Entry into the cover letter: Just say what’s going on

Many applicants find it difficult to get started with the cover letter and the formulation of introductory sentences. It shouldn’t sound too much like boring, run-of-the-mill ramblings and empty phrases, it should be tailored to the position and arouse the company’s readers’ curiosity to continue reading. A difficult endeavor for a job changer sitting in front of a white document. In this post, you will learn why a “hard” introduction to the cover letter is important today, including examples for the formulation depending on the motivation to change.

“How do you do that today – and how honest can you be in such a cover letter?”, many job changers and applicants ask me, their cover letters mostly so far unsettled start like this or similar:

I hereby apply for your advertised position as (…), which immediately aroused my great interest.

I read your ad with great interest and I hereby apply to you.

If you have been following me for a while, you know that I am an advocate of honest cover letters, which are the only way to add real added value to a potential employer beyond the résumé. Every curriculum vitae is pure past, only with your cover letter – and of course later in the conversation – you can take a look into the potential common future:

What is your current situation and why do you want/have to change jobs? What is particularly important to you in your job today and in the future? What are your professional goals for the next few months or years? What expectations do you have of an employer, your colleagues, your manager? What do you need in a job and which working environment is good for you in order to be motivated in the long term and stay healthy?

If you take a look at your résumé, you will quickly see that these are all aspects that no reader can learn from just describing the past. All of this is so crucial and important for whether the next position with a new employer really suits you and your idea of ​​a good professional future.

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Arouse interest with a “hard” introduction to the cover letter

“Abolishing the cover letter is popular, but stupid.” I expressed this opinion in a clear text on XING in 2018, when Deutsche Bahn caused a great stir in the media by abolishing the cover letter (for apprenticeships!). Since then there have been more and more votes that the application document “cover letter” should be deleted without replacement. As you know, I disagree completely.

And because many recruiters feel that they are taking less and less time to deal intensively with the application documents and the people behind them, I am in favor of real clarity from the first sentence. Because I see that a “hard” entry (still) leads to cover letters being read on. If a recruiter or future boss notices that your cover letter contains further information that is really useful for the selection decision, then this dead document will suddenly be read carefully and is often decisive for the invitation to an interview.

What remains after reading your résumé?

A majority of recruiters will look at your resume before reading the cover letter or looking at your references. Over the years, working with applicants, I have come to realize that always gives something that crosses my mind, raises questions, impresses me or sticks in my mind once I’ve read a résumé and put it aside. Therefore, my recommendation for starting your cover letter is to take up exactly these thoughts in the introductory sentences and to answer the questions in the minds of the readers of your résumé. Here are a few examples of what HR and future bosses have in mind in connection with certain target positions:

That was a lot of employer changes in a short time …

… why does she/he never stay longer with an employer?
… can someone always sell well, but never achieve their goals?
… is that someone who quickly gets infected everywhere?

Only one employer since starting my career …

… can she/he still get used to new structures after many years?
… why is she/he leaving this employer after so long?
… was it loyalty or laziness to change something?

The last position under 6 months …

… did she/he fail the probationary period?
… was she/he overwhelmed in this position?
… is she / Did he fall victim to downsizing during the crisis?

Many times without employment …

… why did she/he always look for so long between two jobs?
… what did she/he do during those times?
… are you trying to cover up something in your CV?

Back to employment after a period of independence …

… has someone failed with his / her business idea?
… whether she/he can still integrate into hierarchies in the company?
… does someone want to secure their pension in a secure job?

That was a completely different industry recently …

… how does this change of heart come about?
… she/he doesn’t know our products at all and …
… can she/he still familiarize himself with our industry?

No management experience so far …

… why would she/he want to take on personnel responsibility now?
… why did she/he not take over management at the old employer?
… is that someone we trust to lead?

The curriculum vitae is a colorful bouquet of flowers …

… where is the common thread here?
… what is she/he the expert for now?
… she/he doesn’t commit himself to his job?

Of course, these are of course all hypotheses which (behind) thoughts, emotions or questions a reader of your resume could deal with. If you feel like it, take a look at your CV now:

Address the obvious

Let’s assume you are applying for a job. So you are now the HR manager and look at your own résumé through these glasses. Read it through and then put it upside down – which aspect or thought stays in your head first? If you keep thinking about this aspect, what would your spontaneous, honest answer be? What is or was it that shaped this step or phase in your life? What do you feel when you think about this time? And what could be an answer to a neutral, uninvolved third party who is also thinking about these same things after reading your résumé? In relation to the examples above, this might be:

That was a lot of employer changes in a short time …
Yes, that’s right and now I am longing to arrive at an employer.

Only one employer since starting my career …
Yes, those were very fulfilling years, but now I want to start all over with another employer.

The last position under 6 months …
Yes, we both noticed that it didn’t fit and decided to end the employment relationship during the probationary period. It is all the more important to me now to consciously decide on a position and an employer that will fit in the long term.

Many times without employment …
Yes, that’s right. I always did a lot on the side and enjoyed the times between two jobs. In retrospect, these were very important for me and my life in order to become aware of what I really want in the next step.

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Back to employment after a period of independence …
Yes, I noticed that structure and security are important to me and that I work more in a team again, as well as myself want to feel more attached as part of something bigger.

That was a completely different industry recently …
Yes, I can no longer identify with this industry and would now like to bring my experience to a new industry, for whom my heartbeats.

So far, no management experience …
Yes, at some point it’s always the first time 🙂

The curriculum vitae is a colorful bouquet …
Yes, I am a true generalist, broad-based, interested in many things and proud of it, I’ve already done so much and experienced a lot in my job to have.

These are all hooks that I often experience from applicants as motivation to change or current situation. But you will probably notice that my answers result from a very relaxed and unexcited attitude. So many applicants feel they need to explain and justify the things they suspect could disrupt a new employer and kick them out of the running. But if you look closely, they are initially all just statements as neutral observation of a reader of your résumé. So why not answer it in the same way and create clarity?

You cannot know, but at most guess what evaluation readers make of their observation and what feeling results from it. So do not fall into an attitude of justification, especially when you start your cover letter – because that makes you feel small and it weakens you. Instead, stick to yourself and take up with an openness and a matter of course what is already obvious to a reader of your résumé. The more literally (yourself) you deal with it and create clarity, the better.

Entry into the cover letter: Examples of introductory sentences depending on the change situation

True to my motto “Applicants, show the edge and make you naked”, here are some examples of different motivations to change, which should clarify what I mean under the heading of this article “Just say what’s going on”. There are no text modules as templates, but examples as ideas for your orientation. It is important to me that the cover letter was written by you, so it is best to take the time afterwards to think for yourself what is/was “thing” for you and how you will clearly formulate this in the introductory sentences of your cover letter want.

Frequent changes

Dear Ms. Mustermann,
After several short positions in recent years, I am now specifically looking for an employer with whom I can work and develop internally. …

Termination during the trial period

Dear Mr. Müller,
after my short interlude at (…) and the realization that this was not the right employer for the next few years, I am now looking specifically for …

An employer for a long time

After 20 very fulfilling years at (…) I have the feeling that the air is out and I’m longing for new, exciting topics, people and projects.

Industry change

The … industry has changed a lot in the last few years and I have realized that it will no longer be my professional home for the next few years. It is important to me to be able to identify with my employer and I have therefore decided to bring my many years of experience to an industry that my heartbeats.

No development prospects

After an exciting 10 years as … at … I don’t see any development opportunities in this company. I am therefore specifically looking for a new employer with whom I can take my next career step combined with more …

Routine/boredom at work

In the spring of this year, as Head of Finances at … I successfully completed the 15th annual financial statement. Routines give security, but I would like to see a lot more variety in my professional future with a stronger conceptual-strategic focus. Your advertisement as a commercial director comes in handy.

Restructuring/change of manager

After a change in management and restructuring, in my position as …, it is difficult for me to take responsibility for the new strategic direction. I have therefore decided to leave the company and am currently released.

Change of residence

As a family, it is our wish to move back to our homeland after 5 years in the Sauerland. Since I have enjoyed my work as … at … in recent years, I am looking for a comparable position in the Cologne / Bonn area.

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Downshifting / out of the management position

Perhaps you are wondering why, after many years as a leader … today I am applying for your position as… I made a conscious decision to give up my management responsibility because it is important to me to work harder in the team and on technical issues again in the future.

Say what’s going on in the cover letter – is that allowed ?!

What is going through your head after reading my examples of phrasing to start your cover letter? Do you say “Great, that’s how I’ll do it now” or do you think “Really brave to write something like that”? Many of my clients react unsettled at first and ask me if so much clarity and honesty are allowed. After all, it is a big step and every application is about a lot. – “That’s why” is my answer. Because the more clarity you create as early as possible in the application process, the higher the likelihood that it will really fit your new job later.

If you are also currently on the road as an applicant, what is it that your potential new employer should find out about you, your current situation or real motivation to change? What is your honest answer to that question mark that might cross the mind of a resume reader? Are these situations similar to those described by me above, or is it something else that is evident in your career?

Oh yes, of course, you shouldn’t talk badly about your ex or current employer. So my tip: stay with yourself. It makes a difference whether you write “My boss no longer encouraged me” or “I saw no further development opportunities for myself in the company.” It is clear to every new employer that there is always a reason why you are switching – whether voluntarily or after you have given notice. So why not say what’s up ..?

My experiences are clear. The clearer the entry into the cover letter and the more your own decision-making power out of serenity you convey with the introductory sentences, the stronger the feeling with the reader that you are not being served the usual boring phrases and, above all, that you are learning something important about an applicant and person that goes far beyond goes out of the resume. And – not surprisingly: the more clarity you create in the cover letter, the more relaxed the subsequent conversations will be.

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