You’re 6 Steps Away From the Perfect International Cover Letter

Posted on Dec 9, 2015 | 0 comments

You’re 6 Steps Away From the Perfect International Cover Letter

Imagine: You’re German, and you’re moving with your spouse to the United States. She has a job waiting for her there, but you need to find one too or you’ll lose your mind. You’ve been applying to a few positions, but after submitting your resume and cover letter, no one has called you for an interview. Wondering what’s going wrong? Does this sound a lot like your situation? Let me walk you through the steps you need to take to write the perfect international cover letter that will get your application noticed and earn you that interview.


1. Know the format.

Before digging into the content, you’ve got to know the right format for your cover letter and the norms in the country in which you are trying to get a job. In the U.S., cover letters of more than one page are never read in their entirety. If you’re lucky, your potential employer is going to read the first and last paragraphs of your cover letter even when it is one page. Also, looking “different” from others in your cover letter format is rarely to your advantage as it makes you stand out as someone “who doesn’t know how things work here.”


2. Figure out what you have that they want.

Come up with three reasons that you are the right person for the job. Look at the job description to figure out what they are looking for and then list (yes, actually write them down!) them. This is the main content of your cover letter. Write one paragraph on each of these topics. Extra points if one of these paragraphs has to do with your position as an expat, a speaker of a certain language that’s important to your future employer, or your nationality.


3. Research to find out why they need you.

This is commonly referred to as the employer’s “pain points.” What’s going on currently in their marketing department that might need tweaking that the company already knows about. Have they been vying with another company for the top position for the last five years? Have they lost a few major clients in the last few years? What is going on with them and how can you fix it? Knowing this will allow you to truly connect with your potential employer in your cover letter. Your potential employer will see that YOU are the person who can help them with their problems.


4. Tell them what you’ll do for them.

In the first paragraph, you’ll want to write three sentences. The first sentence has to do with what position you are applying for. The second is optional, in case you’d like to add in another piece of info. The most important sentence in your cover letter is the third sentence, because it reveals what you possess that they need (Step 2) and why they need you (Step 3) and it’s likely to be a sentence that they actually read on your cover letter. Here’s an example:


Let’s say that our German friend’s three reasons are:

1. Ten years of marketing experience at a major international marketing firm.

2. German speaker able to respond to key German clients such as Volkswagen and Audi.

3. Expat who brings a new perspective and creative ideas.


Most cover letters’ introductory paragraphs look something like this:

I’m applying for the senior marketing manager position I saw advertised in The London Times. I’m very interested in this position as it will help me advance in the marketing world and I like the business model of your company.


Blah. No employer is going to give you a job because you want to advance in the marketing world. They’ll be happy that you like their business model, but so do a lot of other people. So that introduction paragraph on your cover letter is probably going to get you tossed in the “do not interview” pile. Sorry.


If our German friend writes an intro paragraph that’s powerful, he’s going to land himself in the “call for an interview pile.” And here is exactly how he’s going to do it.


I’m applying for the senior marketing manager position at Company X. I have long admired X’s business model and am thrilled at the opportunity to work for you. My extensive marketing experience at Y international marketing firm, superior language ability in German and English, as well as my creative ideas are sure to elevate X’s marketing strategy and position X firmly as the top marketing firm in the United States.


See that? Even if the reader doesn’t read another word in the cover letter, this guy is getting called for an interview. He has three characteristics that Company X wants and he knows what Company X needs from him (to get them into the top spot).


6. Make sure they can contact you.

In your closing paragraph, you’re probably going to say something like:


I look forward to discussing how I can contribute to X’s marketing team in an interview. If you have any additional questions about my qualifications or would like to schedule an interview, please contact me at phone or email.


Don’t put a phone number in another country. If you live in Germany and you’re trying to get hired in the U.S., make the small investment to get a U.S. phone number with a service like Skype, Vonage, or Ooma. No one wants to make an international call to contact you. Also, don’t use your email address from your current job. Even if your employer told you that was okay, using that address looks bad because you’re looking for another job on company time.


6. Have a native speaker edit it.

I don’t care if you’ve been speaking English/Spanish/French/German/Swahili for the last ten years of your life. Errors on paper are much more glaring than spoken errors. The native speaker may not find a single thing wrong with your letter, but don’t skip this step if you’re serious about your job search.



Passport Career provides more detailed career information and extensive resources about networking, finding a job, internship, alternative career opportunities as well as information on writing CVs, cover letters and interviews. If your organization, embassy, university/college, library, or other institution would like access to our country portfolios (15,000+ pages of expert content for 80+ countries and 250+ cities) to share with your students, employees, spouses/partners, and others managing a national or international career transition, please click here to contact us (or send email to: regarding a free, live, online demo and details on how to obtain a license to access Passport Career.

Anna Sparks, Expert Global Career Consultant

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