Working Abroad Tutorial: Writing International Cover Letter

LiveCareer Staff Writer
by LiveCareer Staff Writer

Americans just getting out of college or looking to expand their horizons often wonder what it would be like to work and live abroad. But don’t be fooled into thinking that getting a job in an English-speaking locale, like the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, or South Africa, is as easy as adapting to a language you already know.

In your rush to get started, you may be tempted to start applying online using only your American-style resume. According to the Harvard Business Review, that could be a big mistake. Rather, you need to take some time to understand the different documents required to pursue careers abroad.

For one, the curriculum vitae (CV) expected by employers in these destinations come with its own nuances. And second, not sending a cover letter may be seen as a sign of laziness. This is even more true abroad, where business practices tend to be more formal.

Here’s a look at some tips and tricks to writing an international cover letter.

Your International Cover Letter: 4 Crucial Writing Tips

Your cover letter is a written overview showcasing what you have to offer and what you hope to gain in your career overseas. It represents your professional skills and personality and shows what you can bring to the company.

Do your research and make sure you understand the preferred tone in the country of your choice. Your written style may be less formal than the norm for countries using British English standards, for instance.

Be as clear and direct as possible, using a few cover letter examples to learn the tone and formatting. Before you send your international cover letter, have someone proofread it — preferably a native speaker or someone who has worked in that country.

    1. Research Spelling Differences

Most English-speaking countries outside of the United States use the British standard for spelling. The main difference is -ise and -ize. In the United States, -ize is used at the end of words, typically verbs, (customize, aggrandize), but the British spelling (used in the UK, New Zealand, Australia, and elsewhere) is -ise.

Examples include: finalize/finalise; organize/organise; realize/realise.

You may also see double ‘l’ spellings — travelling vs traveling — and -re endings instead of -er, such as with centre and theatre.

    1. Know Grammar and Style Differences

In countries that use British English, the main grammar differences are the use of articles (a/an/the) and the Oxford (serial) comma.

Articles are usually used the same way in British versus American English, with two common exceptions. British English skips the article before university and hospital. Examples: I’m at university. She’s in hospital.

The Oxford comma, or serial comma, is typically left out of informal American writing styles. However, it should be included in your international cover letter.

      • American English: I developed interesting course plans to meet the academic, intellectual and social needs of children.
      • British English: I developed interesting course plans to meet the academic, intellectual, and social needs of children.
    1. Set the Right Tone

No matter what country you hope to work in, your international cover letter should:

    • Be professional, personal, and friendly
    • Interesting to read but concise
    • Not summarize your CV, but rather supplement it and expand on it
    • Be enthusiastic and assertive without appearing pushy
    • Use simple, natural language and avoid cliches that may be unfamiliar to your foreign audience
    • Use positive phrasing, such as “I have” or “I can”
  1. Figure Out the Formatting

Here are some tips for presenting a polished cover letter whether it’s a physical or digital copy.

  • Use clean, white, A4-sized paper and don’t send photocopies.
  • Use easy-to-read fonts, such as Calibri, Helvetica, Georgia, Times New Roman, and Arial.
  • Leave space around the edges of the page and between each paragraph or section.

UK Cover Letter Tips

UK tips are also applicable in South Africa, Europe, and Ireland.

  1. Always send a cover letter. The standard one-page covering letter performs a simple courtesy function and helps you expand on the best points from your resume.
  2. Include all the necessary components:
    • Contact Information (yours and the company’s)
    • Greeting
    • Short introduction
    • Two to three short body paragraphs
    • Closing paragraph including a request for an interview or follow up
  3. Don’t rewrite your CV, but do include brief highlights of your experience.
  4. State the reason you’re writing and start selling your personal brand in the first paragraph.
  5. Include a call to action to contact you for an interview in the last line.
  6. Talk about the company. Do enough research to tell them what you are impressed with and what you can offer them.
  7. Reflect your personality. Try to use dynamic action verbs such as analyzed, clarified, collaborated, communicated, instilled, and motivated.
  8. Keep it relevant and brief.
  9. Contact details should include a named individual whenever possible.

New Zealand/Australia Cover Letter Tips

In New Zealand, cover letters are typically more casual but contain the same basic sections as a UK cover letter. You can be a bit more open and show your personality, as long as you keep it professional.

International Cover Letter Example


City, ST 12345

H: +1 (123) 456-7890

April 7, 2018

RE: Job Reference 178-1080.X (Critical Care Lead Nurse)

Felicity Weeks,

As a board certified Registered Nurse with over 10 years of experience in adult care, I am very excited to submit my CV for consideration to join the NHS as a nurse. Ever since visiting the UK as a teenager, I have dreamed of returning to the UK on a permanent basis and I believe that nursing has provided me the perfect pathway to achieve my goals. With a broad range of experience in disciplines such as critical, intensive, and acute care, I offer expertise in all facets of patient care and have a passion for providing care to individuals of diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.

In every nursing role I have held, I have demonstrated a high degree of professionalism, a strong work ethic, and a commitment to maintaining the highest standards of clinical quality, patient care, and regulatory compliance. Kindly consider the below highlights, which further detail my skills and qualifications.

  • Earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing and board certification as a Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN), and have maintained active basic life support (BLS), advanced cardiac life support (ACLS), and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certifications since 2002.
  • Held leadership roles such as Charge Nurse and participated in committees dedicated to improving clinical quality, nurse education, nurse recruitment and retention, and patient safety.
  • Traveled internationally during medical mission trips to Haiti, Kosovo, and Puerto Rico and provided comprehensive care to impoverished and underserved communities in the United States.
  • Successfully contributed to the achievement of Magnet status and led team when preparing for Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) audits.

Please find enclosed my CV, letters of recommendation, copies of my certifications, and my criminal record certificate. I have also taken formal steps to register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council and am scheduled to take the test of competence with Pearson VUE in June 2018.

I look forward to meeting with you to discuss this opportunity and how I can add value to the NHS in this exciting role. If offered a position, I am prepared to immediately begin the visa application process in order to eliminate any further delays in beginning work. In the interim, I want to thank you for reviewing this letter and the attached documents!


Natalie Meyers

If you’re ready to embark on a new adventure and travel the world, getting your resume and international cover letter ready is the first step. LiveCareer has cover letter tutorials to get you started.

About the Author

LiveCareer Staff Writer

At LiveCareer, we live and breathe the belief that we can help people transform their work lives, and so do our contributors. Our experts come from a variety of backgrounds but have one thing in common: they are authorities on the job market. From journalists with years of experience covering workforce topics, to academics who study the theory behind employment and staffing, to certified resume writers whose expertise in the creation of application documents offers our readers insights into how to best wow recruiters and hiring managers, LiveCareer’s stable of expert writers are among the best in the business. Whether you are new to the workforce, are a seasoned professional, or somewhere in between, LiveCareer’s contributors will help you move the needle on your career and get the job you want faster than you think.


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