Formulating cover letters: the 5-point plan for your success

When formulating the cover letter, supposed details can decide whether applicants are invited to the interview. Five tips to make your cover letter stand out from the crowd.

1. The right preparation for your cover letter

Before you start formulating the cover letter, you should pick up the phone and use the search engine. And for these reasons:

Know your contact person: "Dear Sir or Madam" – this salutation always works if you don’t know whom to address. But that’s exactly what you should do. If the job ad does not make it clear to whom you should address your application, make a quick call to the company and ask about it. "Dear Ms. Muller" or even "Dear Mr. Huber" is a bit more personal later in the cover letter. In the best case, you could even make a good first impression on the phone beforehand.

Inform yourself about the company: "I think the cars you make are totally cool and your advertising is funny"." Nice compliment, but not exactly the best explanation of why you want to work at this company of all companies. Even before you formulate your cover letter, you should research what the company’s strategy is and in which countries it operates. The candidate needs to show that they have researched the company and not just cory/pasted certain phrases from the website. Because at the latest in the job interview it shows whether an applicant has understood the business model and the values of a company. The company you are applying to is just opening a new branch in the city where you once spent your semester abroad? Perfect! Ideally, link what you’ve learned about the company to your experience and knowledge.

About the person

Susanne Schlobbauer is a career expert and runs the online magazine of the career service Experteer. She is in regular communication with headhunters and leaders to help senior professionals grow professionally.

2. What formalities you should pay attention to in the cover letter

Write no more than one page: Even if you have a lot to say, when writing the cover letter, keep in mind that it should not exceed one A-4 page. The best cover letters are short and to the point. So shorten mercilessly if your cover letter exceeds one page.

Don’t bore the recruiter with your introduction: "I hereby apply…" Just because you learned this standard introduction to a cover letter during application training in the ninth grade does not mean it is promising. On the contrary: He will tend to bore the recruiter and thus not set you apart from your competitors for the job at all. Especially because the cover letter may only be one page long, you should get straight to the point and start with a "bang". For example: "The position you have advertised excites me because it allows me to combine my passion for X with my expertise in area Y."

3. Make the reason for the application clear

Explain why you are applying: "I am applying to you because the situation at my current employer is no longer sustainable for me." – No, stop! In the cover letter (just as you will later in the interview), avoid badmouthing your current employer. Rather, explain why you believe the advertised position is the right, next step for you. In the very first paragraph, you should explain why you are applying there in particular, why you are a good fit for the company and what added value you bring to the table. For example: "I am applying to you because I would like to work more in marketing. Like your brand, I am full of energy and believe that I can bring my communication strengths from my previous work as a PR officer to you."

4. Formulate your cover letters in clear language

Describe your soft skills without empty phrases: "I am characterized by professional and social competence" – another sentence that many applicants put somewhere in their cover letter. Too many. Better write clearly why you have a clue and enjoy working as part of a team. Describe your work experience in the relevant field, mention any further training you have undergone. And describe how people notice your "social skills" – a possible example: "At my previous employer, I organized so-called blind dates once a week during the lunch break, where colleagues from different departments could get to know each other and expand their network."

Avoid the subjunctive: "I would be very happy to hear from you…" – Not so insecure! Allow yourself a little self-confidence: "I am pleased to hear from you!"

5. Present your achievements in the right light

Describe what you can do, but…While we’re on the subject of self-confidence – of course, you should address in your cover letter the qualities that make you a promising applicant. However, if you don’t even stop to list what you can do, your cover letter can also quickly come across as arrogant. The point is not to spend two pages tooting your own horn and listing your accomplishments, but to focus on the accomplishments and experience that fit the advertised position. For example, "I was able to successfully demonstrate my ability to think creatively and manage campaigns in a holistic manner based on X and Y. Therefore, I am convinced that I am the right person to create a new marketing strategy for your company."

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