Many applicants grit their teeth at the cover letter. It is not for everyone to explain in writing why one is the best applicant for the advertised position. But those who can do that have a good chance of arousing the interest of the HR manager – and getting to the next round. So what does a good cover letter look like? What does an applicant have to pay attention to? We’ll show you.
Professional cover letter examples for job seekers
Each cover letter should be individually adapted to the respective company. The HR manager does not want to get the impression that he is holding mass-produced goods. But you can very well be inspired by a successful cover Letter.
Cover letter start
Your cover letter does not start with the introductory sentence. Instead, it starts with reading the job advertisement carefully and understanding it (if one is not writing an unsolicited application). Before you go to the laptop, you should ask yourself these questions:
- What kind of company is it – also in terms of corporate culture?
- What specific tasks does the applicant have to perform in the company?
- What skills does the applicant have to have?
- And what other skills could be useful?
- What is particularly important to the company?
It would help if you filtered out the answers from the job advertisement in advance. For example, we have thought of a fictitious job advertisement for a company – and how applicants should deal with it. You will find tips on this in the further course of the article.
Job advertisement from ABC company
We are part of an international group with more than 3000 employees and the market leader in the sale of conditioners through US and international retailers. Due to our strong growth, we are looking for a team leader to process as quickly as possible. Your tasks include: Order entry / invoicing of incoming orders Processing of correspondence Receipt of orders and customer inquiries, including by telephone Coordination of the flow of goods Team leadership Your profile should include: You work independently and responsibly You can use MS Office Knowledge of foreign languages is an advantage What we offer you: An exciting job A secure job Performance-related remuneration Perfect working atmosphere Please send your complete application documents with details of your salary expectations and the earliest possible starting date to the following address: email@example.com
Cover letter structure
The cover letter usually consists of nine elements. It is constructed in this order:
- Sender and date (top right)
- Subject line
- (Personal) salutation
- Introduction (motivation)
- The main part (personality and skills)
- Company reference (added value for the company)
- The final part (starting date)
- Greeting and signature
- Attachment directory
If you miswrite the contact person’s name or nonsense in the subject line, you could be catapulted out of the running. Under normal circumstances, however, the main elements are of decisive importance: Introduction, main part, company reference, concluding part. So the essential tips come now – the career jump leads you to step by step through the cover letter.
Cover letter introduction
First of all, it is essential to arouse the recipient’s interest. Getting started is therefore extremely important. This can be your best argument or an original introduction. Ideally, you should let your knowledge of the company and the task flow into it right from the start. For example, fresh figures, a new product, or daily news about the company. So the reader notices immediately: Here I am dealing with someone who has done his homework. But don’t apply too thickly; it could backfire. Short and subtle, you don’t have more than three to four lines for this anyway. One possibility: You put your qualifications in front of the opening sentence. For example like this:
As team leader XY at ABC company, I have five years of experience managing the commercial department.
You can, of course, also take a different route – or get in much more emotionally. But in terms of content, this introductory sentence is already very useful. You don’t need: a phrase at the beginning à la I read your job advertisement with interest.
Cover letter main part
Your personality would like to be put in the right light at this point. It doesn’t work without self-marketing. Especially your soft skills are asked. Which ones do you have? What are your strengths and experiences? Caution: Do not rattle down all the points, but set accents. Select and present only the best and most important qualities and skills. Which of them makes you the perfect candidate for this position? That has to come out. It’s basically like online dating: is it a match or isn’t it? You are the fanatic who wants to convince your counterpart that you are the perfect partner.
- What counts are your personality, your qualifications, and your career?
- To what extent do you fit in and with the company?
- What is it that makes them stand out?
- What predestines you for the advertised position?
Try to make direct connections.
- Collected knowledge that you use in the job;
- Networks that you activate;
- IT skills you can use.
If the HR manager can spin the common thread that leads from school through studies directly to this company, your chances of getting the job increase. The required knowledge and skills naturally play a significant role.
Tip: Make a list out of it. Nobody has said that a cover letter consists entirely of body text. A listing has several advantages: First, it saves space. Second, you can do some so skillfully a cover letter consists exclusively of continuous text. In other words, words that the HR manager jumped at because they were already in the ad. Right at the front are the most qualifications, then the optional qualifications. A listing could look like this:
- Office manager with 12 years of professional experience
- Eight years of experience as a manager with personnel responsibility
- Responsible for 14 employees
But: If you look at our fictitious job advertisement (see above), there is minimal overlap between what is required and what the applicant is offering. According to the job advertisement, training as an office manager is not a selection criterion. And the many years of professional experience could lead to the assumption that the applicant is overqualified for the position. You should therefore adopt the cover letter and formulate it as follows, for example:
Many years of experience in order processing and staff management
- Enter orders
- Process correspondence and telephone correspondence
- Answer customer inquiries
- Fluent written and spoken Spanish
- Excellent knowledge of MS Office
Mind you, and these formulations would not make the applicant “better.” But they make them more compatible. Therefore, your self-description fits better with what the company demands and expects.
Desired salary and starting date
The question of salary expectations is tricky. If it is too high, the company waves it away with thanks. If it is too low, you sell yourself below value – and on top of that, it signals a lack of quality or a lack of self-confidence to the employer. And should you name a specific number or a range? The answer to the last question first: Better a concrete number.
Take your current salary, for example, and add ten percent to it. Maxing out, but not overstimulating. Of course, many variables play a role here. Where is the employer located? How big is he? In which industry and which profession are you active? With a large company in San Francisco, you can ask for a higher salary than a small business in New Jersey.
But what you shouldn’t do: OneSpecify the salary range that is too broad. Nobody can do anything with salary expectations of 35,000 to 75,000$. That seems rash. On the starting date: First of all, you make it dependent on your current employment contract and the notice period. If you are applying for unemployment, you should be able to start “immediately.” Fast availability is a plus. No employer wants to wait forever – and that’s three months and more – for a new one.
Cover letter final sentence
A polite exit in the cover letter – not unimportant! Thank you in the cover letter for your attention, number – if requested – your salary expectations, and state the earliest possible starting date. Also good: the remark that you are looking forward to a personal meeting. And another tip: If there are any gaps in your résumé, you have the opportunity to address them in the cover letter. Preferably with a short (!) Explanation. But that is not a must. Otherwise, think carefully about dealing with a possible interruption, termination, or frequent job changes in the job interview to explain. The HR manager will surely ask you about it. In the end, the main thing that should stick with the HR manager is that you are friendly, motivated, and self-confident. This is what your final part in the cover letter should sound like. After all, you have just explained why you are the ideal candidate for the position. Necessary: Do not take on the role of supplicant, neither at the beginning nor at the end of the letter. You should therefore avoid this mistake: Do not fall into the subjunctive! According to the motto.
- I’m looking forward to hearing from you.
- I want to convince you of my abilities in an interview.
- I would be very grateful for an invitation to an interview.
The subjunctive softens the content and makes you sound like a beggar. But you are not. If the employer does not invite you, then it is your fault! The subjunctive gives the impression that a contractual agreement is infinitely distant and that your chances of getting the job are minimal. He makes them weak. Therefore: no subjunctive! The cultivated attack is better than the subjunctive. In advertising, we have long known about the effect of the so-called call-to-action. Many studies have proven the effectiveness of this method. If you ask a reader or user to do something, they are more likely to do it – for example, click, comment, buy. You can also use this trick in the final sentence of your cover letter. For example like this:
- Have I piqued your interest? Then I look forward to a personal conversation.
- In a personal interview, I would be happy to convince you that I am the right employee for the position.
- If you are looking for a responsible and competent team leader, I look forward to an invitation to an interview.
- I look forward to your feedback.
- If you have any questions, I am always at your disposal.
Cover letter postscript
Now comes an excellent tip: Include a PS at the end of your cover letter. PS stands for Postscript and earlier enabled letter writers to add an important point without completely rewriting the letter. In times of modern means of communication, nobody needs a PS anymore. Are you kidding me? Are you serious when you say that! A PS attracts a lot of attention, especially in e-mails. You have probably already noticed that. You always read a PS. Usually, there is something meaningful behind it – or something interesting. You can also use this effect in your cover letter, something like this:
PS: I will call you briefly on july 17th to find out about the application process status and ask whether my application has even been received. If you have any further questions in return, please feel free to call me at the following number: (555) 555-1234.
Cover letter tips
Sure, it’s the cover letter’s content that determines whether you arouse the recruiter’s interest or not. Which statements you incorporate, how you express yourself, which priorities you set. But: If you make a terrible formal error in your cover letter, it could ruin all your efforts in one fell swoop. Therefore, pay careful attention to the formalities, unofficial regulations, and standards in the cover letter. They are the foundation on which you then put your (hopefully) compelling content. And put yourself in the perspective of the HR manager. He has to constantly view, compare and process new applications—the simpler and clearer, the better for him. If you, as the applicant, make this work a little easier for him, it will not be to your detriment.
As a young professional, please do not write more than one page. A two-page cover letter is within the scope of what is desirable for older employees. It is best, however, to keep it as short and precise as possible. No HR manager feels like reading through novels.
Pay attention to legibility here as well. Therefore, you should avoid fancy flourishes and use tried-and-tested fonts.
You can remember the 11-13-15 rule for your cover letter. In 11-point the running text, in 13-point date, address, and subheadings, also in bold type. In 15-point only your name in the head of each page. Your name should ultimately stand out and stick in the recipient’s memory. The explanation for the crooked sizes: 12-point is the standard-setting in Word. Most competitors should therefore use 12-14-16 font sizes. With crooked sizes, you stand out from them.
Indents, lines, and spaces should be uniform on all pages. Otherwise, your entire application will appear unprofessional. A one and a half line spacing are recommended – it looks pleasantly airy.
Do not try to impress the HR manager in the cover letter with sophisticated sentence structure. Main sentences are easy to read and grasp – time savings for the recipient! If possible, you should avoid using nesting and relative clauses that span several lines.
Important: Every application should be unique. Make an effort and rewrite each cover letter (taking over individual text modules is, of course, completely ok) – it’s worth it.
Cover letter examples
Do not turn the cover letter into a continuous copy of your resume. In the cover letter, you should leave out everything that is not relevant for the position – the resume naturally also contains information that is less important for the position. The more precise and compact your cover letter, the easier you make it for the recipient. So again: a maximum of one page. Your résumé impresses with the facts, your cover letter with the soft factors. Soft skills should be an integral part of your cover letter. Now our made-up job advertisement (see above) requires the applicant to work independently and responsibly. How do you prove this? For example, by being well versed and experienced in dealing with customers in your previous career. You could put it this way:
- In my previous activities, I have always advocated sustainable customer relationships. For example, for my current employer, I have optimized existing customer management and thus increased customer satisfaction by 30 percent.
Tip: Use numbers whenever possible. Quantify your achievements, give examples, support your arguments with hard digits. This often works better than an insubstantial word bell. Why are you applying for this position at this company? That is the big question that the cover letter must answer.
In this way, you provide very specific advantages in the cover letter that the company can count on – if it hires you. And every company likes solid arguments. So: An extra concrete advantage that your employer has from you – if you find it and include it in your cover letter, you will collect big plus points.
Cover letter success formula
As you can see, a cover letter is hard work. But the work is worth it. If you put enough effort into your cover letter – and your resume – you will increase your chances of success. Here again the formula for success for a good cover letter:
- Problem: Which one do you need to solve to help the employer? Identify it.
- Elevation: One trick is to elevate the problem. That makes your skills and the job much more valuable.
- Solution: You have the know-how, the training, and the knowledge to get the problem under control. Your attitude – that would be the solution for the company.
- Conviction: You have to communicate the solution convincingly. End the cover letter without the subjunctive! It has to be clear that everything is correct.
Cover letter examples for students and recent graduates
Especially young professionals and graduates sometimes find it challenging to write a cover letter. They lack the experience. Here are a few tips to help even graduates create the perfect cover letter.
University graduates are not (yet) specialists. With a few exceptions, they are generalists. But companies are looking for people who have specific competencies and skills – specialists. Focus your cover letter and the entire application on the skills the company is looking for.
Everyone has experience – even if they come straight from university or school. Internships or stays abroad completed? Mention them and share what you learned from them. Voluntary work as a sports trainer? Language courses or the part-time job at the petrol station cash register could very well have helped you. Distill out the essential empirical values that you have gained.
If you don’t have many years of professional experience, you could fall into the student trap. According to the motto: I’m only a student, so I’m a supplicant. That is completely wrong. You have acquired valuable skills during your studies and have a lot to offer. HR professionals want self-confident employees – and consequently also self-confident applicants.