Aarhus University Seal

Cover letters for business and industry

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. Use your cover letter to focus on the future and how your skills can be applied in the new job.

Steps for writing a cover letter

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.