Together with your CV (Lebenslauf), the cover letter is a key component of any job application in Germany. Far more than a mere formality, a cover letter is an important means of presenting yourself to a prospective employer. It would be difficult to land a job in Germany without one. This page walks you through the process of crafting a job-winning cover letter, with a few hints and tips about what is expected in the federal republic.
Cover letter in German (Anschreiben)
First things first: what is a cover letter? Although it may be tempting to send in your job application without one, a cover letter is an important part of job applications in Germany, and most hiring managers will expect to receive one, even if the vacancy listing does not explicitly specify this.
A cover letter is a short (usually no more than one page) document that you submit together with your resume as part of your job application. Rather than simply repeating the information contained in your CV, its purpose is to expand upon it, summarising your skills and experience, explaining what makes you a good fit for the role, and (hopefully!) piquing the hiring manager’s interest. While a CV lays out the facts, your cover letter conveys more personality. You can expect to be asked about both if you make it to a job interview.
In Germany, a cover letter (Anschreiben) generally follows a prescribed format, which makes it easier to structure your own.
Cover letter templates
Using a template can be a good way to get started, and will also ensure your cover letter is well-formatted. If you used a template for your CV, it’s a good idea to use the same design for your cover letter, to make your application look professional and consistent.
The following websites offer cover letter templates:
How to write a cover letter in Germany
German cover letters are not fundamentally different to those in other countries, with the only possible difference being they are rather formal and matter-of-fact, with no credit given to pomp, exaggerations or overly flowery language.
As with elsewhere in the world, your cover letter in Germany should be succinct – no more than one side of A4 in size 12 font. You also do not want to present the hiring manager with a dense wall of text, so make sure to break it up into sizeable paragraphs.
It may be time-consuming, but you should also write a unique(ish) cover letter for each job you apply for. Recruiters don’t like to receive form letters – and sending off a generic letter is a sure-fire way to ensure your application ends up in the bin. You need to explain why you want this specific position, and what makes you particularly suited for it – so tailor your cover letter based on the responsibilities and requirements outlined in the job description, and what you know about the company.
Cover letter format
If you’re not sure where to start, it can help to break the letter down into a few sections. Almost all cover letters are structured around the same tried-and-tested format:
- A header with your contact information
- A greeting to the hiring manager
- An opening paragraph that will grab the reader’s attention
- A second paragraph that explains why you’re the perfect fit for the job
- A third paragraph that outlines why you’re a good match for the company
- A formal closing
How to start a cover letter: With a header
Writing your contact header is a good way to ease yourself in, and ensure you’re not staring at a blank page. As with a CV, it’s important to include some basic contact information on your cover letter. You should include:
- Full name
- Phone number
- Email address
- Name of the hiring manager
- Name of the company you’re applying to
You might also consider adding your social media profiles or the address of your personal website, if these are relevant in your field and to the job you’re applying for.
Address the hiring manager
This is where you can score some easy marks. You’d be surprised how many people open their cover letters with, “Dear Sir or Madam.” That’s one way to turn off a hiring manager. It’s much better to address your letter to them personally. That means you need to do some research.
If you’re lucky, this information is included in the job description. You should also check the “Team” or “About us” page on the company’s website. Alternatively, you could turn to LinkedIn to find out who’s head of the relevant department. If in doubt, call up the company and ask who you should address your application to. It might make your name stick out when it comes to sifting through CVs.
As a last resort, if you really can’t get hold of a name, address your cover letter using one of these greetings:
- Dear [Department] Hiring Manager
- Dear Hiring Manager
- Dear [Department or Company Name] Team
Write your introduction
This is worth taking your time over. Companies typically receive hundreds of applications for single positions, and so they’re not going to be reading every cover letter from top to bottom. You need to grab their attention from the first paragraph.
The key here is to not be too generic – most applicants will probably have similar work experience and interests. Instead, you need to explain what makes you unique. What is your bottom-line USP? That’s what the recruiter wants to know.
Explain why you’re a good fit for the job
Next, it’s time to get into the meat of your letter, by outlining your professional skills, and explaining why this experience makes you better-qualified than the other applicants. It’s a good idea to have the job description to hand when you write this section. Match the requirements listed by the company to elements from your own skill set and work history, and elaborate on them.
But there’s no way you’ll have space to cover every single detail. Instead, pick two or three of the most important requirements and use them to spin a couple of compelling stories from your own experience.
Explain why you want to work for the company
The final section of your cover letter is just as important: explaining why you want to work for this specific company. Hiring managers want to know that you’d be a good fit for the company culture – that you want this job, not just any job – otherwise you’d be a risky hire.
This might require you to do some extra research – what do you know about the company and its products or services? What’s the work culture like? What about that enthuses you? It pays to be super specific.
Wrap things up
That’s it – you’re almost there! Now you need to finish with a conclusion that wraps up your letter. If you have anything else you want to say, now’s your chance. Finally, thank the hiring manager for their time (it’s only polite).
Then, it’s time to sign off with a formal closing. You could use:
- Best regards
- Kind regards
- Yours sincerely
- Thank you
Once your cover letter is finished and proofread, you’re ready to send off your application. Put your feet up and wait for a response.
Should I write my cover letter in German?
Whether or not you should write your cover letter in German depends on a few factors, namely:
- The language requirements of the job
- What is specified on the job description
- Your own language ability
If a job description specifies that applications should be made in German, it’s best to follow this advice. If your language ability isn’t up to the task of writing a CV and cover letter in German, it may be that the job itself is also beyond your language capabilities.
However, an increasing number of companies in Germany, specifically international companies, are now offering English-speaking roles, although some still require you to apply in German. In this instance, it’s worth submitting your documents in German (you can ask a German-speaking friend to help, at least by checking your finished CV and cover letter over). To really show off your language skills, you could submit both English and German versions of your application.
Cover letter examples
Not sure where to start? It can be a good idea to read some example cover letters to give you an idea of what is expected. But don’t be tempted to copy them word for word – you want to convey your own, unique personality, not someone else’s.
English cover letter sample
The internet is full of examples of cover letters written in English. Check out popular websites like Novorésumé, Monster.com, Reed, Indeed, and LiveCareer.
German cover letter example
Checking out a German cover letter example can also be a good way of getting started, especially if German is not your native language. Look at websites like Karrierebibel, Bewerbung.net and Staufenbiel, or simply search “Anschreiben Beispiel”, to get a good idea of how German cover letters are structured.
Cover letter tips
- Make sure your cover letter is correctly formatted and free of spelling and grammatical errors – ideally, have a friend check it over for you before sending it.
- Include your personal details at the top of your letter.
- Do your research to address the hiring manager by name.
- Always tailor your cover letter to match the job description.
- Use specific, concrete examples from your work history to back up your points.
- End with a formal signing-off.
- Make sure your letter is no longer than one side of A4.