Every application begins with a cover letter. It is on top of all application documents and – together with the resume – forms the core of your application. The cover letter is primarily about your motivation for the job and your personality. To convince HR managers, the cover letter must be structured and individually formulated. It should arouse curiosity – about you and the rest of the application portfolio. We will show you how to formulate and structure a professional cover letter and increase your chances of getting your dream job.
How to structure a cover letter
The cover letter is usually divided into six sections or 4-5 paragraphs. In general, the cover letter is structured according to this model (from top to bottom): Letterhead (with address, recipient, date, and subject line), introduction, central part, company reference, conclusion, and attachments. The cover letter should be clear, the layout and design should match the rest of the application documents. In this way, your profile and your career look like a single piece.
How long should a cover letter be?
Ninety-five percent of the HR managers interviewed say that the cover letter should not be longer than an A4 page. Nobody wants to read more.
Cover letter content
You will find detailed information and notes on all essential sections in the cover letter in the following. The elements and details show the HR manager that you can write a professional application and are a perfect fit for the job.
How to write a cover letter letterhead
The so-called letterhead consists of essential contact details, dates, and subjects. You must be as careful as possible. Typos and rotated numbers in your contact details may prevent you from being reached; however, errors at the recipient are always interpreted negatively and indicate a sloppy way of working. This is how the letterhead is composed:
- Contact details: Your data are stored here: first name and surname, address (street + house number, zip code + place of residence), telephone, and email address. If you like, a link to his can application website, a video application, or a business profile on Linkedin specify (Update before!).
- Recipient: The recipient and the addressed employer and contact person have listed three lines below your contact details. The recipient address has a classic structure and must be free of errors:
- Company name
- First and last name of the contact person
- Address (street & house number, zip code & city)
- Date: The date in the cover letter is left or right-justified below the recipient. It should be up to date. Ideally, you should select the shipping date for this. So when you want to send the application. We find the form “DD.MM.YYYY,” where missing digits are filled with a zero (“01.05.”) Bureaucratic. Save yourself the zeros and write out the month instead.
- Subject: The subject line has the largest font size in the cover letter. It is particularly noticeable and is usually read first. Make it as concrete as possible and no longer as one line. Very important: never write the word “Subject”! If necessary, use a “reference line.” Means: The reference to the job advertisement comes under the subject line – in a smaller font size.
Your cover letter should always begin with a personal salutation. The phrase “Dear Sir or Madam” seems too impersonal. Try to research a contact person in advance. If this is not mentioned in the job advertisement, a call to the HR department or a look at the company homepage and career page and LinkedIn can also help. The call can be disguised with a simple question, motto: “I wanted to find out whether the position is still available. If so: Who is the contact person?” A directly addressed cover letter of the type: “Dear Ms. Charlotte” always looks more professional.
Introduction / the first sentence
The introduction to the cover letter should arouse interest. With the introductory sentence “I am applying …” this does not succeed. Even phrases like “I was pleased to read your job advertisement …” are taboo. They are not wrong, but empty phrases and boring. The first sentence should get caught, attention and sympathy. This applies even more to speculative applications.
Please provide important keywords and arguments for yourself in the introduction. This makes the cover letter more individual. And they prove that it is not a “mass application.” Also helpful: questions that every HR manager asks. You answer this in the first sentence. For example: Why do you want this job with this employer? What are your specific strengths? Why are you the perfect candidate for the position? What is your work style? – Examples of getting started:
- “At the beginning, I would like to give you three reasons why you will benefit from me as a new employee: 1. … 2. … 3. …”
- “We’ve known each other for a long time: I’ve been a loyal customer of your company for _ years. I especially like your product _“
- “Are you looking for a decisive and experienced _ for whom social competence, organizational talent, and assertiveness are not just empty words, but lived practice? Then read on:…”
- “I was delighted to get to know you personally at the _ fair last week. The appearance of your company and the conversations with your employee, Mr. Larry Peterson, made a lasting impression on me and reinforced my desire to complete my _ training with you. Therefore I am applying for…”
- “After a good ten years of professional experience in the _ field, I would like to face new challenges. I am convinced that I will use my professional qualifications and team-oriented way of working profitably with you. Because…”
The main part
The central part is about your qualifications, the soft skills. The hard skills can already be found in the resume. Applicants score points by demonstrating clearly and convincingly that all the job requirements are equal to them. But please don’t use empty phrases like “I am a team player, committed, motivated.” Even if it’s true, it sounds like a cliché. To stand out from the crowd, it is better to write briefly about a specific example and provide indirect evidence of the skills.
Important: The skills and knowledge described should always have something to do with the job. So don’t list what you’ve done, but select what is relevant. Never underestimate the power of numbers in your cover letter! Anything you can quantify should be mentioned. Paper is patient, and numbers are reliable! Examples:
- “During my internship at, I was passionate about the project that I was allowed to organize and manage. To get my colleagues on board and to inspire them, I have… A complete success! Within two weeks, we were able to …”
- “One of my strengths lies in the practical solution of problems in the operational process. Thanks to the excellent cooperation in the team and the willingness to work quickly (even on weekends), I have often succeeded in minimizing or avoiding a production downtime by __ percent. “
- “… I headed a team of 10 there. In this role, I have successfully coordinated several projects and worked out a solution for the XY task with my team in less than two weeks. “
If you have not already done so, you should now make a clear reference to the company in your cover letter – a connection between your motivation to work here and the skills presented. In short: it’s about your suitability and the added value you offer. Which know-how is particularly interesting for the employer? Write a short paragraph on how you could successfully apply this knowledge in the first few days. Here, too, it is not quantity that counts, but quality!
- “I have been developing and selling products and solutions for _ for around 15 years. As a key account manager at, I increased sales by _ percent through targeted optimization of the sales processes. In addition, customer satisfaction improved from _ to _ percent within two years. In this position, too, I would try …”
- “Sustainable customer relationships are naturally close to my heart. At my current employer, I independently initiated a project to optimize existing customer management. After that, customer satisfaction increased measurably by around __ percent. I can well imagine that this is a successful approach for this position too, which I expand by…”
The cover letter needs another climax. Because the end remains in the head of the HR manager, up to this point, you sound competent and motivated and exude self-confidence. It has to stay that way. Unfortunately, the most extensive application mistake you can make is the most common: the subjunctive. “I would be happy to hear from you.” Or: “I would be happy to explain my motivation in the interview…”
Such sentences sound sympathetically modest. In the final sentence, however, applicants appear insecure and small. It is better to be self-confident (not arrogant!) And express your willingness or pleasure to get to know you personally in the job interview. Formulations:
- “Have I piqued your interest? Then I look forward to a personal conversation. “
- “I would be happy to convince you in a personal conversation that with me, you will gain an employee who is as committed as he is experienced.”
- “I look forward to your positive feedback with great pleasure.”
- “If you have any questions, I am available by phone or email.”
- “If you are looking for a competent, reliable, and resilient employee, then I look forward to an invitation to an interview.”
Three additional options for the final part
Some employers require applicants to state their salary expectations or the earliest possible starting date in the job advertisement. You should never ignore such requests, but make sure you provide information about them.
Salary expectations are always given as the gross annual salary. Additional benefits, such as vacation pay or benefits, are not mentioned. If you change jobs, use the current annual salary as a guide. You shouldn’t add more than 20 percent. It is ideal if you give a number that is as specific as possible (“57,450$”). This signals that you know exactly what you are worth. Examples:
- “My gross salary is 48,670$ per year.”
- “Following my professional qualifications, I think a salary of 51,550$ is appropriate.”
If you have to comply with a notice period according to the employment contract, you should mention this. The hint strengthens your negotiating position. You currently have a job! You can, however, ask for discretion with a so-called blocking note. Example formulation:
- “Since I am currently in an employment relationship that has not been terminated, I could start the position on MM / DD / YYYY at the earliest. Please treat this application confidentially and only call me back in the evening from 7 p.m. at the number above. “
PS in the cover letter
The letters PS stand for “postscript.” A little addendum. Because it is so unusual, the PS in the cover letter is always noticed and read. In the “PS,” you can, for example, name your desired salary or starting date. Or formulate a personal and original note. This way, your application will be remembered even more strongly. Example:
- “PS: Please try to ignore the tie on my application photo. I don’t usually wear one either. “
Greeting & signature
Formally, the cover letter ends with a greeting (classic: “Sincerely”) and your handwritten (not printed!) Signature. With your signature, you document that the information and statements made are true. Please always sign with a (blue or black) pen. Never pencil, felt-tip pen.