How to write a cover letter for a job application abroad
You already wrote your resume and finally want to apply for a job, but then you start thinking… Should I write a cover letter? You are not sure, as it’s a lot of work, and if the recruiter doesn’t need it, you don’t want to waste your time. You keep thinking and thinking… How to escape this duty? Is writing a cover letter worth it? You’re not the only one having this question jumping around in your head…
All of us are tempted to skip the cover letter if it’s not explicitly requested. Nevertheless, stop asking yourself whether or when you should write one. It’s always better to have it! Why? It helps you to stand out when there’s a bunch of other applicants, and you can explain your qualification more detailed than in a resume. That’s the reason why we want to help you writing the perfect cover letter for your next internship or job application.
There have been many discussions about the differences between a cover letter and a motivation letter and we can finally tell you: it’s the same!
Why write a cover letter?
A good cover letter is supposed to highlight your skills and to show the employer why he should hire you and not one of the other candidates. It’s not about repeating the bullet points you’ve already mentioned in your resume. If you do it right, the cover letter will dispel any doubts the recruiter could have, like gaps between jobs, the knowledge of the language and your will to relocate – nobody wants to hire someone who will leave three months later because he misses home.
The next point is your motivation. There’s a reason why a cover letter is also called motivational letter. Show the people who will read it why you want this job and not any other one. What inspires you about this position and the company?
While your resume gives an overview of your career path, a cover letter is supposed to tell a story, your story. What did you do during the past years (on the professional side)? What brought you here? What values will you bring to the company when they hire you? Never forget that you’re talking to a human being, not a computer – although some applications are pre-screened to check whether they contain important keywords! Personalize your cover letter, so it helps you connect with the person who’s reading it. If they don’t see why you’re special as a person, it could be hard. Everybody can be usual.
A cover letter is supposed to sell you. The resume contains the details to back up this info.
How to write a cover letter?
Besides focusing on the content of an effective cover letter, never forget to take care of the right formatting. It can make a huge difference. Let’s see why.
Let’s start with the basics. Just like a usual letter, a cover letter must include a salutation, several paragraphs, and a closing. The middle part should include an introduction, a body in which you explain your main qualities and skills, and a conclusion, mentioning why you are the perfect fit for the job and the company. Our Head of Web marketing and Operations at Next Station, Clément, has a crucial advice for you:
In France we call the structure “vous – moi – nous”, which would be “you – me – us” in English. This means:
1) At first you shortly write about the company and the job position, so they know that you understood what the job is about. Find as many relevant info about the company and/or the position as you can – Did they just close their fundraising? Do they plan on expanding into other countries? It will show the recruiter that you took time to do your research and that you’re really interested in the position.
2) The main part is about yourself. You mention three main experiences where you gained or already proved the qualities and skills that are required for this position.
3) The last part is about you and the company. Mention which values you’ll bring them, but also, what they can teach you. It's a win-win situation for both sides!
He also mentions, that it’s super important to analyse the job offer before starting to write the cover letter. Pick the main skills the company is looking for in a candidate and choose the ones which fit your profile the best.
As we’re speaking about a letter, your cover letter should be addressed to a person – meaning, you should try to find a contact person. Writing a cover letter without name is of course possible if you don’t find anyone to address it to; but try to avoid it. Furthermore, the letter must be targeted! We’ll get back to this later.
Finally, there’s no need to write a short story about your life. Keep it short and only mention the most important points of your resume. Also, keep the structure simple. Include spaces between the paragraphs to make it easy to read – white space is your friend – and don’t forget to use the same font, etc. as in your resume.
It’s not easy to decide what to write in a cover letter and what is useless. It’s important that you don’t repeat everything from the resume, but rather mention your strongest qualities, elaborate these and give examples where you showed them. If the employer wants to know more details, he will take your resume and see what additional information you give.
Of course, the content of your cover letter should fit the job requirements. If you just start talking about your strengths that in the end are not valuable for the position, the letter can even lower your chances to get the job. An effective cover letter should be a nice mix between motivation and facts. Blanca, Head of Product and Sales at Next Station, mentions, that you should include three ideas maximum. It’s more important to elaborate them thoroughly instead of making a superficial list of too many facts.
Tip: If you write your cover letter as an email, add a signature and mail it to yourself first.
In case you’re writing your cover letter in Spanish, French or any other language that is not your native one, don’t forget to let it proofread. Also, keep in mind the fact that every country has its own guidelines on how a good cover letter or resume should be like. Do your research first!
It’s time to get started! Take your resume and make a first draft of your cover letter. If you need help, check for some cover letter templates online, but don’t copy them! They should only be a source of inspiration. In case you don’t know how to write a resume for your job application abroad, read these articles about the basics of a resume and how to make your resume a masterpiece.