In my last post I wrote about writing a CV or resume in a Swedish-friendly way. This time, I will offer some tips on writing a cover letter to go with your CV.
1. I haven’t sent a resume on paper in many years but I still see lots of advice that seems to think people are sending resumes on paper. The rules are a little different on paper so when you see suggestions to write, for example, the employer’s address in the upper right corner, ignore that if you are sending it electronically. Ditto for putting the date on your letter since that information comes attached to the email anyway and looks odd in an email.
2. If you are sending your CV in English, I would write the letter in English so they match.
3. Keep your sentences short and to the point. At best, your reader is probably going to skim your letter. They are definitely not hanging on every word.
4. The heading “To whom it may concern” isn´t used in Sweden and sounds strange to most Swedes. As you would in any country, try to find out the name of the person you are writing the letter to. If you can’t find a name, address the letter to the position of the person you are writing to, such as “Human Resources.” If you have a connection to the person, you can use their first name. My experience is that this is a little more common in Sweden than the US. If you’re not sure, then go ahead and use their last name, “Dear Ms. Lund.”
5. The first line should right away say what the purpose of your letter is. “I read on Monster.com that you are looking for a writer. Please find my CV attached.”
6. Why do you want this job? Perhaps tell them something about the work you are doing right now and why they should hire you. “I am a technical writer for company X in Stockholm and I also write a blog for the Swedish Institute. I am looking for work in Uppsala.”
7. If you’re not already in Sweden, that will be a barrier to hiring you. You’ll have to mention what your plan is and how you’re getting to Sweden in your cover letter. Keep it short and positive. They don’t want to hear about any problems. They have problems of their own.
8. Make sure to leave space between paragraphs and use short sentences. Maybe they’ll print it out and maybe they won’t so you must capture their interest right away.
9. Don’t use abbreviations. It’s not a good idea even in an English-speaking country and in Sweden, you risk them not understanding what you mean. It’s a little too informal for a cover letter.
10. Don’t use fancy fonts or weird size fonts. This just ends up irritating your reader. I always use Times New Roman, 12 point font—it’s boring but familiar and easy on the eye.
11. I recently sent out a cover letter and didn’t know how to close it. The letter was in English but the Swedish friend who was helping me said that ”yours truly” sounded really strange in a cover letter. With hindsight, I think it would have been nice to close the letter in Swedish to acknowledge that I am learning Swedish, etc. You can write, “Med vänliga hälsningar” which means “With kind regards.”
12. Some people put in an image of their signature to make the electronic cover letter look like it has been signed but I think this is more work than it’s worth and possibly their email program might not even render it correctly. Simply type your name, address, phone number and e-mail address at the bottom of the letter.
The Swedish edition of Monster.com offers lots of tips. Here’s a cover letter (alas, in Swedish but you can use Google Translator to translate it.)
A website called Iagora has a sample of a Swedish cover letter here.
Best of luck! Never, ever give up your dream of living and working in Sweden! I didn’t and look, Mom, I made it!