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Cover Letter - France

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Once you've prepared your resume, it's time to highlight your achievements in the cover letter. How you go about doing that can also vary from country to country. In this section you'll find some general as well as culturally specific tips about how to make your letter (and yourself!) stand out when applying for a job in France.

Cultural Dos and Don'ts
- In France, if you are sending a letter in response to an ad, your cover letter should be handwritten. However, when you are sending a "cold-calling letter" to multiple companies, you can send a typed cover letter.

- Place the city you are writing from and the date below the company info.

- Sell yourself without boasting too much. Do not say outright that you are "the best".

- Do not send any copies of your diplomas, unless requested.

- Take care not to go so far as to send your resume printed on a CD or a T-shirt, since this is likely to actually irritate recruiters.

- If you are a young male candidate, and military service is compulsory in your country, indicate if you have already completed it by writing "dégagé des obligations militaries", or D.O.B.

- There are no anti-discriminatory laws in France. You are free, and often required, to give your age, gender, and marital status. It is also common to include a picture of yourself if you are applying for a hostess and trade representative position. Still, some recruiters don't like getting a photo, so be careful.

  • Place your personal details in the top left-hand corner of your sheet of paper:
    • First name, last name; in this order,
    • Address,
    • Telephone, fax,
    • Email.
  • Place the basic details of the company in the top right-hand of the letter (see model for example). If addressed to a particular person, indicate their name above the address. Example: Monsieur le Directeur du personnel
  • Place the city you are writing from and the date below the company info. Example: Paris, le 8 avril 2000
  • If answering an ad with a reference number, indicate the number on the left side, after the date, with "Ref. :" or "Objet :"
  • If your contact is a man, address him by "Monsieur", or "Cher Monsieur". Address a woman with "Madame", or "Chère Madame". If you don't have a contact name, address your cover letter to "Monsieur, Madame".
  • Avoid beginning your letter using the pronoun "je".
  • Avoid using the pronoun "je" too often.
Remember that your cover letter (in French, lettre de motivation or lettre d'accompagnement) should attract the interest of the employer in order to get an interview. Therefore, try to keep it short (one page maximum) and clear.

If you answer an ad, specify where and when you found the ad.
Develop a separate paragraph for each of the characteristics listed in the ad and explain why you are applying.

  • Show your interest in the position and the company.
  • Strengthen your application with concrete examples of your professional experience or education
  • Suggest an interview
  • End your letter with an appropriate "formule de politesse" (a ready-made phrase which is the French equivalent of "Yours Faithfully"):
    • If you started your letter with "Madame, Monsieur," end with: "Je vous prie d'agréer, Madame, Monsieur, l'expression de mes salutations distinguées." This is the most neutral and proper ending.
    • If you know you are writing to a woman, use, "Je vous prie d'agréer, Madame, l'expression de mes salutations distinguées."
    • If writing to a man, end with: "Je vous prie d'agréer, Monsieur, l'expression de mes salutations distinguées."
  • Do not forget to sign your letter.

If you are sending a cold-calling letter follow the 3-axes line :

First paragraph: is about the employer: Get some information on the company beforehand and demonstrate in your letter that you know the company, its activities, its foreseen evolution.

Second paragraph: is about you: describe the qualities you will bring to the company (experience, education). Specify the type of position you are seeking; it is not the company's task to find your position for you.

Third paragraph: is about how you will be a good match with the company: discuss how your employment will be mutually beneficial for both you and the company. Suggest you'd be happy to discuss such issues in further details during an interview.

End your letter with an appropriate "formule de politesse". See above for examples.

Of course, do not forget to sign your letter.

Now that you've read our guidelines for writing a cover letter, check out our model French cover letter, or continue on to our page on writing a resume for France.  

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