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Facts & Tools

Tips for a successful cover letter for non-academic jobs

Form, introduction, body, and conclusion - We show you what you should pay attention to in a cover letter. One tip in advance: Never, never, never start with »I hereby apply for...«.

Notes:

If you are looking for information on academic cover letters (e.g. to apply for a professorship), please watch the webinar with Prof. Dr. iur. Hubert Detmer from the German University Association. Such cover letters are very different from those for non-academic positions.

In the meantime, some companies or organizations no longer require a cover letter, but only a CV or answers to predefined questions or work samples. However, if the „usual“ documents are required, a cover letter is included.

 

A cover letter should always be customized, but there are some general tips you can follow.

In general: Make it as easy as possible for the addressee!

When companies or organizations post a job, they want to solve a problem – there is a lack of someone who can bring expertise, manpower, and creativity, which are urgently needed. Be that solution! Moreover, it will not be the only cover letter and yours should arouse interest quickly and at a low level. This is what you can do:

Form & wording: Clear and authentic

  • Limit yourself to one page – but pay attention to paragraphs, margins, and spacing – don’t squeeze two pages of text into one.
  • Include your contact info and, if applicable, your LinkedIn/Xing profile and/or website.
  • Ideally, matches the layout to the CV.
  • Include the job title/reference number in the subject line.
  • Use verbs, verbs, verbs, and as crisp sentences as possible.
  • Avoid empty phrases (see introduction) – write what you want to say.
  • Have someone proofread.

Entry: Something different for a change

  • Never, never, never start with „I hereby apply for…“ – that should already be clear.
  • Instead, make a connection between you and the company or organization – why are you applying there and not somewhere else? Do you like the values and the product, have you ever had contact with a program, service, etc.?
  • Be confident about your scientific background, even if it is not a research-related position. Therefore, avoid phrases like „my DFG application was not approved“ and write, for example, „I take great pleasure in solving complex problems – a skill I can excel at … excellent at.“

Main part: keywords and evidence

  • Match your wording to the keywords in the RFP or the wording of the organization (check their website) and then prove that you have experience in these areas.
  • For example, you can start with, „Here’s what you can expect from me:“ and pair the three or four most important requirements (the first ones in the job ad) with the experience that matches them – if you bring anything else special to the table that might be interesting for the job, touch on that briefly as well, or touch on an idea that might be relevant to the job.

Conclusion: Confident and complete

  • Specify here if, for example, salary requirements, start dates, etc. are required.
  • Salary information: Find out beforehand on platforms such as kununu, ask your network, or, in the case of jobs in the public or non-profit sector, lean towards the TVöD.
  • Avoid subjunctives in the closing formula – instead of „I would be pleased to hear from you,“ for example, you can write „I look forward to hearing from you. I would be happy to discuss in a personal meeting how I can assist you with…. support.“

If you need assistance with your custom cover letter, we’re happy to help.