The motivation letter, (also: covering letter, a letter of application) often causes most problems for applicants. In contrast to a CV, which only conveys facts, the aim here is to draw an individual and at the same time convincing portrait of one’s skills and qualifications, motivation and passion – and to do this without the usual phrases. A well-formulated and professionally written letter of application can make you stand out from the crowd and increase your chances of being invited to an interview.
After the letterhead with your name as well as essential contact data (telephone, e-mail) and the address of the addressee the subject line follows. Although this is relatively only a small part of the cover letter, it is particularly noticeable. It is usually read first. A poorly worded subject line could, therefore, be the first minus point and cost sympathy.
Try to formulate it as meaningful as possible. It should not be longer than one (!) line. Please use the job advertisement and refer to it. If this is beyond the scope of one line, the trick with the so-called reference line will help. This means: you formulate a crisp subject line and write a reference line directly below it – in smaller font size.
Subject lines with reference line: Application as a salesperson, reference number 123456 Your job advertisement in the ____________ on 6th March 2019
The introduction (usually no more than 4-6 lines) is mainly about awaking interest. The introductory sentence should already be there. If the spark does not ignite at the beginning, your documents will quickly end up on the rejection pile.
How do you write a good first sentence?
Nothing is more annoying than a standard introductory sentence of the type “I with this apply…”. It would help if you also avoided phrases such as “I read your job advertisement with great pleasure…”. There is nothing wrong with both examples – but the wording is worn out, impersonal and boring.
The introduction will be more convincing if you begin with an original, unusual or passionate approach. Like this, for example:
“For some time now I have been dealing with _____________. When I read your job advertisement from _____________, my heart beat faster: My dream job! The challenges and perspectives that this position offers immediately excited me…
Because you already document your professional skills in your CV (studies, jobs, further training, .etc.), the motivation is more about your qualifications, the so-called soft skills. At this point, HR managers pay particular attention to them. It’s now around self-marketing and the representation of your social skills.
To formulate these soft skills cliché-free is admittedly tricky, but essential for the success of the application letter. Many cover letters are based on sample letters and therefore contain common phrases and numerous “I” formulations. For example:
I am a team player. I have strong communication skills. I am a doer.
That may be true in terms of content. However, it doesn’t just seem monotonous, but also latently egocentric. Any applicant can claim something like this – but only a few prove it.
Since most motivation letters contain such first-person sentences, this is a beautiful opportunity for you to choose a different path and stand out from the crowd: Do not say that you are a team player, motivated, blah blah, but describe briefly (!) a project that you have completed in an exemplary manner with your team. This is more subtle, but at the same time more convincing.
I see my strength in the practical solution of operational problems. Thanks to good teamwork and the willingness to go the extra mile, I have often been able to minimize or avoid production outages.
Focus on the highlights – those that make you the ideal candidate. Class counts, not mass! The higher the intersection between the requirements of the position and your letter of application, the higher the success of the application.
Relation to the company: Where is your added value?
Ultimately, the reader of your letter of application (HR manager or boss) wonders why he should hire you. They ask themselves what added value you offer.
Of course, this presupposes that you are sufficiently qualified for the job, that you can contribute and integrate yourself. So the trick is to use your existing qualifications, skills and experience to establish a relationship with the company, but even more with the position advertised.
Since you have little more than five to seven lines for this, you must make your selection. Quite a few applicants make the mistake of enumerating as many things as possible. HR managers do not have much time and want to be convinced, not stunned by text.
Successes achieved in the cover letter work best at this point. Have you, for example, worked during your training, in an internship or comparable projects? Then describe what you achieved there and how. The best way is to use numbers:
How many new customers did you win?
How quickly did you realize a complex project?
How many colleagues did you lead?
By what percentage did this improve something?
I achieved X, relative to Y, by doing Z.”
I have won 15 new customers in a month, the average of my colleagues made 10, by sophisticated use of social media (e.g. particular examples of a smart Instagram campaign)
Please do not let your cover letter end or splash. In the end, you need another highlight, because it sticks in the head.
Up to this point, you sound generally friendly and motivated, radiating self-confidence. After all, you have just explained why you are not a supplicant, but a valuable performer and competent employee — no reason to sell yourself under your value.
The most significant application mistake you can make in the final part is unfortunately also the most common: the subjunctive (would, could, would, would, would, …):
“I would be happy to hear from you.”
“I would like to explain my motivation to you in detail in the interview.”
“I would be grateful if you would invite me for an interview.”
You already notice that the subjunctive weakens the sentence. Such formulations may sound sympathetically modest. In the final sentence, however, the subjunctive turns the particular wish into a vague possibility and at the same time doubts the belief in your suitability. Such an applicant appears insecure and makes himself smaller than he or she is. So please never a subjunctive at the end!
Use the well-known trick with the call-to-action.
There are now numerous studies that show that if you explicitly ask your readers to forward, recommend or comment on an article, the recommendation or comment rate increases many times over. Why not use the trick in your letter of application and mention that you are looking forward to the interview even though it has not yet been decided that you will also be invited?
Have I awakened your interest? Then I’m looking forward to a personal conversation.”
“I would be happy to convince you in a personal conversation that you are gaining a committed and experienced employee with me.”
“I look forward to your positive feedback.”
“If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me by phone or e-mail.”
Let me know your tips, experiences under the article, thank you very much
How about you? What motivates you to stay on your actual job? What makes you look for better employment?
Share your thoughts and experience with us and reach out to Vaclav Sulista for career coaching and training.