French Cover Letter Format

When applying for a job, it's generally a good idea to include a cover letter, otherwise known as an application letter or an accompanying letter, with your résumé.

As your first contact with a potential employer, this is a good opportunity to show that you have the skills needed to do the job. Your cover letter should convince the employer to take a closer look at your résumé and contact you for an interview.

Once you have reread your letter and are satisfied with it, you can send off your application.

Cover letter template for download

We are providing a cover letter template to download (DOCX, 23 KB) as a possible basis for your own. Other templates can easily be found online.

Our template includes the typical sections of such a letter. It was designed to help people draft a clear cover letter with a professional look.

You will need to save a copy of the template to your computer in order to modify each section by entering your own information.

Before writing your letter

  • Have your résumé and the job offer handy.
  • Seek out certain information about the company (size, activities, customers, projects and so on).
    • Your primary source of information is the company's website.
    • The Labour Market Information (LMI Online) website can provide information on the company’s industry as well as job prospects and average salaries.
    • Find out what the job involves. See the Online Placement website.
  • Ask yourself about your interest in this job:
    • What about the company and job really interests you?
    • Is it a new experience or a new challenge? Or is it that you are already familiar with the work involved?
    • What are the skills and experiences you wish to highlight? (To make your application more interesting, think of things that are not already in your résumé.)
  • Make sure you have the name and title of the person to whom you should address your letter.

    This information is generally provided in the job offer. Don't hesitate to call the company if you need more information.

A few tips for writing your cover letter

  • Avoid talking only about yourself. Address the company's needs, which are generally described in the job offer.
  • Use positive, active wording like "I developed … ."
  • Be original without being aggressive or arrogant.
  • Avoid copying word-for-word what is already in your résumé. Include new information and find new ways of expressing your ideas.
  • Keep it short (maximum one page).
  • Ensure your letter is neat and well-structured:
    • Single-space your letter and use paragraphs.
    • Provide a clean copy (without stains or visible deletions).
  • Reread your letter carefully before sending it in.

Is the employer looking for someone with more experience than you?

If you think you're able to do the job, send in your résumé anyway. The enthusiasm you show in your cover letter may make up for your lack of experience.

Contents of a cover letter

Structure the various sections of your letter correctly.

Heading

  • Indicate the date you send your letter.
  • Indicate the name, title and address of the person to whom your letter is addressed.

First part

  • Mention how you heard about the job (an ad in a newspaper or other publication, a posting on the Online Placement website, personal contacts, etc.).

Second part

  • Explain briefly why you think you are the right person for the job.
  • Invite the person to read your résumé.
  • Explain how your education or training, work experience, skills and work ethic meet the job requirements. The idea is to show how your qualifications would be an asset for the employer.
    • Write one or two paragraphs.
    • Try to tailor your letter to the company and job in question.
    • Explain how your work experience can help you meet the job offer requirements. This shows the employer that you’re motivated and serious.

Third part

  • Thank the addressee for having taken the time to read your application.
  • Clearly state that you are available for an interview.

Closing

  • End your letter with a standard formal closing like "Yours truly."

Signature

  • Write your name and contact information (address, telephone number and email address) under your signature.
  • Include your personal website address, if you have one.
  • Sign your letter carefully.
  • After "Encl.," list any documents that you are including with your letter, such as a résumé.

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.

Style

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’.

Content

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.

Structure

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.

 

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Bon chance!

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