How to write a Motivation Letter

I was recently asked to give a lecture to bachelor IT students on how they should apply for jobs after finishing their studies. The students were really interested and responded enthusiastically to this practical approach. After publishing my earlier blog on the LinkedIn apply button, several people asked me to give them some basic tips on writing a good motivation letter. I figured it is a good subject for a blog, so this article is dedicated to help you write a good motivation letter. If you want to know why you should consider writing a motivation letter when you are applying to a job, you should read the previous blog post first.

Motivation - Motivation Letter

The structure of a motivation letter

First let me give an overview on the structure of a basic motivation letter. The letter should be on 1 page (PDF beats Word!) consisting of the following parts:

  1. A short intro where you explain where you found the job ad
  2. A section in which you motivate why the job (and the company!) interest you
  3. A section where you show you are a match with the desired skills
  4. A short summary in which you invite the reader to follow up

Now those are the basics, which you can probably find all over the internet if you search for it. These may seem like common knowledge, but I can tell you that most of the letters I receive lack at least one of these sections. Getting the basics right gives you an advantage over the people who do not, thus getting you closer to your dream job. But I don’t want to leave you all at the basic level; I want to take you to the next level!

Next Level

Motivation letter 2.0

Let’s look at the 4 sections mentioned above and improve your chances of landing that dream job.

  1. Section 1 should not only contain where you found the job, it is also a great opportunity to grab the readers attention. Unfortunately many recruiters don’t have the time (or decency) to read your complete motivation letter, so it is important to convince him/her to finish yours. You can do this by adding a personal or creative remark on the job ad. It is hard for me to tell you what to write exactly (since its personal and creative) but feel free to grab the attention of the reader as long as you keep it within the formal and professional setting.
  2. Section 2 is the section most people tend to forget, which is odd since the motivation letter should contain at least some form of motivation. Many people simply sum up their past jobs and education (which is already done in your C.V. and can be used in section 3), which would make it a motivation-less letter. It is very important that you explain why you would like the job which is advertised and why you would like to work for the company. You can do this by taking a piece out of the job ad which you genuinely like and explain why. You can do the same for the company; find something in the job ad or their website, and explain what you like about it in a sentence. This shouldn’t be to hard since you are hopefully applying to a job you are interested in.
  3. In the third section you should convince the reader you have the desired skills and attitude. Stating this might work, but it is a lot better to prove your statements. Proving something is done by supplying evidence, which you actually have in abundance. Pick out a few desired skills in the job ad and explain why you have these desired skills. You can do that by referring to past jobs, education or something you do in your spare time. Providing this evidence is level 2, actually motivating why you like using those skills is level 3!
  4. The fourth section is the one I find the hardest to improve. It has a tendency to get corny rather quick and should be kept short and efficient in my opinion.

I would like to conclude with a few extra pointers which aim at the entire motivation letter:

  • Write a unique letter for each job ad; It might not seem efficient, but if you really want the job, take the time to write a motivation letter. I receive loads of basic letters from people who have simply changed the company name in the heading (sometimes in a different font to make it even more clear they don’t really care)
  • Be open and honest. It will make a more personal motivation letter which is more fun to read and has a bigger chance to stick in the mind of the recruiter.
  • Don’t be afraid to sell yourself. You are a talented person and the employer should be happy to have you as an employee. As I already mentioned you should be honest, but that doesn’t mean you should be the most modest applicant out there. Tell them why you are of added value for the company, and show them the evidence.


What do you think? Do you have any tips you wish to share?

Why ‘Apply with LinkedIn’ might not get you hired faster

LinkedIn Apply Button

Recently LinkedIn announced that they have made it possible to apply for a job on a mobile device using their ‘Apply with LinkedIn’ button. This button was already available on their browser version. Right below the button LinkedIn suggest you will get hired faster. I disagree with this and would like to explain why, in hope of helping people to get their dream job.

TOPdesk and LinkedIn

At TOPdesk, we use LinkedIn to try and find new potential employees. We have a paid account which allows us to post up to five jobs simultaneously and gives us plenty of possibilities to find and contact the candidates we would like to talk to. Overall we are satisfied with the results and are really happy with LinkedIn and the way they change the job market (which is otherwise flooded with old fashioned job boards and recruitment agencies). One feature we do not use is the  ‘Apply with LinkedIn’ button. We ask our potential employees to go to our website and apply there with a resume and motivation letter. Why do we ask people to do this? Does it not discourage potential talented people to apply by asking them to do something while they could have applied by just clicking on the button? It’s because we would like you to motivate why you want to work with us.

The work of a recruiter

Let me try and approach this from a different angle: You probably know this, but the recruiters who post a job offer receive more applications than the one you’ve just send in. Especially in these times, where the difference between the number of cool jobs and the number of applicants is even higher, it is wise to distinguish yourself from the other job hunters. A recruiter who receives 100 applications for a single job, will read trough all the resumes and motivation letters and and come up with a short list of people he would like to invite for an interview. Applicants who have added a decent motivation letter show that the applicant is truly motivated, and thus are more likely to get an invite.

Adding a motivation letter to you application is not just a check box you should fill in, in order to have the recruiter to take your application seriously, or because it is a tradition. The motivation letter is a chance for you to explain why this is your dream job and why you are the person that should be hired. This is even more important when your resume isn’t top-notch, doesn’t completely match the desired skills, or when you want to make a career change. In those cases (but I would advocate in all cases), the recruiter would probably overlook your resume if you didn’t send a motivation letter. Adding a good motivation letter might get his attention and persuade him to invite you for this dream job despite the unusual profile or other ‘better’ resumes.

Will you get hired faster?

Getting back to the new ‘apply with LinkedIn’ button in the mobile app. It says right underneath that you ‘Get hired faster’. I would like to nuance that statement. The button makes it much easier to apply for a job (or a huge amount of jobs), but it does not necessarily mean you will get your dream job faster. When you use the button, you are unable to add your motivation letter. People taking the time to go to the corporate website and apply with their resume (or LinkedIn profile) and add a motivation letter might just snatch away your dream job. Think of it this way: using the apply button is like using a shot gun, it works wonders for targeting large amount of targets/jobs. However, if you want to catch that one dream job hiding in the bushes, you might be better off using a sniper rifle and taking the time to aim for that important shot. Hopefully LinkedIn will provide you with this option in the future.


In a future post I will give some tips on what a good motivation letter actually looks like.