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Career Services at the University of Zurich

Letter of Motivation

In your letter of motivation (also known as cover letter or accompanying letter) you briefly and concisely outline on one page your qualifications, motivation, and enthusiasm for the company and the position. It is important that you adapt your letter to the company and the job requirements.

Contact details are best given in the form of a letterhead (same design as for the contact details on the resume)


Full address of the company, including the name of the contact person

Place and Date


Contains a keyword on the vacant job or function as well as the place and date of issue of the ad. Do not write ‘Subject’ or ‘Ref.’ Instead write the whole line in bold.


“Dear Mr. / Dear Mrs. XY”, or use their title if applicable. Only use “Dear Sir or Madam” in exceptional cases - it is better to give a quick call and ask for the name of the HR officer.


You should divide your text into three to five paragraphs:

  1. Paragraph: Opening sentence on why you are applying for the job. Do not spend too much time trying to think up an ingenious introductory sentence. You can start with a standard sentence and polish this up at the end.
  2. Paragraph: Why are you suited to this job? Describe your current work, study program, and specialist qualifications. Give special mention to the qualities that you possess that you believe apply to the position or company. You can make these statements more plausible by adding examples of your experience, e.g. team work experience in a project group, project experience in a research project, etc.
  3. Paragraph: Motivation, commitment, goals: Make clear that you want this position and give reasons why.
  4. Paragraph: Ask to be invited to an interview.

Ultimately, the recipient should know why you are applying, which requirements you fulfill, what distinguishes you from others, and why you suit the company and the job.




Ideally use blue ink.


Do not use the word ‘enclosures’. Either simply write ‘Application documents’ or write a list: Resume, Certificates, etc.


  • Read the ad carefully.
  • Do not send a standard letter but tailor the letter to the job ad and the company.
  • Keep the cover letter short.
  • Be confident and adapt to the company’s culture. Holding back is not always appropriate.
  • Do not start with old-fashioned phrases like “I hereby apply...”.
  • Avoid empty phrases.
  • Describe yourself but don't assess yourself: Use neutral expressions (rather: “I was responsible for” than “I was successful in”).
  • Translate academic performance into the company’s language.
  • Have another person read the letter through.


Weiterführende Informationen

+++ Important note +++

The letter of motivation is so named because this is where you advertise your motivation for the job. Emphasize why you want this job more than other applicants.

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For inspiration, take a look at this article by Rolf Murbach entitled “Motivation auf den Punkt gebracht” (German)