Application letters and motivation letters for jobs

General information about application letters and motivation letters for jobs

The application letter (also called motivation letter) represents the initial contact with a company. For that reason, the content layout and format of this letter are particularly important. The goal is to convey an impression that the applicant is a good choice for the job on offer in order to be invited to a personal interview.

There are certain “basic rules” that most applicants adhere to when composing an application letter. Of course, applicants are free to use their creativity and individuality to stand out, even at the application stage. That may be especially appropriate and advantageous for some professional fields (e.g. advertising, media industry). However, the applicant should have any highly individualised application letter read through by other people before sending it to find out what impact the letter makes.


Hardly anyone meets all of the requirements listed in an advertisement. Even if the applicant does not (yet) fulfil all of the points, they should send in an application if they are interested in the job and they are prepared to obtain the qualifications they still need to get to do it. It is always better to seize on a potential opportunity for employment than to let it pass by.


Compose an application in business letter format and pay attention to the following:

  • Clean type face (written on a computer or typewriter; only write the application by hand if this is required)
  • Neat format
  • Clear, factual but also engaging wording
  • Ensure that there are no grammar and spelling errors

Email applications are the most common and also the least expensive format since there is no need to pay for an envelope, stamps, copies, etc. However, an error-free and appropriately composed application is also expected when submitting by email. Supporting documents (e.g. certificates for school and professional credentials) should also be sent electronically as attachments. However, the email should not take up too much disk space.

If the application documents are being submitted on paper, an application folder should be used, with the documents in the following order:

  • Application letter
  • CV
  • Certificates
  • Any samples of work (examples of work previously performed or pieces of work that might be relevant to the future area of work)
  • Other documents

Most job advertisements indicate what the company’s preferred application format (written applications by post or by email).

Content layout

The most important points that every application should include are as follows:

  • Title, name, home address, telephone number and date (top left of the letterhead)
  • Address of the addressee, personal contact name (if known)
  • Reference line:
    • State the source where you found the job advertisement (e.g. newspaper XY); advertisement reference number, if applicable
  • Form of address:
    • If you know the name of a contact person, address the application personally to her/him; if you do not know a name, address it to the personnel department.

A personal form of address always comes across better than an impersonal “Dear Sir or Madam”. It is therefore a good idea to enquire with the company to find out who the contact person is for the job you want to apply for.

  • Reason for application:
    • State briefly why this job is of particular interest to you.
  • You should stress your personal strengths and abilities and provide a brief description of your career (and possibly also education) history that underlines your suitability for the position they want to fill.
  • Let them know the earliest date you can start if a start date that is too early or too late would be a reason for you personally to turn down this position.
  • Add a polite request for a personal interview.
  • Wording for the greeting at the end of the letter:
    • The wording “Mit freundlichen Grüßen” [Kind regards] is standard.
  • Overview of enclosed supporting documents

If an application letter focuses precisely on specific points from the vacancy notice, the recruiter (personnel officer) will see immediately that you have addressed the job posting in detail.

Enclosed supporting materials

  • Current CV – including a photograph if possible
  • Copies of certificates, any proofs of employment, certificates for seminars completed, etc.
  • Additionally for applicants from abroad:

The application documents should be properly ordered as follows in an application folder:

  • Application letter
  • CV
  • Certificates
  • Any samples of work (examples of work previously performed or pieces of work that might be relevant to the future area of work)
  • Other documents

Further links

Translated by the European Commission
Last update: 24 May 2024

Responsible for the content: Editorial Staff