How should a cover letter be written

From salutation to certificate - structure and content of a cover letter

It should be exciting, not too long, and of course unique. High expectations are placed on the cover letter. It's not that easy to bring all of this under one roof. So that you do not forget any important information, we will tell you what should not be missing in the structure of any cover letter.

  • With an individually written cover letter you stand out positively from the competition, but no standard component should be missing
  • Introduction, qualification, professional success, motivation and goals - your cover letter will be well-rounded in these four sections
  • Boastful superlatives, long sentences, and overlooked typing errors are some of the common mistakes
  • When writing an application for an internship, you compensate for a lack of professional experience with other means

Sometimes you want a recipe book for your application: 200 grams of professional experience, 120 grams of training, then two tablespoons of motivation, a pinch of soft skills and the cover letter is ready. Unfortunately, it's not that easy. Because like a good meal, a good cover letter is also a matter of taste: Whether the respective HR manager will like it is difficult to predict.We can't offer you a secret recipe, but at least we can name all the ingredients that a good cover letter needs and give tips on how to structure it. The following parts - in order - must not be missing from any application letter:

    • The sender information. Your full name and address. Don't forget to include your mobile phone number and an email address.
    • The recipient data. Very important: Send the application letter to a specific contact person and to the address of the company. Spelling mistakes are particularly fatal here.
    • place and date
    • The subject. Write specifically what you are applying for. For example: “Application as a mechatronics technician to your advertisement in the Süddeutsche Zeitung of May 20, 2015” or “Application for the apprenticeship as a banker, advertisement in the XING job market”. If a reference number is mentioned in the advertisement, this is the right place to mention it.
  • The correct salutation. As with the recipient, you should also name the exact contact person here. A “Dear Sir or Madam” has already meant the end of some applications. Embarrassing: When "Mr. Miller" becomes "Mrs. Miller".
  • The main part. The core of the structure of the cover letter. You can read what comes in here in the next section.
  • Important additional information. If necessary, you can insert three pieces of information between the main part and the greeting in the cover letter: your salary expectations (if requested in the job advertisement), the possible starting date and the request for confidentiality (if you are applying for a job).
  • Invitation and greeting. The cover letter should always end with the request that you look forward to a personal interview. You can't go wrong with a standard greeting á la "Kind regards".
  • Investments. Use the simple word “Attachments” at the end of the cover letter to indicate that there are still several documents that belong to the application. You don't have to list the individual documents.

The main part - the heart of the cover letter

Difficult tasks are easier if you break them down into individual steps. This also works with the structure of the cover letter. The cover letter can be easily divided into four blocks:

  1. Block in the structure of the cover letter: the introduction. Briefly describe your current situation: Are you just finishing school, have you finished your training or have you been working for a company for a few years? Then you briefly indicate in your application letter why you are applying: Would you like to switch to an international company? Are you looking for more responsibility? Or are you simply moving?
  2. Block in the structure of the cover letter: Your qualifications. What skills have you acquired that match the position? Anyone who already works in marketing and is applying for a position there can simply state their professional experience in years. For younger applicants, experience from studies, training or internships also counts.
  3. Block in the structure of the cover letter: a specific project. Now is the time to list successes. Make it as clear as possible for the HR manager by giving them examples - which of course match the advertised position. Have you worked on similar projects in your job, training or internship? If there is no professional experience, examples from private life can help: Those who apply for training as a kindergarten teacher can state in their application letter that they have looked after their three little siblings.
  4. Block in the structure of the cover letter: motivation and goals. Enough said about yourself, now you are telling the company why you want to come to them. Are you interested in the internationality or the down-to-earth attitude, the good reputation as a trainer or the interesting opportunities for advancement - or simply the great product that the company makes? And what goals do you want to achieve?

Create a cover letter now In addition to the cover letter, the most important thing in the application is a convincing résumé. You can put it together with just a few clicks using our free résumé editor.

Darn language: Typical mistakes in cover letters

Knowing the structure and content of the cover letter is a good place to start. Now you have to put it into meaningful words. That is usually the harder part. So that you don't grit your teeth, we have summarized the linguistic stumbling blocks that cause most applicants to stumble: Long, complicated sentences. Our brain can only process a limited amount of information at a time. If the sentence is too long, we get out. You can easily check whether this applies to your sentences: Read the cover letter out loud. If you run out of breath, the sentence is too long. Superlatives. Many applicants want to impress with the choice of words in their application letters instead of the content. You write to the “most successful company in your industry” and call yourself one of “the most creative and motivated employees”. Stay on the carpet. If you're such a great pike, it is better to list a success than proof. Subjunctive. Slicing is just as out of place as wrong restraint. Delete all “would”, “would” and “could” from the cover letter. Not: "I would be happy to receive an invitation to an interview." But: "I'm looking forward to ..." Passive. If you use the passive form in your application letter, you appear to be dependent. For example, don't write, “I was taught in my education”. Rather: "I learned in my training." Misspelled names. Your application will be sorted out immediately. Take a closer look at unusual company names and check whether you actually write Ms. Maier with “ai” or with “ey” or “ei”.

Special case: the cover letter for an internship

The cover letter for an internship is a headache for many. After all, the applicant usually has little or no work experience - and little experience writing applications. But that's not a broken leg. The basic rules for covering letters also apply here. Only the blocks for qualification and the previous projects differ a little: Qualification. If you have no work experience, you have to refer to your school or study experience in the cover letter for the internship, or to the achievements of previous internships. This can be a study project or a task that you took on during an internship. Or a vacation job where you learned something important. Soft skills. In the cover letter for the internship, you can score particularly well with soft skills. Do you work well in a team? Team sports are proof of this. Do you teach yourself new things? If you program your own website in your free time, that would be a good example. Motivation. If you can't boast with your experience, you should put your motivation in the running in the cover letter for the internship. What do you like about the internship? The right arguments can be practiced well with a short lecture in front of parents or friends. Do not forget: In the cover letter for the internship, you should always state when you have time for the internship. If the recruiter is won over by your application, he or she may offer you an alternative if the internship is already gone. He can only do that if he knows when you have time.


Service info: Despite all the explanations, do you need an example of a cover letter in black and white? Then we recommend you take a look at our sample templates. To the cover letter templatesYou can also find suitable jobs in large online job exchanges, such as B. the XING job market.

08.06.2015