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Cover Letter Writing

Use your cover letter to focus on the future:

How can your skills be applied in a new job context?

Writing a Great Application

An application serves only one purpose: getting invited to an interview. That is why you need to call attention to yourself and show that you are interesting and that you are worth spending half an hour with.


Check out these eleven simple pieces of advice on how to write a great application:

1. Language

First, an application must be well written and without linguistic errors. It must not be too academic, but rather you should use a more common everyday language. Avoid using very long words and overly complex sentences. Your application must seem genuine, so avoid too many clichés and slang expressions. Otherwise, just write in a style that comes naturally to you – the recipient must be able to recognize you at the interview.  

2. Target your application

It is very important to write an application that targets the specific job you are applying for. Standard applications which have obviously been sent to many different companies will not capture the interest of the recipient. It must be possible to see, through your application, why you are the perfect candidate for the job.

Read the job ad carefully. A job ad always contains a lot of implicit questions which you can answer in your application. Find out more about the company. Often the most important information can be found on the company's website (specific assignments, company culture, dress code etc.).

The application must also be quite short. It must be no more than one page in length, or the recipient will lose interest. Especially if there are a large number of applicants, a long application can do more harm than good. You should, therefore, save the more detailed descriptions for your CV.

3. Call to ask questions

Sometimes you may find you have questions after reading the job ad and visiting the website. It can be a good idea to call the prospective employer. A contact is often listed in the job ad, but otherwise you can ask for the person handling applications for the position in question. In your application, you can also refer to this phone call to help the recipient remember you.

However, you should only call if you have a relevant question! Don't just call to attract attention to yourself, because if you are not focused, the employer may become irritated.  

4. Meet the requirements

When reading a job ad and the requirements for the position, you should be honest with yourself and consider whether you are really qualified for the job. Otherwise you may as well not apply. If your applications are always rejected, you should take a moment to reflect and ask yourself: Was I even qualified for these jobs, and did I target my applications?

It is therefore a good idea to spend a good deal of energy on the individual application and then settle for sending one really good application rather than ten mediocre standard applications.

5. Your motivation, background and competences


Before starting your application, you should do a bit of investigating to find out how you match the company. Include this in your motivation, and come up with arguments for why you are applying for the job. Say what caught your interest. It can be a good idea to think yourself into the company, the job and the work assignments. That way, you can better illustrate the match between you and the company. Your motivation should be your selling point.



You should then talk a bit about your background and what qualifies you for the job. For instance, you can – without overdoing it – repeat some of the words from the job ad. Or, even better, find other phrases and expressions that say the same thing. This shows that you have made an effort to consider the requirements for the job.

However, there is no reason to tell your entire life's story – stick to the parts that are relevant. This may, of course, be your education, but you should also refer to any relevant experience you have gained through your student job, membership of associations and recreational activities. You should also include your general qualifications (languages, IT, administration skills) and also take a few lines to describe your personal qualifications (team working, humour, flexibility). But remember, the application should be targeted at the job – personality can be more important in some jobs than in others. You might list the skills that qualify you for the position in question as bullets.



It is important that you highlight your competences. But rather than just saying that you are flexible, ambitious, independent and have a good sense of humour, show them why. Provide specific examples that describe your competences so the recipient can visualise the situations and get an impression of you as a person. Show it – don't tell it!

You will appear more credible if, for instance, you write about a situation where you showed great independence than if you just write that you are very independent. Through results and examples, you can show who your are and what you can do. Remember to describe how your competences can be used in the job in question be forward-looking in your application. 

6. Be forward-looking

In your application, you should explain what it is, specifically, that you can do for the company. Why are you worth spending time on? You can do this by looking to the future. That way your application will also supplement your CV, which presents you from a historical perspective. You can highlight the challenges you see in the position and what you can contribute in future. You might consider including what you think could be in the cards for the company in the next year. Here it is, of course, important to relate to your future work assignments.  

7. Be positive

Throughout your application, you should present yourself in as positive a light as possible. You should not lie, of course, but you have many competences to which you need to call attention in your application. You can easily do this without sounding like you're tooting your own horn. Just remember: Your competences must be relevant in relation to the position. A good way to write an application in a positive light is to avoid using negatively charged words.   

8. Creativity

Often the trick is to make sure that you stand out from the rest. You can do this by being a bit creative. However, with some companies it may be better to send a more traditional application, and there is such a thing as being too creative. But generally, creativity is good as a way of awakening the interest and curiosity of the recipient. And you can differentiate yourself from the other applications.

However, it is still important to consider what type of company your application is for and to use the appropriate amount of creativity. For example, you might be applying for a position as marketing assistant, so you could write an application in the style of an ad for that marketing firm. Or you might be applying for a position with a communications department, so you could write an application that resembles a newspaper article, because one of the responsibilities of the job is to write articles. That is how creativity can be very relevant to the job. Sometimes it can be beneficial to think beyond the limits of the traditional application and structure.

9. Proof-read your application

Remember to always proof-read your application to avoid spelling errors and the like. If you cannot proof-read your own application, it will be difficult to convince a company that you are qualified for the position. But the recipient can't see whether you did the proofing or whether your boyfriend or Aunt Erna helped you, so do whatever it takes to avoid careless mistakes in your application. It is also a good idea to get someone else's take on you – have you done a good enough job selling yourself?  

10. Always enclose your CV

It is not a good idea to include too many enclosures, unless specifically requested in the ad, as they can overwhelm the recipient. You can write that you would be happy to send letters of reference and diplomas on request. Instead, you can bring such documents to the personal interview. However, you should always enclose your CV, which should contain the more factual information.  

11. Better early than late

It is a good idea to send your application as early as possible. Recipients are often curious and read through the first applications that come in. When they re-read your application later, they will recognise it and that will help differentiate you from other applicants. However, there is nothing wrong with sending an application at the last minute – as long as it is not too late. But sometimes you are too late, and the decisions regarding interviews have already been made.  

Write Unsolicited Cover letters

They say that upwards of 80 per cent of jobs in the private sector are never advertised. That is why it is worthwhile to send unsolicited job applications, even though they are more time-consuming.

When you send an unsolicited application, you are applying for a position that you do not know exists or is vacant. But the benefit of this kind of proactivity is that you can get lucky and apply before a position is advertised and, in so doing, bypass the entire job queue. Sending unsolicited applications is time-consuming as it requires a good deal of research. And you also have to prepare yourself for a lot of rejections. But it is often worth it – it only takes one application to get lucky and hit a company with the right needs.  

When you write an unsolicited application, many of the same rules apply as for solicited job applications. Pay attention to the following:

Company or sector?

There are two ways to send an unsolicited application. You can either target your application at a specific company, which requires a good deal of research. Or you can target your application at a specific sector, and send the same application to several companies. The disadvantage of sending a sector-oriented application is that it can be difficult for the individual company to see exactly how they can use you. Here it is very important to consider what you can do and what you want.

It is primarily in the private sector that positions are not advertised. However, there are examples of, e.g., temporary positions in the public sector that are not advertised. But generally there are rules stating that public-sector positions must be advertised.

Finding companies

To find relevant companies, you can use your network, which may know where you and your competences might be needed. Your network will certainly also be able to give you useful advice and information about the company in question. You can also keep up-to-date on companies by reading the business sections of newspapers. Here you will also be able to identify growth companies which are often looking for new employees.  

Do research

If you are applying to a specific company, you need to do extensive research on that company. This can be very time-consuming, but it is worth it in the end. The company should feel that there is a reason why you are singling them out with an application. You can find information on the company on the Internet, by requesting information material or via your network.  

Send your application to the right person

Once you have decided where to send your application, it is important to send it to someone with management responsibility. It is clearly an advantage to send it directly to the management, thus bypassing the entire HR department. And there is no guarantee that the HR department knows beforehand when the need for a new employee will arise. So it is better to target departmental managers who know if the company needs you and who have the freedom to decide on their own whether to hire you.  

Be focused

First, you should find something special that you can offer the company. Remember that you are not begging for a job; you are applying because you have resources to offer to the company. You might present good ideas regarding the company. Perhaps you have heard about a project they are working on and to which you know you can contribute. Or perhaps you have simply read an article about the company in the newspaper and think your profile matches their company and that you have something to offer. Remember to be forward-looking and visionary. The boss or departmental manager should be able to say: "Hey, here's someone who is exactly what I'm looking for or whom I might need some day."

You need to present arguments for your relevant competences and for why they match the company. These can, of course, be your professional qualifications, where you describe the fields of work for which you are qualified. But because you do not know what specific position you are applying for, you can also increase the focus on your personal qualifications.

Be persistent

Conclude your application by saying that you will contact them next week to follow up on your application. That way you have a legitimate reason to call and talk to the recipient of your application. Do not leave messages with a secretary, but rather find out when the manager will be in. Do not expect them to call you back, so keep calling until you get through.

Prepare some questions about the company and about a possible position. Start out by asking whether they have read your letter and what they thought of it. If they have not read your letter, then summarise it. Set the stage for a personal interview. If they reject you outright, you might ask what they would do if they were in your shoes and really wanted to work in that particular line of business – is there something you could have done differently in your application etc. Or perhaps they know someone in the business who is looking for someone with your qualifications.