The Letter of Motivation: What is it and how to use it to Stand out in the Crowd

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By: Marie Fincher

July 29, 2015

It can be difficult to discern the difference between a letter of motivation and a cover letter. To be honest, sometimes both documents are used in the same way and the only difference is that somebody has introduced a new word to make the same thing appear to be different. Having said that, there are differences between a cover letter and a letter of motivation, and there are instances in which a letter of motivation is more appropriate. There are also ways that a letter of motivation can be used to stand out in a crowd of applicants.

What is a letter of motivation?

A letter of motivation is both a plea and an assertion that you are a great fit for a particular position.  You would write a letter of motivation and include it with an application, C.V. or resume. The point of a letter of motivation is to convince an HR manager or other authority that you should be somebody that they consider for a particular position.

When should you use a letter of motivation?

Many people believe that it is best to use a letter of motivation to apply for volunteer positions, research positions, and other jobs in the academic sector. This is different than a cover letter that will be used, for the most part, to apply for jobs in the private sector.

Here are some ways in which someone might use a letter of motivation

  • To express their enthusiasm over a volunteer opportunity
  • To convince a charitable organization that one deserves a chance to earn a role as a volunteer in an important event.
  • To apply for a position in an academic situation such as an instructional position, a place on a research team, or with a think tank

What does it take to write a great letter of motivation?

First, it is important to remember that your letter of motivation is going to accompany another document. This can be your resume, CV, or an application. Your letter of motivation can be used to highlight the information on these other documents, or it can provide additional information that you were unable to include in your resume, CV, or application.

If you want your letter of motivation to get the attention it deserves, there are steps that you can follow.

  1. Be clear and concise. Provide detailed information in your letter of motivation about what you can and will do to meet the requirements of the position. Don’t use flowery or vague language about working hard or being a people person.
  2. Make connections between your letter of motivation and your resume or CV. This will help the hiring manager see that your skills match the position that you are applying for.
  3. Take the time to make sure that your letter of motivation is technically correct. Clean up your spelling, grammar, and mechanics.
  4. Recognize when someone asking for a letter of motivation is using the phrase interchangeably with the phrase cover letter. Then, submit your cover letter and refrain from splitting hairs over what is a letter of motivation vs. what is a cover letter.
  5. Your opening sentence should be short, attention-grabbing and engaging, but not overly forceful. This is a delicate and difficult balance to achieve.

If You Need Help

You may not understand the nuances that differentiate a cover letter from a letter of motivation, and you may not understand when one is more appropriate than the other. These are the kinds of issues that an HR professional from can assist you with. When you are seeking employment of any type, we are your “go-to” source for resumes, CV’s, cover letters, and letters of motivation. Feel free to contact us.

Marie Fincher

While being committed to a number of charitable causes, like volunteering at special events or giving free art lessons to children, Marie doesn’t forget her vocation – writing. She can write about almost anything but has focused on time management, motivation, academic and business writing.