motivation letter vs cover letter

Motivation Letter vs Cover Letter: What Are the Key Differences? (+Examples)

Last edit May 10, 2023

If you've ever found yourself scratching your head and wondering about the difference between a motivation letter vs. cover letter, you're not alone. 

These two documents, while similar, have distinct uses and contexts that set them apart. 

In a nutshell, the main difference between cover letter and a motivational letter lies in the fact that a cover letter is typically used in career settings, while a motivation letter is more common in academic settings.

In this article, we'll dive into the specifics of each document and provide examples to help guide you on when to use which.

Motivation letter vs. cover letter 

What's the difference between a cover letter and a motivation letter?

Let's sum it up:

DocumentCover letterMotivation Letter
PurposeTo accompany and introduce a job applicationTo express interest in a program or position
Target audienceEmployers, HR managersAcademic institutions, NGOs, or employers
Main focusSkills and qualifications for a specific jobPersonal motivations and aspirations
StructureFormal and structured Less formal, more personal
ContentJob-related experiences and skillsPersonal experiences and aspirations
ToneProfessional   Personal and passionate
LengthTypically one pageOne to two pages
CustomizationTailored to a specific job and companyTailored to a specific program or institution
AttachmentsResume, portfolio, or other relevant documentsMay include academic transcripts, CV, or other support documents
Key differences between a cover letter and a motivation letter

Now, let's have a closer look at each of these documents, together with an example of both a cover letter and a motivation letter.

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What is a cover letter?

A cover letter is a document that serves as your introduction to a potential employer, showcasing your background and explaining why you would be a good fit for the position they're offering. 

It should accompany your resume and should complement the information in it.

In essence, it's your chance to present yourself, let your personality shine through, and provide additional details that might not fit within the limited space of your resume. 

Even if you lack previous experience in the field, a well-crafted cover letter can help you stand out by highlighting your enthusiasm and positive qualities. 

How to write a cover letter

When it comes to writing a cover letter, the structure is just as important as the content. Here's a simple breakdown of the key components to include:

  1. Opening paragraph: Start with a brief introduction, saying who you are and the position you're applying for. This is your opportunity to grab the reader's attention and encourage them to read on.
  2. Body paragraphs: Use this section to showcase your relevant skills, experiences, and achievements. Be sure to provide concrete examples and explain how they directly relate to the job you're applying for. This is your chance to demonstrate why you're the ideal candidate for the position and how your background aligns with the company's needs and values.
  3. Closing paragraphs: In your closing paragraphs, restate your interest in the position and summarize your qualifications. This is also an excellent opportunity to express your enthusiasm and eagerness to contribute to the company's success. Don't forget to thank the reader for considering your application and provide any necessary contact information.

Cover letter example

Now that you have a better understanding of what a cover letter entails and how to write one, let's take a look at an example to help illustrate the key concepts.

Marketing and Brand Manager Cover Letter Sample

marketing cover letter example

What is a motivation letter?

While cover letters are designed for job applications, motivation letters serve a different purpose. 

Motivation letter is typically used when applying for academic opportunities such as scholarships, internships, or postgraduate programs, but also when applying for a non-profit organization or voluntary work.

A motivation letter aims to convey your passion for the subject, your personal goals, and how the program or opportunity aligns with those aspirations. 

It's an opportunity to showcase your drive, commitment, and enthusiasm for the field, setting you apart from other applicants. 

How to write a motivation letter

When crafting a motivation letter, it's essential to convey your genuine interest in the program or opportunity and provide a clear explanation of your motivations. 

Here's a simple outline to follow:

  1. Opening paragraph: Begin with an introduction, stating who you are and expressing your interest in the program or opportunity. This is the perfect chance to capture the reader's curiosity and set the tone for the rest of the letter.
  2. Body paragraphs: In this section, delve into your motivation for pursuing this opportunity, your long-term goals, and how the program aligns with those objectives. Be specific and provide examples, such as relevant experiences or accomplishments, that demonstrate your commitment to the field.
  3. Closing paragraphs: Wrap up your motivation letter by reiterating your interest in the program or opportunity and expressing your enthusiasm for the potential it offers. Thank the reader for considering your application and provide your contact information.

Motivation letter example

Now that we've covered the purpose and structure of a motivation letter, let's take a look at an example to help bring these concepts to life. 

This sample motivation letter will demonstrate how to effectively introduce yourself, share your motivations and goals, and express your enthusiasm for the academic opportunity:

University Motivation Letter Example

motivation letter example

Motivation letter vs. cover letter? Our final piece of advice

Throughout this article, we've explored the key differences between motivation letters and cover letters.

In a nutshell, a cover letter focuses on your qualifications and suitability for a specific job, while a motivation letter expresses your enthusiasm and reasons for pursuing a particular opportunity, often in educational or volunteering contexts.


  • Cover letter typically includes your contact information, addresses the hiring manager, and is tailored to a specific job posting or company.
  • Motivation letter is more general, often used for educational or volunteer programs, and emphasizes your passion, personal goals, and reasons for choosing the opportunity.

By understanding these distinctions, you can confidently craft the right document for your specific needs, be it an academic opportunity or a job application.

  • Klara Cervenanska, Junior Writer at Kickresume
  • Klara Cervenanska
    Career Writer
    Klara recently graduated from the University of St Andrews in Scotland. After having written resumes for many of her fellow students, she got an opportunity to write full-time for Kickresume. Klara is our go-to person for all things related to student or 'no experience resumes'. At the same time, she has written some of the most popular resume advice articles on this blog. When she's not writing, you'll probably find her chasing dogs or people-watching while sipping on a cup of coffee.

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