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Looking for a job in Germany and wondering how to write your cover letter? You are at the right place. In this article, you will learn how to write your cover letter in Germany, including the format, style, and structure. We also include some tips here on writing your cover letter in Germany. You can also download a free German cover letter example (in English).
7 seconds. This is how long it takes to form a first impression. So, giving an excellent first impression in the interview is essential. But do you know that your first impression is not formed in the interview? It is formed in the first contact you make. You are right. The first contact is your job application.
That is why sending a good CV and cover letter in your job application is very important. This determines whether you have a chance to come to an interview, where you can make your first impression (physically).
What is a cover letter (Anschreiben)?
Your cover letter is the very first impression you give your potential employer. It is one of the deciding factors whether you get a job interview or not. If it catches the recruiter’s attention, he will want to learn more about you by inviting you to an interview.
So, your cover letter should highlight your skills and experience that fit a job’s specific requirements. You should use many examples and facts to convince the recruiter why you are uniquely qualified for the role. Tell the recruiter why you want to work for that company.
The cover letter should be professional. The goal is to supplement your CV but not duplicate it. While your CV focuses on your skills and experiences, your cover letter should focus on your motivation and how you can apply those skills to the job.
Do you really need to write a cover letter in Germany?
You may not need a cover letter for your job application in many countries. How about in Germany? How important is it to have a cover letter?
In Germany, a cover letter was one of the most essential elements in a job application. However, its importance seems to reduce in recent years.
According to a survey, 59% of the recruiters in Germany accept job applications without cover letters. Many think that having a CV is already sufficient.
However, if you want to increase your chance of landing your dream job, it is still better to write a cover letter. Imagine if 59% of the recruiters in Germany do not require a cover letter. It means that the other 41% will.
Not having a cover letter reduces your chance of getting an interview invitation. You may even get an immediate rejection because of not submitting a cover letter.
Should you write your cover letter in English or German?
This is a tricky question. Unless specified in the job advertisement, it is better to submit your cover letter in German. However, if you do not speak any German, it may be better to submit your cover letter in English.
Why? It is because you won’t want to give false hope to the recruiter that you speak German while you cannot.
I once went to an interview in Germany after submitting my CV and cover letter in English. Back then, I did not speak any German. When the interviewer saw me, he was shocked that I couldn’t speak German. The interview ended immediately after that, and I didn’t get the job.
So now, imagine you send all your application documents to the recruiter in perfect German. It is logical for the recruiter to assume that you speak some German. You will probably not get the job when you are not meeting his expectation, especially if he is looking for someone who can speak German.
If you do speak some German (even not perfect), you may want to submit your cover letter in German. In that case, make sure your cover letter has no spelling or grammatical mistakes. To be perfect, you can also use a translation service or a cover letter writing service.
On the other hand, if the job advertisement is written in English and you do not speak any German, try sending your cover letter in English.
Even though insufficient German skills limit your opportunities, many international companies in Germany do have their hiring process in English. Here is how I got my permanent full-time job in Germany without speaking German.
Sending your cover letter in Germany
Many big companies require you to submit your cover letter and other application documents via their online portal. In that case, send your application documents such as cover letter and CV in PDF format.
Give a relevant name to each document. For example, use names such as “Your Full Name_CV” or “Your Full Name_Cover Letter”. This will make your documents look more professional. It will also be easier for the recruiters to identify your documents.
Some companies may require you to send your application via email. In that case, attach in the email all your application documents such as your CV, cover letter, and other certificates in PDF format. In the email content, write a short introduction about your application to the particular role and mention the attached documents.
Alternatively, you can copy and paste your cover letter into your email. Remove the address and the date in that case. Use your subject line in the cover letter as the subject of your email. The content of your email basically becomes your cover letter.
The format of a cover letter in Germany
A cover letter in Germany is a very formal letter. It follows the basic format of a typical business letter. Recruiters in Germany are used to this specific format. So, you should try to follow this format. Your cover letter may be viewed negatively if you use a format that is too different than the norm.
Keep it short and straightforward. Your cover letter should not be longer than one page. Also, leave plenty of space and don’t fill the page completely.
The standard font size is 12. Your font should be readable. Do not use an unusual font that is too big or too small. Use a professional font such as Times New Roman.
Besides, use the same fonts and font size throughout your cover letter. Your cover letter should be easy to read.
You should also use the same formatting in all your other application documents. For example, you should use the same style for both your CV and cover letter.
Your cover letter needs to be readable. Don’t write a large block of text in your cover letter. Separate your text with clear paragraph breaks. There should be enough spacing between the different paragraphs as well.
Your cover letter should follow the layout rule called the DIN 5008 Norm. It means that on an A4 size letter, the margin should follow the below standard:
- Left margin: 2.5 cm
- Right margin: 2 cm
- Upper margin: 4.5 cm
- Lower margin: 1.5 – 2.5 cm
The structure of a cover letter in Germany
Your personal info
You should include your personal info in the top right-hand corner. This includes your full name, address, phone number, and email. Your email address should look professional, ideally with your name on it.
The company’s info
You should write this on the left-hand side below your personal info. Put the company name, contact person, and company address there. You should put the contact person’s name on the second line, under the company name.
Usually, you can find the contact person’s name in the job advertisement. If not, don’t be afraid to call the company to find out who handles the job applications.
Write the date in European format and place it below the company’s info on the right-hand side.
The subject line should state what position you are applying for. You should bold it so that the recruiter can easily spot which position this cover letter is for.
Use the name of the contact person you stated in the company’s info. Research the company culture to see if using the first or last name is more appropriate. If you are not sure, always go for the last name.
This should include:
- The first paragraph (introduction)
- The second paragraph
- The third paragraph
- The last paragraph (short closure)
Sign here and write your name below your signature.
Under your signature, you should name which attachments you are sending in the job application, e.g., CV, reference letters, etc.
The content of a cover letter in Germany
The content of a cover letter in Germany should consist of four paragraphs. Do not repeat what you have stated in your CV. Your cover letter should sound unique. The goal is not to tell your whole story. Instead, give a preview and make it interesting enough so that the recruiter wants to know more.
Position yourself ahead of other candidates by focusing on the value you can bring to the company, but not what you can get from the company.
The first paragraph (introduction) – 3 to 4 lines
This is an important paragraph. The recruiter reads this to determine if he wants to continue reading your cover letter. So, the goal of this paragraph is to arouse interest and make the recruiter continue to read.
Why are you applying for the position?
For example, you want to have a career change, or you have just relocated to the city. And explain why. You should promote yourself even if you are unemployed by mentioning something positive.
Also, mention something company-specific. For example, you can convince the company that you want to work there because of their company mission. Maybe the company operates in a way that minimizes damage to the environment? Or perhaps the company sponsors social projects?
Where did you learn about this position?
State where exactly you learn about the position, e.g., from a job portal. If you talk with someone from the company at a job fair, mention the person’s name.
Similarly, if you learn about the position via a friend or an employee from the company, mention this person’s name as soon as possible. This can arouse interest and encourage the recruiter to keep reading your cover letter.
What is your current position?
If you want, you may also describe your current position here. If you have not graduated yet, you can mention your course of studies.
The second paragraph – 5 to 6 lines
This paragraph should show your skills, abilities, qualifications, and experience. Mention any achievement that makes you unique and show your strength. Make sure to mention only those that are related to the position.
Tell the recruiter where you learn these skills, for example, from your past job experiences. Don’t be afraid to mention your private projects if they are relevant. It can show your personality and your initiative beyond your profession.
Remember, you should not be just telling. You should prove your skills with evidence. For example, instead of just saying that you have good leadership skills, mention that you have successfully led a specific project as an example. Do not write too many details, though. The recruiter can read the related information in the CV.
The third paragraph (5 to 6 Lines)
Here is where you link your skills to the position you are applying for. Show how your unique skills and experiences listed in the last paragraph are relevant to the job and the company. Tell the company exactly what you have to offer and how you can help the company to be successful.
Use some personal examples to show how you can use your experience to help to achieve the company’s goals. Tell them what you can do for the company that no one else can do.
Pay attention to which skills are listed in the job description. Make sure you demonstrate how you own these skills by providing examples.
Besides, explain why you want to work in this particular company and this role. Look at the company’s missions and vision. Check the company’s website or social media channels to state any exciting facts.
Maybe you are interested in the company because it supports social projects? Or perhaps because it has an informal corporate culture? Be genuine and tell the company why working there aligns with your values. Make sure to mention the company’s name.
The last paragraph (short closure) – 3 to 4 lines
This is where you highlight your interest again. Describe what you wish for the future and explain how you can contribute to the company. Tell the company when you can start working, and only mention your salary expectation if required.
Close politely by saying that the company can contact you in case of any questions and you look forward to talking with them in a job interview.
Free Cover letter example to use in Germany
Do you want to feel what a cover letter looks like in Germany? Here you go.
You can also download this German cover letter example for your own use here.
10 Tips to write your cover letter in Germany
1. Do not use the same cover letter for different job applications
Different jobs have different requirements and descriptions. Every company is different. You should tailor-make your cover letter for each job application. This is important because recruiters want to see that you have made an effort when applying for the job.
You should research the company and tell them why you want to work for them specifically. Mention what attracts you to work there based on your research. Check the company’s website, review, and social media channels to get some ideas. Pay attention to the job requirements and relate to them when writing your cover letter. You should also write with the same wording and tone used by the company.
Recruiters can feel it if you just use a general cover letter without mentioning some facts about the specific company. So, show your research capability and customize your cover letter.
2. Include keywords in your cover letter
Many recruiters use software that scans application documents and searches for specific keywords. This software helps to filter out irrelevant applicants and thus saves time for the recruiters.
What does it mean for you? Well, suppose your application documents do not include the keywords the recruiters want to see. In that case, your documents will be filtered out and never be seen by the recruiters. So, including keywords helps you to pass the first stage and get your application documents in front of the recruiters.
Want to understand if your application documents include the right keywords? Use this free tool to get your CV analyzed! You can see how the software presents you in front of the recruiters regarding top keywords and skills.
3. Proofread your cover letter
Your cover letter in Germany should not have any grammatical or spelling mistakes. Make sure you contain the correct details, the right company name, and the proper job position. Otherwise, it will show that you are careless and not professional.
The best would be to have someone else proofread your cover letter. You can ask your friend or hire a professional to do it. This is especially important if you decide to submit your cover letter in German and you are still learning German. In that case, you may want to use the proofreading (and/or translation) service from Lingoking.
Writing your cover letter in German may have the advantage that your letter includes the right keywords scanned by the software.
As mentioned before, only write your cover letter in German if you have sufficient German language skills. You won’t want to give false hope to the recruiters that you speak perfect German while you cannot. You can also indicate your German language level in your cover letter and CV. This is so that the recruiters have a realistic expectation of your language skills.
Suppose you want your whole application to be taken care of. In that case, TopCV offers packages including both the CV and cover letter. The service ensures that your application documents are professionally written, well-formatted, and keyword optimized.
4. Be honest and confident
Your cover letter should reflect the truth. For example, do not write that you can communicate in German while you cannot. Instead, indicate that you are working hard on improving your German. The recruiters will appreciate your effort if you are sincere and can prove it with examples.
Besides, you need to be confident and state clearly why the company should hire you instead of other candidates. Show confidence by writing “I am sure I will…” instead of “I think I would…”. Mention the interview like it is going to happen. For example, you can write, “I am looking forward to discussing more with you in a personal interview.”
5. Keep it short and relevant
You should keep your cover letter on one page. Use a simple layout so that your letter is easily readable. Only write relevant information on why the company should hire you. Avoid flowery language and long wordy sentences.
Your cover letter shows your ability to sell yourself without much fluff. It should be concise and full of sound arguments why the company should hire you specifically.
6. Make sure your social media is clean
Nobody wants to see drunk pictures of you at a party. Before applying for jobs, search the internet with your name and see what comes up. You should remove any unprofessional content on your social media, such as Facebook or Instagram.
Besides, create a professional LinkedIn page. Nowadays, many recruiters rely on LinkedIn when searching for talents. Make sure your LinkedIn page looks professional and up to date.
7. Avoid passive voice
Your cover letter should sound positive. You should use only active verbs because they make your writing more exciting and dynamic. You can show the “who” and “how” in a sentence.
On the other hand, passive voice is generally weak. It describes simply a state of existence without action. In your cover letter, you should sound active and be responsible for your achievements.
8. Think from the perspective of the recruiters
My friend once asked me to proofread her cover letter. I was shocked to see that everything was written from her perspective and why she wanted to work for the company in her cover letter.
When writing your cover letter in Germany, make sure it is not all about you. It is about what value you can bring to the company. Think from the perspective of the recruiters. What are they looking for? What do they want to see from a candidate? Rephrase your skills and experiences and make them relevant to the requirements stated in the job advertisement.
It is not just about what you can get from the company but also what the company receives from you.
9. Use examples
Do not just mention you have good communication skills or leadership skills. Instead, you should prove your skills by giving examples. Use numbers and data whenever possible. For example, leading a team of 10 people or leading a project that resulted in a 10% increase in revenue. Focus on the result and not simply your participation in the project.
10. Formatting and style are important
Your cover letter should be formal. Use complete sentences instead of bullet points. You should also use the same formatting and style in your CV so that your application documents look consistent. Avoid unusual font and size. The best is to follow the German format described in this article.
The cover letter is an essential part of your job application in Germany. Its goal is to get an invitation to the job interview. Your cover letter allows you to show your personality based on your tone and how you write.
Take it seriously. Be concise, professional, and also friendly. Remember to adapt your cover letter to the style of different companies. Good luck and happy job hunting in Germany!
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How is your job hunting progress in Germany? Did the recruiters in Germany ask you questions based on your cover letter? Leave a comment below and share your experience!
Moving to Germany or new in Germany? Check out our Resources Page for all the help you need!