How to write a cover letter

Neat from the header to the footnote: the perfect cover letter

A hit or a flop? It’s a glance at the cover letter that decides: if the application lands on the pile marked “S” for second choice or “B” for bin, you haven’t clocked up enough points with your cover letter. Use the letter accompanying your application as an enhancement of your CV: we’ll tell you the basics.

Writing applications: long texts come up short

No matter whether you’re planning an initiative application or you’re eyeing up a specific job: your cover letter should be short and snappy. Maximum twelve sentences – that's the rule of thumb. Because according to surveys, thirty percent of human resources managers spend barely three minutes with your application.

The perfect cover letter

Just between us: creative experiments belong on the canvas. Make yourself familiar with the rules on font size, colour and text alignment in DIN standard 5008 and the human resources managers will look at your documents with sympathy and interest. Make absolutely sure you spell the company address and the name of the recipient correctly. If human resources staff find mistakes here, they usually don't even bother to read the application.

Subject line: get your recipient on board

Be specific in your application cover letter. So don’t just write “application”, but “application as financial accountant, job advertisement on, reference number 123”. Or if you’re sending an application on your own initiative: “Application for the position of IT systems administrator”.

Main text of the cover letter: talk straight – don’t be too wordy

Rule number one: the recipient knows what’s happening. Don’t explain how you found out about the position – they advertised it after all. Get straight down to business! Describe why you’re the ideal person for the job in a succinct and authentic way. It’s a little different with initiative applications. In the cover letter to your initiative application, explain in brief, precise words why you absolutely want to work for that particular company.

Underline why you’re right for the job

If you have experience, you should ideally use your current position as an argument to tip the scales in your favour. As a graduate, point out areas of focus in your studies or practical experience. Important: you must be able to back up what you say. Information from your CV has no place in your cover letter. Use the famous twelve lines to address the profile requirements and then make the link to your suitability or experience. In the cover letter to an initiative application, just compare the desired job to your previous work. You can demonstrate a history of success? Great, mention that too!

Your CV doesn’t cover everything: qualifications beyond your CV and references

What really makes you stand out, but doesn't necessarily come across in your CV? At this point in the cover letter, list qualifications that fit the job profile: further training, special skills, languages. If there is a special reason for your application, mention it – but please be clear.

How much and from when? The conditions

Don’t be afraid to be specific about numbers. Every company has budgeted for salaries, not for volunteers. State the earliest date you could possibly start and your salary expectations in the cover letter. You don’t feel comfortable doing this? Then use a salary range: “…I expect an annual gross salary between x and y Euros".

A call to action: waiting around drinking tea is not enough

Tie up your arguments with a conclusion and encourage your recipient to be active: “I look forward to receiving your invitation to an interview." All you have to do now is sign the letter, refer to the attachments and your application letter is ready.