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I am a software developer planning to apply for full-time jobs in Germany and nearby countries in Europe. I understand the importance of cover letter in a job application but I struggle with abstract thinking. I can write well but I need a structure - set of specific questions to be addressed by a cover letter. Kind of like writing for an examination- pointwise answers :D

Hence this is my question to an HR person, a Hiring manager or people whose job/experience is to screen cover letter for software developer jobs in Germany ( or in Europe). I want to know what specific questions' answers you look for when you read any cover letter. Appreciate your help. Thanks :)

My profile :

Master Student: In Progress
Work Experience: 6 years 
Language: English

Please let me know if you need more info.

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    "I struggle with abstract thinking" I wouldn't tell them that if you're applying to be a software developer. – Flater Feb 2 at 13:24
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Not necessarily complete, but you want to:

  1. Convey contact details.
  2. Show that you can write a formal letter without fucking up formalities (which you will do implicitly by writing it).
  3. If you had prior communication, mention it: "thank you for our wonderful conversation when we met at xyz.". Same if you have a contact within the company who has recommended you (or the company).
  4. Give them a (key-)reason why they want to hire you. This can be explicit ("Due to my my experience in xyz, I will be a perfect fit for...") or implicit (by them noticing what a gem you are, or by writing a cover-letter that fits any unusual company-culture they might have).
  5. Mention why you are interested in them. Give them the feeling that you will stay with them even if a competitor offers you a few bucks more one day.
  6. Mention anything special that you need to convey. In your case that might be that you are looking for a position/team/teamlead that provides you with clear requirements and structure (frame that nicely and positive, though).
  7. Show that you can keep it short. Write to much, and the person having to read all of it will already be annoyed with you.
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  • This is very good advice. For Germany specifically, you typically start with "I saw your posting on Stack Exchange jobs/the Agentur für Arbeit/whereever and was immediately excited about this role. I believe I am a great fit..." if 3 doesn't apply. – simbabque Feb 3 at 11:23
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A cover letter is not a CV, where you itemize hard facts. The cover letter is your sales pitch, where you try to sell yourself (or at least your skillset).

You want to convey WHY YOU want to work for that company and WHY THEY should hire you.

  • Why do you want to work for that company? (many developers don't care too much about that, they go on and on about the used technology and how awesome it is, but don't convey why the company is awesome, too. This doesn't sit well with managers, who most of the time think that the company is much more important than the technology)
  • Why do you want that specific job?
  • Why are you the perfect fit for the company? (research company culture, the way they work and how they want to be seen in public)
  • Why are you the perfect fit for the job? (special skills and experience others may not have)

What I see often in cover letters is stuff like that: "I am awesome. I am very good at Foo. I have experience with Bar. Will you hire me already?"

Better: "I am awesome, see stellar review in appendix. I am a certified Foo specialist from FooAcademy. I worked extensively with Bar for 3 years at xyz company.

Don't just tell, show!

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  • Maybe it's just my personal preferences that I apply when evaluating applications I receive, but the initial paragraph might be somewhat misleading: For what it's worth, I see a cover letter very much as a place where hard facts are, to some extent, itemized - in such a way that they complement the CV by giving explanations and highlighting focal points. That's because the CV as such is, more often than not, just a list of keywords, whereas it's the cover letter that provides me with a first impression of whether the candidate actually thinks about what they're doing and how different ... – O. R. Mapper Feb 4 at 12:47
  • ... aspects are connected. Those cover letters that come across as a mere sales pitch and that are mostly restricted to buzzwords along the lines of "team player", "high degree of responsibility and reliability", "expert in XYZ", etc., are the first to end up on my "immediately reject" batch. – O. R. Mapper Feb 4 at 12:53
  • @O.R.Mapper that's exactly what I wanted to convey in the last paragraph. It is a sales pitch, but one that should provide proof. "team player, responsible, reliable...:" are exactly as useless as "I AM AWESOME". They only have a meaning if you have some kind of proof to back it up. – jwsc Feb 5 at 7:24
  • Yep, the rest of your answer is spot-on. – O. R. Mapper Feb 5 at 7:36

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