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.
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:
- A short intro where you explain where you found the job ad
- A section in which you motivate why the job (and the company!) interest you
- A section where you show you are a match with the desired skills
- 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!
Motivation letter 2.0
Let’s look at the 4 sections mentioned above and improve your chances of landing that dream job.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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?