A cover letter in France is called ‘lettre de motivation’ and as in every other country, it has to complement the CV and convince the reader of your competency.The cover letter has to be of maximum one page and written in French unless otherwise specified. The writing style has to be polite and courteous, and the grammar impeccable.
When writing a French cover letter you should be polite and courteous. Address the reader with Madame or Monsieur, without adding Cher/Chère nor the family name of the person. If you don’t know the gender use Madame, Monsieur.
When ending use the following phrase as to say ‘best regards’: ‘Dans l'attente de votre réponse, je vous prie d’agréer, Madame, Monsieur, mes sincères salutations’. If you want to use a simple version, you can go with: ‘Je vous prie de croire, Madame, Monsieur, à ma considération distinguée.’
It is best to do a proper research of the most used terms and have a native French speaker to reread the letter, as there are many mistakes you can make. Some of the most common ones are:
- Using mes salutations distinguées instead of mes sincères salutations. You want to express your feelings not your regards.
- The expression: ‘Je vous prie d’agréer, Madame, l’expression de mes respectueux hommages’ is simply too old fashioned.
- Avoid using Je vous prie de croire, Madame, Monsieur, à instead of Je vous prie de croire, Madame, Monsieur, en. The term croire en is used when referring to God or Justice, for example. It will sound exaggerated to the reader.
- Avoid using ‘Je reste à votre entière disposition pour un éventuel entretien. En espérant que ma candidature retiendra votre attention. Cordialement,’ Hoping for an interview is not the best approach because it will disadvantage you. Think of positive sentences which show confidence.
Remember that French is a formal language and you should never address someone with ‘tu’. Use instead ‘vous’.
The French job market is very degree oriented. If your degree matches the job description your chances of being called in for an interview will increase, so state the name of your degree in the beginning.
If you have previous knowledge of the industry or experience from a similar job, do show this, but don’t show off. Remember, the universal rule of the cover letter is to make yourself stand out from the crowd - highlight your skills and personality without overselling yourself. If you feel like you need a more general introduction on how to write a cover letter, check out the Graduateland guide.
You should structure the letter so it corresponds with three basic questions: 1) the reasons for your application, 2) an introduction to who you are (you can write about your goals and aspirations here), and 3) why do you want the job.
Here are some advice regarding sentence structure and structure in general:
- Avoid using too complicated and long sentences.
- Never begin your letter with ‘I’ (‘je’).
- Avoid repetitions.
- If you decide to add a title, try to write something that is consistent with your goals.
- Use conventional fonts, like Arial and Times.
Words are powerful and if used correctly they can tip the balance in your favor, so make sure to use positively charged action verbs and nouns.
Lastly, after you type your name, remember to add a handwritten signature, even if you send the letter by email.
A cover letter literally “covers” your résumé or CV: it’s your opportunity to say why you want the job and to present yourself as a candidate in a way that impresses a prospective employer and makes you stand out as a prospective employee. Employers may receive hundreds of applications for a job, so make sure your cover letter creates the right impression.
Click on one of the below headings for more information:
Example cover letters
Speculative job applications
Letters requesting an informational interview
- Tailor your letter to the requirements of the job. Read the job posting carefully.
- Research the organization. This will show prospective employers that you really are interested.
- Keep it brief. Your goal is a clear and concise explanation of your suitability for the job. Your résumé is the place for more details.
- Use keywords. Make sure the same keywords you used to describe your skills and experience on your résumé are also present in your cover letter.
- If you know who you’re writing to, use that name, exactly as it appears in the job posting. If no name is provided, write Dear Hiring Manager.
Read more top tips for cover letter writing.
Use formal letter format for a letter you’re mailing or handing to someone in person. If you’re emailing your cover letter, omit both your own return address and the address of the company. Application instructions may tell you what to put in your subject line. If not, make sure to include the job title and one or more keywords, if you have room.
Your first paragraph should open with a clear statement of the job you’re applying for, by title and reference code if one is provided.
- State where you saw the job posting or how you heard about it.
- If you heard about it through someone who already works for the company or someone known to the company, mention that person by name and position.
Your second paragraph should briefly outline your current situation.
- Mention your current job, if you have one, and any previous jobs that are relevant to the position you’re applying for.
- Pick up on the job requirements stated in the posting and focus on any of your current skills or responsibilities that correspond to those requested. For example, if the job description says that management skills are essential, briefly state any management experience you have.
- If you’re still studying, focus on the relevant aspects or modules of your courses.
Your third paragraph explains why you want the job and why you’re the right person for it.
- Be clear and positive. You might state that you are ready for greater challenges, more responsibility, or a change of direction, for example.
- Outline the qualities and skills that you believe you can bring to the job or organization, making sure they match the job posting.
- If you are still in school or have very little experience, paragraphs 2 and 3 can be combined.
Your final paragraph should let your readers know:
- When you’re available for an interview
- How to reach you (include email address and phone number, even though it’s also on your résumé)
- Whether you’ll follow up and when, or that you look forward to hearing from them. Some postings will specify “no phone calls”; be sure to respect these instructions.
Always thank the recruiter or employer for their time or for consideration.
Example cover letters
Here are three examples of job application cover letters:
To view their corresponding résumés, visit Writing a résumé.
Speculative job applications
If you know that you want to work for a particular company or organization but they don’t have any openings, consider submitting a speculative application. This should consist of your résumé, tailored to the type of job you’re interested in, together with a cover letter of application.
- Keep your letter short and positive; say why you are particularly interested in working for the organization in question and outline what skills, qualifications, and personal qualities you have to offer.
- If possible, address your cover letter to the person in the organization who is charge of recruiting new staff. You can find this out by consulting the organization’s website, by phoning, conducting online research elsewhere, if the website doesn’t provide the information you’re looking for.
Here’s an example of a speculative job application letter (pdf).
Letters requesting an informative interview
Another valuable job-hunting technique is to request an informational interview. Here, you’re asking to speak with someone in an organization you’re interested in, so your letter will be similar to the one you’d write for a speculative application. The main differences would be:
- In your first paragraph you’ll request an informational interview to learn more about this company in particular and the field in general. You might write something like I’d welcome the opportunity for an informational interview at your convenience.
- You’ll only have one body paragraph, outlining your qualifications for and interest in working in this field.
- In your final paragraph, you’ll offer to follow up to try to arrange a convenient time to meet or speak.
Back to Applying for a job.
You may also be interested in:
Writing a résumé
Writing an impressive job application