Leiden University Career Zone
Carefully read the text of the job advertisement before starting to write your cover letter. Which qualities are the company looking for in a new employee? What areas of interest are crucial for the position? What tasks will I have to perform?
Once you have a clear overview of the facts, you can get to work on your cover letter.
- Make sure your letter fits on one sheet of A4
- Format your letter well
- Structure your text in paragraphs
- Be clear and direct
- Use a business-like tone
- Don’t be modest. Sell yourself
- Mention only your positive qualities
- Make sure there are no errors of spelling or grammar
- Ask someone to check the letter for you
Name of organisation
Street + house number
Postcode + town
Subject: Application for the position of….
Dear Mr / Ms [surname of contact person]
State where you saw the job advertisement and what position you are applying for. If you have previously phoned the company for additional information about the vacancy, refer to this phone call (if you spoke to someone other than the addressee, mention the name of that person).
Why are you applying for the job?
Describe your enthusiasm for the position. Why do you think you would enjoy doing this job?
Suitability for the position
Clearly state who you are, what you have to offer and why the company should employ you. What qualities and experience do you have that make you suitable for this position?
Briefly explain and substantiate each point. For example:
- “Whilst working at the front desk I had to deal with a wide range of customers with very diverse requests. This taught me to work quickly and independently. Whilst doing this job I came to realise that I have excellent communication skills”.
- You have done similar work in the past, you achieved something through this work, you are good at it, it corresponds with your personal interests etc.
- You have followed additional courses in this area, your thesis addressed this area, you have done training in this field, you did this kind of work during an internship, your study programme has taught you to draw up reports quickly and efficiently, etc.
- You recognise yourself in the personal qualities mentioned in the vacancy (leadership, teamwork…), because you were such an enthusiastic leader of your youth football team.
- You can use your personal qualities to good effect in this position: you have demonstrated this in the past, when you managed to bring a difficult and complicated project to a successful conclusion, thanks to your determination etc.
Your interest in the organisation
Describe your interest in the organisation. Why do you want to work for this organisation in particular?
You are aware of the goals and developments within the organisation and they correspond well with your way of working, etc.
Drawing the letter to a close
Here you make it clear that you would like to be invited for interview.
State this in an enthusiastic and active way: ‘I would welcome the opportunity to discuss my application with you during an interview’, rather than ‘I hope you will invite me for a personal interview’. Hope is too cautious.
A open application is different in nature to a targeted application. There is no job vacancy text, so you have to use different ways to find out what the company is looking for in a new employee. Mention what position, or in what department, you would like to work. Make it clear why you would like to work in that position or department. With a well-substantiated letter you have a greater chance of being invited for an interview.
- Search for a job vacancy for a similar position or department
- Study the website of the company in question
- Call the company for additional information
- Ask for information within your network of contacts
- Read the company’s annual report
If you don’t receive a reply within two weeks of sending your letter, call the company.