Referring to my tips how to write the perfect CV for the German market I will explain today what you need to consider in order to impress with a competitive cover letter in Germany. Having recruited international candidates for several years now, I have come to the conclusion that the German market is different when it comes to cover letters. In most other countries, they have basically no relevance. In Germany, however, a cover letter may be even more important than your CV!
Here are 3 tips you need to know to get the interview:
Tip 1: FORMAT
-A cover letter is a FORMAL letter. End of story! Remember that many Recruiters and HR Managers in Germany pay particular attention to the way you write a cover letter. It is important to take this seriously. The hiring person will consider your ability to focus on details, to formulate complex circumstances of your career path straight to the point, and will check your knowledge of formal norms as well as your sense for aesthetics. Not a joke!
-A cover letter in Germany is never longer than ONE page! Never! KISS – Keep It Short & Simple!
-Once again: Absolutely NO spelling errors are allowed! This may be the most formal document you have written in a very long time. Make sure that no mistakes come in the way between the job and you. Ask a friend to correct your work.
Insert the following information:
-Your address (telephone/mobile number and email address)
-Addressee (full company address and name of the contact person, stating the person in second line)
-Subject matter (Application for…, Your vacancy…)
-Salutation (Take your time to research the name of your contact person, if you cannot find out: “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To whom it may concern“)
-Attachments (you itemize which attachments are sent with the application: CV, references)
BONUS! If you don’t get job interviews: The reason is most likely NOT your CV. Read “How To Win Jobs & Influence Germans” to fix your jobhunt. Get job interviews!
Tip 2: EMAIL APPLICATION
-If you send your application via email directly to the contact person, the content of your email text is basically the cover letter. However, it does not mean that it can be less formal. All formal parts are still necessary (beside addresses and the date) to make the right impression.
-It can be helpful to attach the proper cover letter (.pdf, .doc) to your email, just referring to your documents in a short introduction: You mention that you are applying for the job and have attached three documents (cover letter, CV, references/certificates).
Tip 3: CONTENT
-First of all, the cover letter is not a repetition of your resume. It consists of a chain of sound arguments why YOU should be hired for that particular job and not the other candidate. -Every letter should be unique (at least parts of it). Make sure to compose it adequately to the job and company you are applying for. Check the job advertisement for special requirements, duties and responsibilities and refer to your own experiences and skills.
-First paragraph: This is the place where you express why you are applying (Did you move to another city? Are you planning to relocate to Germany and why? Do you seek a career change? Do you want to explore new industry sectors? Have you finished parental leave are looking for a re-entry?) Even if your current situation is rather negative (e.g. you been unemployed for more than a year), you need to demonstrate an advantage or something positive – it´s time for self-marketing.
-Second paragraph: In this part you demonstrate your abilities, skills, experiences and know-how. Internationally, this is what you call a career summary that you place in your CV. However, in Germany you express this in the cover letter. What do you currently do and what makes it so special that you are good at the job? Which expertise do you bring to the table so that you can be successful if they hired you for the vacancy? What have you learned from your previous positions and why? What particular skills do you have? Where do you have them from? Which sector, which countries, what languages? Any special achievements, responsibilities for important projects? Highlight your strengths and always prove them with evidence (you cannot only mention that you are a team player, you have to demonstrate an example why! Have you worked in a project as team member? Mention it now!) Remember to highlight the most important things that are required in the job description.
-Third paragraph: This paragraph is reserved for the position itself and the company. Why are you particularly interested to fill this vacancy? What can you do for them if they hired you and how quickly can you be successful? Show your qualifications from your studies and professional skills that may be unique for this job. And last but not least, why do you want to work with this company, and only with them and not their competitor? Always mention the companies’ name! This shows the recruiter that you took your time to apply only to this company. Also, check their website for interesting facts and state them here. You like that their employees voted them as one of Germany´s top 10 employers? Do they convince you with their core values for society and sustainability? Are you attracted by their internationality and their opportunities to develop a career abroad? Show off your honest interest!
-Final closure: You shortly describe what wishes you have for your future career and how you can add value to the company. Finally, you state your notice period or availability and, if requested, your salary expectations. Express that you are looking forward to meeting with them and state that they may contact you in case of questions.
Good luck with your job hunt in Germany!
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