am currently in the final phase of my bachelor’s degree in Finance& Accounting at the Frankfurt School of Finance& Management and I am writing my bachelor thesis on the topic "Application of Capital Market Models in SMEs: Advantages and Disadvantages. Already during my bachelor studies I dealt more extensively with number-heavy topics in the corporate environment and intensively studied controlling as a measure for the coordination of corporate management.
During a semester abroad at Tongji University in Shanghai, I was able to expand and consolidate my English vocabulary in addition to building up international contacts. Dealing with numbers and tables in any form has been in my blood since my first math Olympiads at school.
During an internship at the auditing company KPMG in Frankfurt, I intensified my Excel skills in the internal preparation and analysis of data sets and an additional course "Spreadsheet for advanced students".
To relax, I enjoy nature whenever there is time, usually on an extensive tour by mountain bike or on a hike through the mountains. We are not only connected by our love for numbers, but also by our passion for health: A lot of exercise for a good body feeling as well as a balanced lifestyle are very important to me.
I am looking forward to enriching the Schwarz Group as an intern with my knowledge and skills in the area of finance and controlling. I am available for a personal interview at any time.
With kind regards
Similar to the cover letter for an internship, a cover letter for the first job can also be particularly tricky. Your cover letter could be worded like this:
Application for a traineeship in the editorial department
Dear Ms. Muller,
True to the motto: "Choose a profession you love and you won’t have to work a day in your life", I would like to turn my vocation, my passion for writing and creating my own small works, into a profession. Therefore, I would like to take the next step on my career path together with you, a very experienced PR agency in B2B business. In your company, a lot of importance is attached to a free scope for own ideas and personal development possibilities, which is the decisive factor for me to introduce myself to you.
My biggest writing project at the moment is dedicated to "Journalistic Success Models in Online Media" as part of my Bachelor’s thesis, which also deals with classical and digital forms of presentation. I expect to successfully complete my studies in April of this year. Already in my school days I showed my skills as a word acrobat in the planning and realization of the Abi newspaper.
I am currently gaining further experience in the editorial environment as a working student by supporting Musterverlags GmbH twice a week in writing editorial texts on digital trends for the online tech department and in proofreading. In the process, I have developed especially the routine writing of texts and my self-organization in finding topics. I also helped design and implement content marketing campaigns at the online magazine XY and improved my strategic skills.
I like to spend my free time traveling to distant countries and immersing myself in foreign cultures. I passionately share these fascinating experiences with the world in my small but beautiful travel blog XY. A traineeship in your agency gives me the option to learn the ins and outs of PR copywriting and at the same time contribute my diverse experience in the travel field. Due to my stay abroad in Australia, texting in English is no problem for me.
Can you imagine accompanying me on my career entry into the media world and going on a joint project trip with me in the future?? Then I look forward to getting to know you personally.
With kind regards
How late should I send my cover letter??
You probably know that you should not send your application and cover letter on the day of the application deadline. But time and day of the week are also important when sending your cover letter by email. We’re about to explain why.
If you’ve been sitting on your cover letter all day and don’t finish it until late in the evening, it’s best to sleep on it one more night before sending it off. If you have been working on your cover letter for a long time, you may not be able to see the forest for the trees and mistakes may creep in. That’s why it’s a good idea to proofread your cover letter one last time the next day with a fresh look and only then send it out. Also, it looks negative to recruiters when they get an email at 23:50.
In addition to the time at which you send your application and cover letter, you should also pay attention to the day of the week on which you send your e-mail. Emails sent on a Friday or during vacations can easily get lost in the flood of emails received by recruiters over the weekend or vacations.
If you send your application and cover letter by mail, you must also take into account that the mail can take several days, especially on weekends or holidays. So plan enough time before the application deadline.
Most e-mail programs now have a function that allows you to set when you send your e-mails. So simply set an optimal time there, for example on a Tuesday at 9 am, and plan ahead for your application that way.
Typical cover letter problems
Writing a cover letter is always difficult, especially when you don’t have a conventional resume. We will now show you how best to address typical difficulties in your resume in your cover letter.
Gaps in your resume
Whether it is due to illness, family matters or time off; gaps in the resume occur and are completely normal. After all, the working world is more flexible than ever these days – staying with one employer for more than five years is unusual. That is why more and more workers have a colorful resume without a common thread.
Nevertheless, it is important that you address and explain any gaps in your resume. Especially if you have shown initiative during this time, for example, if you have done further training or learned a new language, you can score points in your cover letter. This shows that you are independent and self-motivated.
But as with everything else in your cover letter and application, be honest and don’t just tout a movie you saw in French as a language course. In the end, it’s called having the courage to fill in the gaps! As long as you are transparent about the gaps in your resume and give positive reasons for them, you will be able to score points in your cover letter even with gaps in your resume.
Lack of work experience
There are more and more job advertisements that ask for professional experience even for junior or trainee positions. Of course, this can be a deterrent, especially if you have had little or no work experience so far.
But lack of work experience should not deter you from applying for a job. Work experience does not only include jobs in the classical sense – experiences such as a stay abroad or a research project at university can also qualify you for a job. A stay abroad proves that you have language skills and a research project shows that you have already dealt intensively with the topic. Therefore, in your cover letter, you should also mention experiences like these and explain why they are relevant to your application.
But you can also make a general lack of professional experience in your cover letter in your favor, using sentences like:
"While I only have two years of work experience, in that time I have performed tasks that are at the level of an Intermediate role. For example, I not only provided support in the Customer Success Team, but also independently managed and acquired customers."
This shows that you meet the requirements for the position despite your lack of work experience. You can also prepare internships or student traineeships in this way in your cover letter.
At the end of the day, recruiters are often more concerned with team fit than work experience. Because missing qualifications can be learned, but teamwork skills cannot. That’s why you should focus on your soft skills in your cover letter.
The 10 most common mistakes in cover letters: Bring this and you’re out
Now you have learned so much about the content and perfect structure of the cover letter that you think you can’t do anything wrong? To make sure you are one hundred percent fit for the cover letter, here are the most common mistakes in the cover letter. They are sorted in descending order according to the severity of the error. Not surprisingly, the most annoying thing for recruiters is a mistake right at the beginning:
- Address, contact person or company misspelled.
- Inappropriate language/jargon.
- Spelling mistakes.
- Non-personalized cover letter templates. .
- Writing novels instead of getting to the point.
- Forgetting an attachment (e.g. B. Work samples). , you cannot explain.
- Inconsistent writing.
- Missing signature or date.
Checklist and tips
Now that we have shown you our ten most common cover letter mistakes, we will give you a checklist with the most important cover letter tips.
|You have final proofread your cover letter and it is error free.|
|No platitudes such as "Dear Sir or Madam" are used.|
|You have found a specific contact person and spelled the name correctly.|
|The last paragraph does not contain a subjunctive ("I would be happy if . ").|
|Your cover letter is no more than one page long.|
|The layout of your cover letter is consistent and professional.|
|You explain your competencies and why they are relevant for the job.|
|You do not simply repeat your resume.|
|You go into possible gaps in your curriculum vitae transparently.|
Try to match the content of your cover letter and resume as closely as possible to the requirements of the position . Convince with competence, professionalism and motivation – and do not simply take a template in which you copy your name. Then nothing can go wrong.
Where do you want to work?
More tips and templates for your career field
In any case, the cover letter of engineers will differ from the cover letter of marketing managers. Therefore, in the following list you will find tips for a more individual cover letter, which you can use to apply for specific jobs.