Work Abroad

How to write a cover letter – Answer the questions “why you?” and “why this job?”

How to write a cover letter

You’d like to work abroad and have found a job position you’d like to apply for. One of the most important application documents is your cover letter. Learning how to write a cover letter is very important. Your CV gives an overview of your profile. But it’s your cover letter, which reflects why you’re interested in the job position and why you’re the perfect fit for this position.

A well-crafted cover letter will take your employer to a guided journey of your life experiences. In addition to highlighting your achievements and personality, it shows your interest and motivation for the job position. You can make your job application tailored to a particular position through your cover letter.

Before we move on to the essential details, you need to understand what a cover letter is. A CV or Resume states facts, but your cover letter includes your flair. It’s a description of the type of person you are. It shows how well you can pitch yourself to your potential employer. In general, a cover letter can include 4 to 5 paragraphs where you basically answer two questions: “why you?” and “why this job?”. Let’s jump into details and see how you can write a cover letter that will help you land your dream job.

Why you?

Ask yourself the following questions before you start writing a cover letter. Why should this company hire you? What makes you better than other applicants? You can write 2 paragraphs to answer these questions.

Academic background and work experience   

In this paragraph, you can write about your academic background and work experience. But don’t simply write the names of the degrees and universities/companies. The HR or the respective departments can see those details from your CV or Resume. In a cover letter, you should write how your academic background and work experience is relevant to the job position you’re applying for.

You can mention some relevant projects or experiences from your studies or internship/job. Write about the value that your role added to a project, product or process and how this role helped you develop yourself professionally as well as personally. Moreover, I’d recommend writing about a problem that you solved. Mention briefly the nature of the problem and how you solved it.

Extra-curricular activities and social engagement

Here you can write about your extra-curricular activities and social engagement. This will allow the HR department to get a sense of your personality. For example, sports give an impression that you’re an active person. If you’ve done some voluntary work for a social project, mention briefly the details. This shows that you believe in giving back to the community. Job postings often include information about the personality traits that a company demands for a certain job position.

When you write a cover letter, mention the desired personality traits but don’t simply write the words. Instead, you should write about experiences that reflect those qualities. For example, don’t write “I’ve good teamwork and leadership skills”. Write something like “working as president of the XYZ student society gave me the opportunity to organize networking events and interact with people from around the world.” This experience reflects qualities such as leadership, management, and intercultural competence. Now that we’ve seen how to answer the question “Why you?”, let’s move on to the other important question that you should answer in your cover letter.

Why this job?

For this section of the cover letter, you can again write two paragraphs. In one paragraph, you can talk about the job position and in the other one you can write about the company. Read the job post carefully before you write a cover letter.

Why this job position?

Express your interest in the job position in this paragraph. Moreover, show how you’ll perform well in this role because of your relevant background and skills. For example, if the job involves working in interdisciplinary departments at different locations, write how you’ll benefit from this experience. More importantly, don’t forget to mention the value you’ll add to the company by working in this role. In a nutshell, you should show how it’s a win-win situation if the company hires you for this role.

Some people forget to express their motivation for the job because they focus too much on their expertise and skills. It’s good to show that you can do a great job in this particular role, but it’s equally important if not more, to express that you’re passionate about the job. If you’re not really interested in the job, this is not going to help you or the company in the long run. In case you’re applying for an overseas job, you may want to write why you’d like to work abroad in that country.

Why this company?

Do your research about the company. Don’t simply write “I want to work at your company because it’s one of the best companies in the world”. Avoid generic sentences like “you are well-known in the world for your products and services”. Be specific and show that you’ve done your homework. Mention some products or services of the company that fascinate you. Besides products and services, write about social responsibility of the company.

You can try to relate the company’s vision with your own life goals. For example, if you care about sustainable products or renewable energy, you can try to find information on these topics from company’s recent reports and highlight some key points. Doing so, you give an impression that you’ve written this cover letter specifically for this job position at this particular company. In addition to answering the main questions while writing a cover letter, keeping in mind the format for a cover letter is also important. Let’s see how you can take care of that.

Format of a cover letter

A cover letter is usually one page long. There is no specific format of a cover letter. I’d recommend the following sequence for the paragraphs:

  • Job position (why this position?)
  • Your academic background and work experience (why you as an expert?)
  • Your extra-curricular activities and life experiences (why you as a person?)
  • Company (why this company?)

The good thing about this sequence is that you put the company part in focus. The first and the last paragraphs are very important, make sure they give a good impression. Avoid generic points and write strong opening and closing sentences. Moreover, it’s a good idea to mention clearly in the last paragraph when exactly you can start the job. Best practice is to follow the format of cover letter that is normally used in the country where you’re applying.

Generally you write your name and address, company’s name and address, date and subject (name and reference number of the job position) on the top of the page. After that, you can start the body of the letter (four paragraphs mentioned above). In some countries, for example in Germany, your name and address is usually on the very top and it’s right aligned. Then comes the name and address of the company and it’s left aligned. In some countries, everything is left aligned.

There are also different formats to write the date such as 31/01/2020 or 01.31.2020. I personally think, it shouldn’t really matter how you write the date and other information. But it does give the impression that you’ve done your homework if you follow the usual format. When you’re applying online, I’d recommend uploading the cover letter in PDF format. If you’ve to write the cover letter in a specific form during the application process instead of uploading it, then you could avoid the information such as name, address, date and subject and directly start with the body of the letter.

Wrap up

We hope this post gave you a good overview on how to write a cover letter. To sum it up, you should answer the questions “why you?” and “why this job?”. We recommend writing 4 paragraphs as mentioned above in detail. But there is no hard and fast rule. Do your research and write a cover letter that suits best for your job application. Don’t forget to show your motivation in addition to mentioning your expertise and skills.

Furthermore, make sure that your cover letter has a personal touch and gives the impression that you’ve written it particularly for the job position you’re applying for. Make your cover letter speak for you, so that your dream of working abroad can come true. Good luck with your job applications!

If you want tips on how to work abroad and prepare documents required for a job application such as CV and Letter of Recommendation (LOR), check out Steps to Work Abroad.

Your cover letter plays a vital role in your job applications. In order to make your cover letter stand out and enhance your chances of landing your dream job, check out our Document Review Services.  


Author: Adil Ilyas

You Might Also Like