The English application: Cover letter

Cover letter: Introduction and body


The first sentence mentions the job you are applying for along with your motivation for applying for this particular position at this particular company. You should learn more about the company and link the acquired information with your interest in the position. The beginning of the application must answer three important questions:

  • Why are you the most qualified candidate for the vacancy?
  • What important experiences do you have that qualify you as a perfect candidate?
  • Why do you want to work for this company?

Do not use empty and meaningless words, as these could deter the reader from reading the rest of your application. Remember that the opening sentences are crucial. You must attract the reader's interest with your choice of words, raise his/her awareness about your qualifications and encourage him/her to continue reading.

The first letter of the introductory paragraph must be capitalized even if the sentence is a continuation of the greeting.

A personal reference is desirable if you spoke to the contact in person (e.g. at a trade fair) or attended a lecture conducted by him/her.

Short and sweet

  • Capitalize the first letter of the first word in the opening sentence.
  • State the placement that you are applying for, why you are qualified and why you want to work for this company.


You have managed to pique the interest of the recipient in your application. You must now maintain the interest of the reader and use concise sentences. Active verbs are essential.

The role of the second paragraph is to convince the reader that you are the right person for the job. Explain your work experience that qualifies you for the position. This is often referred to as ‘hard skills’. The goal is to convince the reader in as few and succinct sentences as possible that you are the right candidate. Note, however, that your past achievements alone will not give you the edge. Your past professional experience combined with your potential future contributions to the company will add extra value to your cover letter. Emphasize your achievements and abilities as well as how you would like to incorporate these into the new company.

In emphasizing the ‘hard skills’, do not neglect the ‘soft skills’. The latter includes aspects like team spirit and communication skills among other things. Which of your qualifications and skills fit 100 percent with the job description? What do you bring to the company? It is essential to study the description well and address the requirements set by the company for the candidate. You must identify your skills, qualifications and work experience according to these ‘buzz words’ and explain these in your cover letter.

Foreigners applying for jobs in English-speaking countries must dismiss possible concerns of the future employer regarding visa issues and the like in the cover letter. Definitely mention if you already possess a work permit or, in the case of the US, a green card. If these documents are not yet available, emphasize how you could add value to the company in order to justify the administrative burden. In the US, in particular, a company must have good reasons for preferring to hire a foreigner. This may be the case if the American candidates lack the necessary qualifications or do not fit the profile.

Avoid using platitudes or empty phrases, but place emphasis on skills that set you apart from other applicants. For example, the company might expand its customer base to your country but lack necessary experts who not only speak both languages—yours and English—but who are also accustomed with prevailing manners and behaviour in your country. Consider also what additional value your university degree offers compared to those of graduates in the US.

Once you have mentioned your skills and qualifications, use the third paragraph to express your interest in the company and explain your motivation for seeking to work there. Why are you applying at this company? What does the company offer you? Why would you like to work here?

Short and sweet

  • State your qualifications and skills as tailored to the job description.
  • Mention your work experience in the context of what you would like to do for the company in the future.
  • Explain your motivation for wanting to work for this company.
  • Dismiss concerns regarding visa issues or explain why you want to move abroad.
  • Avoid empty words, use active verbs (action words) instead.

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