When applying for a job in Germany, the German cover letter (‘Anschreiben’) is perhaps one of the most important aspects of the application. In the United States and most other countries, the cover letter is typically glanced over and skimmed, at best. Not so in Germany. In Germany, a great cover letter is nearly as important as your Curriculum Vitae and can make or break your application. According to 2013 research, nearly half of all German HR personnel rejected job applications that did not have cover letters. Clearly, the German cover letter is important. It is the very first impression the company gets of you. Hence, make it a good one.
Let’s go over some ways to create a kick-ass German cover letter for your job application that will have prospective employers interested in you as a potential candidate.
Cover Letter Format
Germans take their cover letters very seriously, and they must follow a prescribed format. You’re not writing an email to your mom. People in charge of hiring pay a lot of attention to how your German cover letter is written, and they will judge you heavily based on it. As a rule, they expect it to be professional and follow a formula. However, it must NOT be longer than one page. Condense your words to get your point across. It can be hard to sell yourself without being flowery or too brief, but you must find a happy medium. The German cover letter is somewhat like a test – it shows how well you can succinctly sell yourself AND it will reflect your professionalism.
To begin with, you must also be SURE that the German cover letter contains absolutely no spelling errors. However, if German is not your first language or you’re not very fluent in it, this can be easier said than done. You can have a German friend proofread it for you. Considering the cultural importance of the cover letter, a good friend should be happy to do so. Maybe they can even give you some tips and pointers. A German cover letter with spelling and grammar mistakes will not be considered seriously.
Make sure the cover letter is readable. Big walls of text scare people. Therefore, break it up with clear paragraph breaks. The standard font size is 12. Do not submit your German cover letter in an unusual or large font. No one is going to read a cover letter in size 18 Papyrus, except perhaps to make fun of it. Use a legible and professional font like Times New Roman, Arial, Georgia, or Helvetica. Make sure all your documents (cover letter, resume, references, Curriculum Vitae) are in the same font and style.
Make sure each sentence is clear and concise. The recruiter doesn’t want to read a novel here. Make each sentence short and to the point. Don’t start all your sentence with the word “I”. This shows a lack of linguistic creativity. Restructure your sentence to make them more interesting. This isn’t about you as a person – it’s about what you can do for the company.
Your German cover letter should be written according to DIN 5008, which is a type of framework for formal writing. It has the following standards:
- Left margin: 24.1 mm
- Right margin: at least 8.1 mm
- Bottom margin: 16.9 mm
- Top margin: 16.9 mm
These margins may seem arbitrary. However, following them shows you’ve done your research and that you are a professional who can follow the rules.
The format of the German cover letter should be as follows:
- Your address, telephone number, and email address. Be sure your email address sounds professional. Ideally, it should be your name or a variation of it. Do not use the questionable email address you made when you were fifteen. Make sure this information is in the top right corner or the letterhead of the cover letter. Also include the date, in European format.
- Include the full address of the company you are applying for and the name of the contact person, if you know the name. Otherwise, say something like, “To whom it may concern” or “Dear sir or madam”.
- The date.
- Subject matter. State exactly which position you are applying for. Make sure it’s clear that this is all about the position available.
- Be nice and say hello. Try to take your time to research who in the company does the hiring and will see your application. Try calling the company to see who handles applications. It shows you have tenacity. Make sure to use the person’s official job title in the greeting.
- First paragraph.
- Second paragraph.
- Third paragraph.
- Short closing paragraph.
- Include any relevant attachments, such as references and your Curriculum Vitae.
German Cover Letter Paragraph Content
In your cover letter, don’t just shoot off everything it says in your resume. That’s what your resume is for. In the German cover letter, you need to sell yourself. Make the employer want you. Think of yourself as a marketer, and you are the product. Don’t use the same cover letter for each job you apply for; make them different to appeal to the specific company you are applying for. Based upon the responsibilities, requirements, and work culture, mention your own experiences and abilities in relation to what the company itself wants.
Make the company know why they should hire you above all others. However, do not brag. It’s a fine line between selling yourself and just plain bragging. Show that you are confident. Reference any follow-up calls or interviews like you know they’re going to happen. Say something like “I look forward to discussing this with you more”. This shows confidence.
1. First Paragraph
Tell the recruiter exactly why you are applying for a job right now. Have you recently relocated? Did you need a career change? Do you want to make more money? Have you been out of the job market for a while? Tell them why you’re applying right now in particular. Even if you’re in a bad situation (such as, you got fired from your previous job), spin it in a way to make yourself sound good. Don’t lie, but always be sure to sell yourself. Make sure you’re not just regurgitating the content of your references/Curriculum Vitae. Make it sound unique. It should enhance your CV, not be interchangeable with it.
Take the time to really make the opening sentence pop. Don’t write what everyone else does. For instance, say something interesting and relevant that will make the recruiter want to read more about you. If someone who works at the company or that they may know recommended you for the job, mention it to give yourself credibility. Otherwise, state where you learned of the open position.
2. Second Paragraph
Describe your skills, abilities, and experiences. What makes you special? How are you the best person for the job, above all other applicants? What are your skills (make sure they’re job-related)? Where did you learn them? Do you have any related experience at prior jobs that you can bring to this one? Are there any special achievements or important past projects that you can highlight? Tell the recruiter what your strengths are. Make sure you’re showing, not telling. Don’t just say you’re great with web development – give the recruiter an example of something awesome you’ve made for a website. Make sure to relate this section of the German cover letter to the actual job. Only list relevant skills and experiences. Be sure to mention that you also speak English (if the letter is in German). Generally, companies love bilingualism.
3. Third Paragraph
Tell the company exactly how you can help them be successful. You should tailor this section to the specific company you are applying for. Why do you want this job, out of all the other jobs you could apply for? What can you do for the company that no one else can do? Why this company and not, say, a competing company? Make sure you mention the company’s name. Do some research on the company to show your sincere interest. If the company won an award, mention it. Do you like how the company is working with charities, or do you like the products they develop? Impress the recruiter with the company knowledge you already have.
4. Closing Paragraph
Reiterate that you are interested in the position and thank them for their consideration. Describe what you would like for your future and express again how you can add value to the company. State what hours you are available to talk, any salary expectations (if they ask), and say you look forward to talking with them further and that they may contact you if they have any questions. Furthermore, tell them you will make a phone call to follow up with the company soon and be sure that you follow through.
Cover letter tips
- Clean up any social media messes you may have. It’s the age of the Internet, and your prospective employer will Google you. If there’s anything questionable on your social media pages, clean them up now. Make yourself look professional and presentable. No employer wants to see your post about how sloshed you got at a party last night. You can use networking sites to your advantage. Create a professional LinkedIn page that showcases your work skills and talents. Keep your Facebook looking professional. If you wouldn’t want your grandma to see it, don’t post it. The same goes for Twitter, Instagram, and any other social media sites you may have.
- If you send your application in via email, you can do one of two things: paste the German cover letter in the body of the email or attach it as a file with your Curriculum Vitae, references, a professional photograph of yourself, and any relevant certificates.
Either one is acceptable – just make sure you include all necessary parts in the email. In this scenario, the email basically becomes your cover letter. If you choose to attach it as a file, be sure to introduce yourself as an applicant in the body of the email, give a short introduction, and mention the attached files.If you’re sending your application via email, give each document a relevant name, such as First Name – Last Name – Resume, First Name – Last Name- CV, and so on. This will make it easier for whoever has to read your application, and makes you look more professional. If sending through regular mail, make sure to still include a professional headshot of yourself. Employers like to put a face to a name.
- If sending as an email, make sure all your documents are in PDF format.
- Be sure to sign all documentation, including your cover letter and CV.
- Do not use passive voice. Make sure you only use active verbs and keep your words positive.
- If your German cover letter is too long, pare it down. Conversely, keep the flowery language to a minimum. Make sure you get straight to the point. No one wants to read a novel about you. Make sure everything is relevant.
- Reiterate any keywords in the job description in your over letter. This will grab their attention and show relevance to the indicated position. Some German employers use a computerised system to filter out any irrelevant applicants. Including keywords will ensure you pass this first stage.
Now you have the tools to create a refreshing German cover letter. The cover letter is a very important part of the job application in Germany, if not the most important part. If your cover letter doesn’t shine, the prospective employer will look no further and discard your application. You must take your cover letter as seriously as they do. It must be clear, concise, and professional, but warm. Try finding someone with experience writing or reading cover letters to look it over you and give points off improvement.
If you can make a great impression with your cover letter, you are more likely to get an interview in which you can sell the employer on your personality, not just your qualifications. Remember that the best cover letter is one that is honest. Don’t lie, but make sure you clearly state your qualifications and achievements. Make a good impression with your German cover letter, one that will make the employer ask you back.
A good resume can help you negotiate a better job with a good pay and then you can be more aware of the gross net salary in Germany.