How to write your Letter of application | Motivation letter

To help you write your application letter (or also called motivation letter), we made a guide which you can use during this process. Furthermore, here you can find tips on the layout and content of your letter of application. We wish you all the best of luck in writing your application letter! In case you want to have your letter checked, mail your letter of application (together with your CV and the job vacancy) to studentcareerservices@wur.nl.

Guide: how to write a letter of application

1.       Analyze the vacancy and company       
Start by analyzing the vacancy and job description. What is stated in the vacancy? What kind of person is the company looking for? Also: what is the company culture (formal or more informal)? Try to get a clear picture of the vacancy and the company.
If anything is unclear to you, you can decide to call the company (often there is a contact person listed in the vacancy). Make sure you have a clear question for this person.   
A good letter is written in a style that seamlessly matches the company’s communication style. You can check this by looking at their website. This will help you to decide whether to adopt a formal, informal, business-like, or creative style. Sometimes large organizations use software to scan your motivation letter for words/topics. So, use the same words as they use in their vacancy’s criteria.

2.       Match yourself with the vacancy          
Your letter of application should be tailored to the intended readers. To make sure that the employer thinks you are suitable for the job, your application letter needs to focus on the match between your qualities/characteristics and the employer’s requirements that are stated in the vacancy. It can help to write the requirements down and to look at which qualities you possess. Make sure you can argue how you possessed these requirements; for this take a close look at your CV.

 

3.       The start of your letter
After you analyzed the vacancy and company, and made it clear to yourself how you match with the vacancy, you can start to write your letter of application. First, write down your own contact details, followed by the contact details of the company, the date at which you sent the letter to the company and the subject of the letter:             

Your name       
Address
City,  Zip Code 
Phone Number
Email Address 

Name of the recipient*
This person’s job title   
Company
Company Address        
City, Zip Code  

* Make sure you know who to refer to in your letter of application (sometimes this can be someone else than the contact person of the vacancy). If you are not sure, you may want to call the company and ask for this.      

Location and date         

Subject: Application letter for (add the function title)   

Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name,          


4.       The first sentence         
Open creatively: Grab the reader’s attention right at the very start of your letter. Incorporate current affairs, facts or best of all, a personal anecdote. Prospective employers often must work their way through an enormous number of motivation letters, so the first sentence is more important than you may think. This sentence must catch the reader’s attention. Dare to depart from safe and standard opening sentences. Instead, begin with a powerful one-liner that encapsulates your specialization or your ambitions.      

5.       The first paragraph

The first sentence is part of an introductory paragraph in which you state for which position you apply and why you are interested in this position and/or organization. What makes them an interesting organization for you? Why is the function interesting? Why are you applying for the job? Show that you have done your homework and know the organization and its field of work.

6.       The second paragraph 
Obviously, you need to explain why you are interested in the position, but the focus of your letter should be what you have to offer. Therefore, in your second paragraph, you match the criteria asked for in the vacancy to your own skills and experiences. Explain why you are suitable for the position and capable to do the tasks that are part of the job. So be sure to point out how your capabilities meet the requirements asked for in the vacancy. Here, it is important to mention examples as well. So, for instance: do not only state that you can work under pressure but give an example why you can do this. You can do this by giving examples that match these criteria via the STAR method (situation, tasks, your action, results). Again, make sure to use the words the company uses in the vacancy. Furthermore, keep in mind to sell yourself: combine experience from your CV with personal attributes and give examples of what you did in a story telling way. Focus on your achievements and how you would use your qualities in the job.             

 

7.       The third paragraph     
The third paragraph is the concluding paragraph in which you close your letter of application. Summarize why you are the best candidate for this job and say that you would like to meet the recipient of the letter. So, end with a call to action by stating that you want to motivate your letter in a personal contact and that you hope to hear from them.           

8.       End of the application letter    
Close the application letter with a suitable greeting and your name. Furthermore, you can state that your CV is attached to the letter of application (some companies ask for a letter of recommendation. If so, you can state that that is included in the attachment as well). If you choose for this, include the CV in the same document as the letter of application. Be aware on the following: if you send your letter of application via email, you can leave this last sentence out of your motivation letter. This, as you must explain in the email message itself which documents the company can find in the attachment of the email. If you apply for a position via a company portal, you may not need to include this sentence as well as often there is a specific button for the CV (and/or any other documents).              

 

Tips for the layout and style of your letter of application:         

  • Make sure your letter of application is max. 1 page (an application for a PhD position might need more pages than only 1). Try to keep it short, otherwise the reader (company) might lose their attention.
  • Always send your letter in PDF format.
  • Include your name in the title of the application letter, CV and email.
  • Make sure your layout is clean and has a logical structure.
  • Personal information appears on your CV. It is not needed to include this in your application letter.
  • Always write a new letter for each application. It is fine to re-use parts that work well, but always tailor it to the job. This as you need to adapt your letter to the vacancy: no two letters you write should be the same as no vacancy is the same.
  • Do not use the word ‘I’ too much in your letter and do not start a sentence with ‘I’ too often. Also, never start a new paragraph with the word ‘I’.
  • Use active language instead of passive language in your letter. For example, state: my passion is finance, rather than finance is my passion. This will make sure your application letter is easier to read.
  • Try to stay positive in your letter and avoid negative sentences or sentences including denial.
  • Avoid abbreviations and/or language that is job specific (in Dutch: vakjargon).
  • You can align your letter to the left side.
  • Keep in mind that your application letter is not a recap of your CV. Instead, refer to your CV.
  • It is always good to let someone else check your application letter. Ask them to look at the vacancy as well and ask them whether they think there is a good match between the vacancy and your letter of application.
  • Very important: make sure there are no spelling or grammar mistakes! Maybe obvious, but keep in mind: everything you write in your application letter should be readable and interesting.

  

Tips for the content of your letter of application:

Your letter is also more likely to be noticed if you refer to a person who is familiar with or to the company. If you have a question about the vacancy, call the prospective employer and refer to this phone call in your letter. However, only do so if you have a relevant question about the position. Otherwise, it may frustrate the employer.

When you apply for a job, most employers will read your CV first. If your CV interests them, they will go on to read your letter of application. Your letter of application is a supplement to your CV, and in it you can explain more about who you are and what your motivations are. Everything that is in your letter, should also be in your CV. No new information, just some extra explanation. It should not be a repeat of your CV in narrative form, but a well-written text in which you introduce yourself to your potential new employer.             

Be enthusiastic about why you want to work for the company. Be clear about what you want; do not be vague. Try not to be too flattering. Avoid cliché terms such as: “enthusiastic”, “team player” and “go-getter”.            

You need to state the name of the company at least once, otherwise they think it is a general letter for all kind of organizations. Make sure to please the company!    

Your CV has already demonstrated that you have the right (hard) skills and knowledge, so use the letter of application to show that you have the right motivation, vision, and personality for the organization.