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Letter of motivation: sample, ingenious tips on structure + content

The letter of motivation is similar to the cover letter. But it is written more personally and goes into more depth. As a supplement to the application, it helps to highlight specialist knowledge, emphasize soft skills or increase motivation for the job. The letter of motivation is often requested by foundations. Corporations or organizations that award scholarships also expect it when applying. We will show you what to look out for in the letter of motivation, give tips on the structure and content, including numerous formulations and examples. You will also receive samples and free templates to download ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

What is a letter of motivation?

The letter of motivation is a voluntary addition to the classic application documents, which consist of a cover letter and curriculum vitae. The terms "third page" or "page three" of the application are used synonymously for this. It is usually required when awarding study places, scholarships or au-pair places. The motivation letter should give HR managers a better overall picture of an applicant. However, there are no formal rules for this. It is crucial that the candidate's personality and motivation come out between the lines.

TIP: Always write your cover letter in the first person. The application becomes so much more personal! Also, be sparing with adjectives. Short, concise main sentences seem stronger.

What is the difference to a cover letter?

Both terms - "letter of motivation" and "letter of application" - are used synonymously in Germany (in Austria and Switzerland they mean the same in the application). The letter of motivation only serves as a supplement to the cover letter in the application. It is NOT a substitute for it. These are the main differences:

Letter of motivation structure

Formally, the letter of motivation - like the cover letter in the application - contains a letterhead (name, address, e-mail and telephone number), date (right-aligned), heading, introduction, main part, conclusion, greeting and signature. On the other hand, you can do without the recipient address in the letter of motivation. For this, it is always addressed personally to the recipient. So do not write: “Dear Sir or Madam,” but “Dear Mr. Müller”.

Further formal requirements for the design of the letter of motivation does not exist. You can formulate freely as well as choose a creative design: a cook could make the third page look like a menu card; a doctor like a prescription; a controller like a balance sheet ... You can also design the third page as running text or choose a layout with lists. Both variants have established themselves in the application and are now the accepted standard:

Letter of motivation as running text

In this variant, the content is divided into paragraphs and formulated as running text. The letter of motivation in continuous text form has more of a letter character, is more personal, but also looks more confusing. It is all the more important that you break it down into short paragraphs. They help the reader to orientate themselves better. You can also structure the paragraphs with bold stitch marks or use subheadings.

Letter of motivation enumeration

With this form you do without long sentences, but work with key terms (so-called "keywords") and relevant bullet points. This variant is well suited to delimiting the letter of motivation more clearly from the application letter by design. Advantage: The content can be captured quickly, the author does not have to be able to formulate brilliantly. Disadvantage: Writing seems more impersonal and in the worst case like from a text module. It is therefore crucial to use terms or lists in the application that are individual, not trite and meaningful.

Also a mixed form of running text and listing is possible in the application. Example: You start and end with a paragraph in continuous text form, with a list of your top skills and experience in between. In terms of content, you can also set the priorities differently, depending on the purpose of the letter of motivation:

  • Either your letter of motivation fulfills one summarizing function and should enable the HR manager to get a quick overview of the most important facets and competencies. Then list ALL relevant skills and job-specific qualifications here as comprehensively and in a structured manner as possible.
  • Or you put the Emphasis on motivation. In this case, the cover letter is expanded to include important arguments on the third page. You can also highlight significant stages in your résumé. Everything that is convincing.

In the best case, page 3 offers an authentic (!) Overview of the most important key data, arguments and competencies of an applicant (see also video tip).

Motivation letter pattern

The letter of motivation is one of the most meaningful and creative elements of the application. To support you in this, we have made the two standard variants available for you to download as a sample and a free template. Just click on the pictures and download the WORD file:

Letter of motivation content

Nobody wants to read novels in the letter of motivation. The most important strengths, experiences and your motivation must be immediately apparent. The best way to do this is to have a clear structure on the third page and to divide your letter of motivation into paragraphs. This triad of interest in the company, professional qualifications, personal and professional skills has proven itself. You should also adapt the layout to the rest of the application documents. So the same font and font size. So everything looks like a piece, more coordinated and much more serious.

heading

What is the message on page 3? The headline can simply be "Letter of motivation". That says what it is - factual, without any frills. If you like it more personal, address the addressee directly or provoke curiosity with a question.

Examples of headings in the letter of motivation:

  • Why should you promote me?
  • Why should you hire me?
  • About me
  • my motivation
  • Why I am applying to you
  • What you should know about me
  • What is important to me personally
  • My special talents and experiences
  • That's important to me
  • That is what sets me apart
  • Why I am the right person for the position
  • What qualifies me for the position

introduction

How to start a letter of motivation? Even the first sentence can make a big difference, ignite it, arouse curiosity, inspire - or turn it off completely. Empty phrases and wording like: "I am applying here" or "I am very happy ..." are taboo. Written too often and therefore an indication of a mediocre applicant for HR professionals. Get straight to the point in the opening sentence of the letter of motivation.

Examples of the first sentence in the letter of motivation

  • "I want to study mechanical engineering because this subject is as varied as it is challenging - and because I have always been enthusiastic about mechanics, technology, mathematics and physics."
  • “My values ​​and strengths include reliability and independent and precise work. So far, I have been able to prove this successfully as a project manager. Now I would like to use my strengths and experience to advance your team. "
  • “In the professional environment, creativity, innovation and future orientation are in the foreground for me. Your company and the values ​​you stand for fit in perfectly - which is why I am happy to convince you why I am the best choice for the vacancy. "
  • “Since I was allowed to do an internship in your company three years ago, it was clear to me: This is exactly where I want to work later! Now I have successfully completed my studies and would like to bring my knowledge and motivation to your company. "
  • “When I found out that there was a vacancy in your team, it was immediately clear to me: I have to go there! For years I have been following the development of your company with great interest and I would not like to miss the opportunity to become part of your team. "

Bulk

How do you write a letter of motivation? In the core part of the letter of motivation, you should list your best arguments that speak for you and set you apart from other applicants and applications. It is important not just to list them, but to substantiate them with examples. These points are an important selection criterion for many scholarships:

Key questions for the main part of the letter of motivation

- Why do I want the position / the scholarship?
- What do I love about it?
- Why am I applying to this particular employer?
- What unique added value do I think I can offer for this?
- What is my unique selling point?
- What important development step does it represent for me?
- Why do I fit perfectly into the program / position?
- Why should I be promoted?
- What goals do I want to achieve in the company?

Examples & formulations for the main part

  • “What I love about your company is the open communication, the modern working environment and the opportunities for advancement. The young and dynamic team is the ideal prerequisite for contributing my creative and innovative ideas. "
  • “The name of your company stands for customer satisfaction, quality and enthusiasm. I feel equally committed to these values ​​and would like to contribute to further shaping and improving the image of the company. "
  • “In addition to professional competence, which I expand through continuous training and visiting various trade fairs, I see my greatest strengths primarily in my own initiative and my determination. For every task and every project, I think about what else I can contribute outside of the specifications in order to achieve or even exceed the set goals. "
  • “Working as a marketing specialist is my absolute passion. I love to develop suitable strategies for every customer, to present products and to see how ideas become reality. I would like to use this enthusiasm for you. "
  • “The vision of your company is to become the market leader within the next five years - I am convinced that we can achieve this together and also develop an international reputation as one of the top companies. With my many years of experience in management, my numerous contacts within the industry and my strategies that I would like to implement, I consider these goals not only realistic, but the inevitable result of joint efforts. "

Enough

How do you end a letter of motivation? The final part of your letter of motivation shapes the final impression. Thank you for your interest in your career or confirm that you look forward to positive feedback and an invitation to an interview. The final sentence in the letter of motivation should never sound humiliating, but also not insecure. The biggest mistake is the subjunctive: "I would love to hear from you". Such a phrase sounds humble, but it weakens the message and makes you small and less confident. It is better to ask the recipient - indirectly - to take action and invite you. You can find more tips for convincing closing sentences in applications HERE.

Examples of the final sentence in the letter of motivation

  • "I would be happy to go into more detail on my ideas in a personal interview and explain how I imagine the development and direction of Fantasie AG over the next five years."
  • “If you are looking for the greatest motivation and identification with the goals of your company, then I am the right candidate. I look forward to a personal conversation in which I will further prove my motivation. "
  • “Thank you for considering me for the vacancy. I look forward to convincing you of my motivation and suitability in a personal conversation. "
  • "I am available for further questions and look forward to getting to know you personally."
  • "I am very happy to receive an invitation to an interview."
  • "Thank you for considering my application. I look forward to our personal conversation and cooperation with great motivation. "

At the end, you sign the letter of motivation by hand with ink and fountain pen or pen. Never pencil or felt pen!

7 typical mistakes in motivation letters

In addition, you should take care to avoid the most common mistakes in the letter of motivation - these are:

  1. Typing error
    Pay attention to correct spelling and grammar - as in all applications. So be sure to use the spell checker or have someone proofread it.
  2. No reference
    The letter of motivation lists irrelevant skills for the position. Better to make a concise reference to the job or employer in order to remain credible and authentic.
  3. Justifications
    Writing sounds like a collection of justifications, or worse, begging. It is better to confidently emphasize the added value that you offer and bring with you.
  4. Repetitions
    The letter only contains repetitions from the resume and cover letter. Be sure to offer new insights, arguments, information.
  5. Allegations
    The writing only sets up theses ("I am organized") - instead of providing examples to back them up.
  6. Empty phrases
    The letter of motivation must always be formulated individually for the respective employer or the intended scholarship. Recruiters immediately recognize phrases and copies in applications.
  7. Patchwork formatting
    Despite the freedom of design, the letter of motivation must match all other application documents in terms of style, layout and design. This is the only way to create a positive “overall impression”.

Letter of motivation Length: How many pages?

Like the cover letter, the letter of motivation should not be longer than one A4 page. That would contradict the nature and purpose of a quick overview. So please always be as brief, concise and compact as possible.

Where does the letter of motivation go in the portfolio?

Pay attention to the correct order in the application folder. The letter of motivation is placed in the application documents after the résumé:

When do I need a letter of motivation?

Only if it was explicitly requested in the job offer. The main weight of the application is on the résumé. HR managers usually read it first. However, the additional effort for the letter of motivation subtly signals that the position is really important to you and that the additional time invested is worth it. This can attract attention and bring plus points. Especially when the content, qualifications and motivation are presented convincingly.

When is a letter of motivation necessary?

The letter of motivation may be necessary if your application documents are particularly extensive and your career is extremely "varied". In this case, the motivation letter can give the application more structure and a kind of red thread and also help to focus your suitability and motivation for the position. The letter of motivation is also recommended for an unsolicited application. It gives you the opportunity to go into more detail about the motivation and interest in THIS employer and to explain your added value to the HR manager, even though he has not yet looked for you or has advertised a position.

When is there no letter of motivation?

Critics of the letter of motivation point out - not entirely wrongly - that the third page often only contains redundant information and artificially inflates the application. You should therefore only use it if it is expressly requested or if you can offer really new and interesting added value in terms of content. The letter of motivation is superfluous if the rest of your application already contains the best arguments and is coherent and complete. Always do without the letter of motivation in order to make your documents appear larger or better. Experienced HR managers notice this immediately. In that case it even has a negative effect - like an attempt to deceive.

Advantages of the letter of motivation

You can write a cover letter because the company asks for it in the job posting.Or you can add it to the application folder as a voluntary addition - with the aim of conveying additional information and differentiating yourself from other applicants. In fact, the third page in the application has some advantages:

  • Stand out from the crowd
    The third page is used to personalize the application documents. This can be useful if, for example, the competition for the position is fierce or the requirements of the position do not (yet) match the previous career. It is therefore suitable for internships, trainee positions and well-known employers.
  • Emphasize motivation
    Show why you want to continue your professional path right here. Especially if the requirements of the position do not fit perfectly with your own résumé and skills.
  • Establish a relationship with the company
    There is more space for this in the letter of motivation - and it arouses the attention and curiosity of employers. You can score points when applying for an FSJ, FÖJ or forms of gap year.
  • Represent personality
    The letter of motivation creates a larger overall picture of the applicant and focuses on their passion. This can be crucial in social and creative professions.
  • Offer added value
    Unique selling points and special specialist knowledge impress HR managers especially in professions with high demands on qualifications and professional experience. They add enormous value to applications.

Letter of motivation Examples: study, scholarship, job

Depending on whether you are applying for a study place, a scholarship or a job, the focus of your content and thus your argumentation changes. A letter of motivation differs from a cover letter in that it emphasizes less the professional qualifications and more the motivation of the applicant. This is particularly useful for students. Anyone who is interested in a certain degree or would like to top up their finances with a scholarship usually does not yet have extensive professional expertise.

Letter of motivation for studying

Those who apply for a place at university usually have little professional experience or specialist skills. This makes the motivation for the course and the university or college all the more important when selecting applicants. In order to be perceived as the ideal student, your letter of motivation should answer the following questions:

  • Why did I choose this course?
  • Why does this degree suit me?
  • What course content am I primarily interested in?
  • Are these reflected in my advanced course subjects?
  • What do I particularly like about this university?
  • Are there values ​​with which I can identify?
  • What are my particular strengths?
  • What skills do I want to learn and develop here?
  • What previous knowledge will help me to successfully complete my degree?
  • What will I do with graduation?
  • What are my professional and personal goals?

More about applying for a study place

Letter of motivation for a master’s degree

When applying for a master’s degree, the key questions are similar to those for applying for a university place. In addition, you should address the achievements and experiences from the bachelor's degree as well as previous internships. If you want to apply for a master’s place at the university of your choice, you can download a free template with sample text as a Word file at the end of this section. You should add the following points:

  • Why do I want to do a master’s degree?
  • How do I want to specialize in terms of content?
  • What knowledge from the bachelor's degree do I bring with me?
  • What am I hoping for from further studies?
  • How does the university benefit from me?

Letter of motivation template for a master’s position

Letter of motivation scholarship

In Germany there are numerous scholarships and foundations that support students in different ways and provide financial support. Anyone writing an application for a scholarship should therefore inform in advance exactly who is awarding a scholarship and for what reasons. Some foundations are related to political parties, others are trade unions, and still others are tied to grades. The better you know the potential sponsor, the better you can formulate your application. These aspects serve as key questions:

  • What do I particularly like about this foundation?
  • Which values ​​of the foundation can I identify with?
  • Where have I already been socially committed?
  • What are my special talents?
  • Which of my strengths play a role in the scholarship?
  • Why is this scholarship right for me?
  • Why should I be sponsored?
  • What are my professional and personal goals?
  • What social added value can I create with the degree?

More about applying for a scholarship

Letter of motivation for semester abroad

When writing a letter of motivation for a semester abroad, you can use the structure and content of the letter of motivation for a study place as a guide. Find out about the university well in advance and explain why you want to spend a semester abroad there. When applying, there are also country-specific peculiarities such as anonymous application in the Anglo-Saxon region or the high importance of references. The following questions serve as orientation when formulating:

  • Why do I want to study abroad?
  • Why in this country?
  • What is it that particularly appeals to me about this university?
  • What previous language and cultural knowledge do I have?
  • What skills will help me during my stay?
  • Which skills would I like to acquire during the semester abroad?
  • How will the stay abroad benefit me professionally and personally?

More about applying for a semester abroad

Letter of motivation in English

You will need the letter of motivation in English especially when applying for a semester abroad, for a voluntary social year (FSJ), FÖJ or for an internship in English-speaking countries. Foreign branches of German companies can also request a “Letter of Motivation” (British) or a “Statement of Purpose” (American). The letter of motivation in English should - in addition to formal information (name, address, contact details, university or faculty, subject, date, salutation) - contain the following information:

  • Why do I want to study abroad or do an FSJ?
  • What excites me about the country, the faculty, the company or the job?
  • What experiences do I want to gain?
  • Which skills do I want to learn or expand?
  • What benefits do I hope to gain from the experience abroad?
  • What is my motivation and aptitude?
  • Which subjects I have taken so far speak for me?
  • What was my focus?
  • Where do I get involved on the side?
  • What do I want to achieve professionally with the degree I have acquired?

TIP: When researching information for your letter of motivation in English, you are collecting it directly in English. This means that there are fewer translation problems later and you already have the most important vocabulary ready.

More about the cover letter in English

Letter of motivation job (internship, training)

In professional life, people are less likely to be asked for a letter of motivation. However, it can be required by companies, for example when applying for an internship or for training. In that case, you should answer the following questions in your applications:

  • What are my particular strengths?
  • What experiences can I show?
  • Which skills are particularly suitable for the company?
  • Where have I already assumed responsibility?
  • Which successes and own projects qualify me?
  • What is it about this company that fascinates me?
  • What are my professional and personal goals?

More about applying for an apprenticeship

[Photo credit: Karrierebibel.de]

Further sources and advice
Application tips
➠ Application templates
➠ 11 application forms
➠ ABC of application tips
➠ Application folder
➠ Application photo
➠ cover sheet
➠ Brief profile

Tips on the résumé
➠ CV in tabular form
➠ Resume templates
➠ Internships on the résumé
➠ hobbies on the resume
➠ Unemployment on the résumé
➠ gaps in the résumé

Tips for covering letters
➠ Cover letter
➠ Introductory sentence in the cover letter
➠ Final sentence in the cover letter
➠ Interests in the cover letter
➠ Strengths in the cover letter
➠ Attachment directory

Tips on the job reference
➠ Assess job reference
➠ Secret codes in the certificate
➠ Interim report
➠ Job description
➠ References & samples

Special applications
➠ Unsolicited application
➠ Internal application
➠ Discreet application
➠ Email application
➠ Online application
➠ Application as a temporary worker
➠ Application for mini jobs
➠ Application after termination