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8 tips from 1to1PROGRESS for writing an irresistible cover letter

Okay, here we go! You’ve decided to take the plunge and apply for an international job. You would like to write a cover letter in English that will catch the eye of recruiters. To help you do this, we’ve put together our best tips in this article!

1. Research the company to tailor your letter to the position you’re applying for

Just like French companies, international firms receive dozens, even hundreds of applications for each job advertisement. Imagine the disappointment of recruiters when they see that the majority of cover letters that arrive on their desks are almost identical. It is not uncommon for applicants to “recycle” old applications that have already been sent in for other jobs. Such cover letters are impersonal and not really adapted for the intended position.

By doing thorough research on the company you are applying for, you can highlight elements that will make your application stand out from the rest.

  • What are the values of your future company? 
  • What sets it apart from the competition? 
  • What are the hard skills and soft skills required for this position?
  • What are the possible development opportunities in the job you are applying for?
  • Etc.

During your research, take the opportunity to learn about the recruitment process and identify who will be your key contact.

💡 Good to know: in terms of layout, the sender’s contact information is positioned at the top left. You then write the recipient’s contact information below (still on the left side of the sheet).

2. Choose between using British or American English

Would you write a letter in Quebec French if you’re applying for a job with a Parisian company? With English, it’s the same thing! You will have to choose the most appropriate version.

For a company located across the Channel or in the United States, the choice is obvious: choose the version of the language that corresponds to the country where the company is based.

On the other hand, if you are applying to a Polish, Japanese or Argentinean company, what should you choose? In this case, we recommend that you analyse the job offer to which you are applying (or the company’s website in the case of an unsolicited application) and look at “which English” is used.

For example, if you are told that A-levels are required for a position, then you should use British English. If, on the other hand, you are told that a High School Diploma is required, then American English should be used.

3. Use proper English greetings

In the Anglo-Saxon world, the polite forms of address are much less complicated than in French. However, this does not exempt you from using the proper greetings in your correspondence (cover letter, email, business letters…).

Once again, the research you have done beforehand will be useful here! You will be able to choose the best greeting depending on:

  • The identity of the recipient: is the recruiter a man or a woman? Do you know her name? You could start your cover letter with Dear Mrs. Smith or Dear Madam.
  • The degree of formality that the company portrays: is it a rigid, highly hierarchical structure or, on the contrary, a “relaxed” start-up? If so, perhaps a simple Hello Judith would be more appropriate.

🔎  To know everything about polite expressions in English, we recommend that you read our article on this subject: Knowing how to use polite expressions in English: it couldn’t be easier!

4. Explain who you are and highlight your qualities

The first part of your cover letter should allow the recruiter to get to know you. The better they can understand who you are, the more they will be willing to continue reading. Explain the process behind your application (why you are applying, where you heard about the position…).

Secondly, detail your skills, limiting yourself to those that are relevant to the position. However numerous your qualities may be, you don’t want to bore the recruiter with a long letter, do you? 😉

This is also a good time to talk about your academic and professional background. It will allow you to highlight the technical skills acquired during your studies. Finally, you can also talk about your personal skills such as organization, teamwork, communication…   

5. Talk about your language skills

An international job application also means a good command of languages. While your cover letter should reflect your level of English, you can also write a few lines about:

  • the language certifications you have obtained;
  • the language training you are taking or have taken;
  • the different languages you are interested in…

👉 To go further: How to indicate your language level on your CV: 5 practical tips

6. Demonstrate why you are the right candidate

How do you prove to recruiters that you’re the right person for the job? Match the qualities you mentioned above with the company’s requirements. Don’t hesitate to provide real evidence:

  • give examples of success stories from your career or student life;
  • support your examples with figures or real facts;
  • demonstrate how you can replicate these success stories in your future job.

If relevant, also consider why you want to work in the company’s sector of activity and what knowledge you have of the sector.

7. Use rich, varied and professional vocabulary

Your cover letter in English is unlikely to be effective if you use plain language that might be considered as bland. Instead, use action verbs and strong words related to your target job to spice up your application!🔥

Blanket verbs like ‘to do’ or ‘to be’ can be transformed into:

  • to lead;
  • to improve;
  • to found;
  • to master;
  • to correct;
  • etc.

In this Dice article, you’ll find a list of power verbs that will make your cover letter irresistible.

8. Have your cover letter proofread in English

Last but not the least, have your letter proofread before you send it! It would be a shame if your application were to be overlooked because of a poorly used past perfect or a few spelling mistakes.

You can have your letter checked by an English-speaking relative or, even better, by your 1to1PROGRESS trainer.

With these 8 tips, you’re ready to write your cover letter in English, so get to work!