For many times, I asked myself in what circumstances “motivation letters” were incorporated and first required ever as part of the application process for jobs, internships, scholarships or whatever the candidature is. Although my question remains unanswered, the fact is that this piece of paper became the most required document of all – or at least all – applications processes that are embedded on a competitive basis. The point with this article is not to advocate for the end of the motivation letter since I recognize its important value in identifying how we rationalize and put into words our most enduring personal- and professional-dreams.
However, my words go straightforward on affirming that writing motivation letters is not an easy task and sometimes it is responsible for making applicants giving up on their candidatures before of being directed to the “apply” green button. Besides, I would say: there is no official template that could guide you into “the” perfect motivation letter. Each letter is unique and it reflects your level of maturity and how you perceive what your contribution should be. Motivated (purposefully) by what has intrigued me most, I share with you some tips I usually consider when I am confronted with the challenge of writing that letter.
First, ask yourself the “WHY?” question. Sometimes, it is obvious that you want that job position or fellowship because both of them reflect your expertise. Nevertheless, you must highlight the reasoning behind your application. The “why” question, in the beginning, helps you to clarify to yourself what interests you most on a call and that these interests can be the hook you need for developing your letter. The hook can be a research area, a specific responsibility you gained from your professional experience or any innovative aspect you can sure fill the gap.
Second, have in mind what is the purpose of your application. At this point, recruiters and evaluators want to know what your contribution should be, as well as what should be the benefits for your career. In my perspective, succeeding on the application should not be an end in itself, rather it is a process of mutual gains in which both sides learn from each other. For “purposes of your application”, understand that you should point out the “encountering values and competencies” between yours and the ones from the institution you are applying to. Those values vary from integrity, professionalism, respect for diversity; and the competencies reflect the way you work, being compromised to teamwork, organization and accountability, just to mention a few.
At this stage, be aware of not replicating these values and competencies as a check-list. The point, here, is on the “HOW” you present yourself through the motivation letter and “how” these values and competencies fit from what you write to what is expressed in your curriculum. Despite the fact I had affirmed at the beginning that there is no official template for motivation letters, remember to state in your first paragraph to whom your letter is addressed to and write it as if you were talking to the evaluator. Being assertive in a one-page letter is not a guarantee that you will succeed in your application, but it is essential for letting the evaluators know that reading your words really worth.
Author: Maurício Vieira, an Online Volunteer at Mladiinfo. He lost the count of how many motivation letters he has written so far.
Editor: Tomica Stojanovikj