How to Write a Cover Letter in a Foreign Language
Jun 12 2020
These days, it’s not enough to have the perfect CV. You also need to show off your qualifications and motivation by writing an excellent cover letter. These have become the gold standard which recruiters use to assess job applicants. Your job in writing a cover letter is to sell yourself and your abilities to your prospective employer – to get your foot in the door, so to speak. But this is much harder to achieve when you have to write in a language you’re not entirely comfortable in.
To help you excel even in your second language, we’ve put together this guide on how to write a cover letter in a foreign language.
Know what makes a good cover letter
Before we go on to the more complicated stuff, it’s important for you to know what makes a good cover letter in the first place.
It’s hard for you to stand out from the crowd if your writing in any language is completely soulless and bland. As such, make sure you shine first with your personality and qualifications and only then start worrying about the grammar. Recruiters often look for people who not only have the necessary skill set but also fit into the company culture. So, do your research and drop in a few references as to why you would benefit your future employer as a valued member of the team, as opposed to simply listing your various abilities.
Don’t overextend yourself
“Keep it simple” is good advice for writing your cover letter regardless of the language. But it applies doubly if you’re less secure about your writing skills in your second language. Short and to-the-point sentences are your friends. Don’t try to impress the reader with your command of exceedingly complex language – instead put your skills to use in getting your point across in as easy-to-understand language as possible.
Keeping it simple is a key skill in any business writing, really. There’s a time and place for showing off your specialised vocabulary, but a cover letter isn’t necessarily it. Remember that recruiters can read hundreds of these letters for more desirable positions, so just focus on snappy sentences and highlighting your particular abilities to catch their attention.
If you’re not certain, don’t include it
If you’re not certain that any piece of information is vital for your case, don’t include it in your writing. Try to keep your letter as short and clear as possible. This serves two purposes: first, you avoid recruiters getting annoyed with you for your overly long writing and, secondly, you give yourself fewer opportunities for making mistakes in your cover letter. Of course, you can’t only write in 3-word sentences, but getting your point across in as few words as possible will help you write a better and error-free cover letter.
Edit and proofread
It’s impossible to overstate how important this step is. Make sure you edit and proofread your cover letter at least three times, focusing on clarity, wording, and grammar. There’s no quicker way to lose a recruiter’s interest than leaving silly typos in your cover letter.
Of course, proofreading in your second language is difficult, so if you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself, you might want to have a professional go over your writing.
Maybe leave out writing entirely
Depending on what job you’re applying for, it might pay to simply leave out writing anything down entirely. For many creative positions, for example, putting together a video instead of a letter might be a much better way to catch your future employer’s eye. While there are many other industries that will appreciate you taking an alternative approach, this probably won’t work for the more historically conservative fields, such as banking and finance.
So, if you’re worried about your writing skills, a video cover letter might just be your saviour! If you’re comfortably fluent in your spoken language, small missteps in grammar or wording are much more forgivable than in writing. You’ll be able to let your personality shine and use distractions to divert attention away from your weaker language skills.
Turn your weakness into strength
Instead of worrying about your less-than-perfect language skills, you can actually turn them into your greatest strength. Speaking more than one language is a skill that can benefit you a lot in the job market. So, instead of trying to hide the fact that you’re not a native speaker of the language you’re writing in, you might want to highlight your various language skills. These days, bi- and multilingual employees are very sought after, so this might be just the thing to make you stand out from the rest.
Writing a cover letter is a daunting task for most job searchers. Nobody seems to know how to format one or what to include. And it gets even more complicated when you’re writing in your second language. Luckily, there are some steps you can take to make the writing process easier for yourself. Try to avoid complex sentences, get someone to proofread your writing, or turn to a cover video instead of writing. Following these tips is certain to help you catch the recruiter’s eye and help you one step closer to your dream job.
As a lifelong language learner herself, Liisi empathises with anyone struggling to become fluent in another language. In order to help fellow learners, she also co-founded a website to help anyone find a private teacher for language lessons.