Effective Cover Letter Writing for Expats

Like resumes, cover letter writing for expats is different from cover letter writing for domestic positions. This is why you need to be mindful of what you include in your cover letter, as it could be a critical factor in getting a job offer.

The first element of the cover letter is the introduction. In this section, job applicants typically introduce themselves to the employer. You usually outline your qualifications, what position you are applying for, and how you heard about the position in this section. This standard information should be included in expat cover letters as well.

Additionally, prospective expat employees should go a step further and discuss their relocation strategy. This section should include the where, why, and when you anticipate moving abroad. You should let the employer know what regions you are seeking employment in so that they have a general idea of the type of country you wish to live in. This may seem obvious because you are applying to work in that country, but it is not.

Like many other expats I was very open to working in various regions of the world when I first started my expat journey. I was wet behind my ears and didn’t know the difference between living in Brazil and Saudi Arabia. I knew that they were on the opposite end of the globe and that one was a very religious country. But, I truly didn’t understand the discrepancies in the immigration process or living conditions prior to my overseas journeys. All I knew was that I was ready to move abroad.

Relocation Strategy

While I am now thoroughly educated about the differences in various expat locations, I am still quite open to calling many areas of the world home. I have met dozens of expats that share the same sentiment. Thus, as a previous expat hiring manager, I am fully aware that every country is not the right fit for everyone. So I was highly appreciative when interviewees outlined the regions of the world they were most interested in working in.

Even more, I was extremely grateful when they explained why they wanted to live in these locations. There were varied reasons that often included:

  • Familiar or cultural ties to the region
  • Desire to live in a certain geographical region
  • Previously experience with the area or region
  • Desire to experience adventures

Whatever your reasons are for wanting to work abroad, you should spell them out in your cover letter. But definitely do so in a positive and diplomatic manner.


It is also helpful to provide a general timeline of when you can or wish to move. This information is very important to expat employers, especially if you have a restricted schedule. Most employers expect that you will need or want to adhere to your current employer’s notification period. However, notification periods vary greatly, and some may not be conducive to the employer’s needs. This question may be presented in an interview process. But it could save you and the employer time if you spell this out in your cover letter.

Your relocation strategy is important in conveying to employers that you have truly thought carefully about moving abroad. It lets them know that you didn’t just wake up that morning with an epiphany that you need to roam the world to “find yourself.” International employers are looking to hire stable expats who will stay the course. Turnover is typically 3-5 times more expensive for employers who hire expats than those who hire local workers. So employers who frequently hire expats try to avoid flighty employees as much as possible.

Detail Your Experience

An expat cover letter is similar to any other cover letter in this regard. Cover letter writing is about expressing the depth of your knowledge, skills, and abilities in greater detail. It is not meant to be a summary of your resume. Instead, it is a space for showcasing your portfolio by explaining how your experience matches the job requirements.

For instance, if you are a teacher, you can and should use your cover letter to detail the innovative pedagogy that you have implemented and the respective outcomes. You should give a brief explanation of the pedagogy if it is not widely known or used in the country in which you are seeking employment. Express when and how you implemented the approach and give a few details about the student demographics. Finally, detail the results of the techniques that you used. This will give more clarity about your skill sets and the unique skills that you can bring to the organization.

Convey Cultural Relevance

You should also try to convey how your experiences and credentials are culturally relevant. If the employer seeks candidates to teach or implement components of the English language in their organization, you should expound on your ability to do just that. If the organization is looking for someone who can easily adapt, you should showcase your transferable skills. The ultimate goal is to show that you understand that you may have to adapt to meet the demands of living.

Exercise Humility

By some cultural standards around the world, Americans are considered haughty in our job-seeking approach (and in other regards). What we deem as “selling ourselves” is often interpreted as bragging in other parts of the world. We are taught to focus on how our strengths and accomplishments are an asset to the organization. However, in some regions of the world, it is better not to focus on yourself. Instead, you should focus on what you can do for the organization in a not-so-self-centered way.

You are, in essence, still relaying what you have to offer to the organization. But with an emphasis on how the company can enhance and benefit from your skill set. It is important to focus on the company’s strengths and humbly indicate how you can be an asset to the organization. This is the opposite of the American way of focusing on the candidate’s strengths which indicates the company should be grateful for to have them.


Let’s say that you are a flight attendant applying to work for an international airline that just won an award for being the best global brand in the industry for the past three years in a row. If the culture of the country tends to be more humble, it will behoove you to focus on the airline’s accomplishments. In contrast to focusing on your own. You may want to shape your cover letter to include something similar to the following language:

I am very pleased to have the opportunity to apply to work for an organization that has won best global airline brand for the past three consecutive years. This is a major feet in the airline industry and I am sure that your employees are proud to work for such a innovative and forward-thinking air carrier. I would likewise be grateful and very humbled if I could utilize the skills that I have learned working as an flight attendant over the past five years to contribute to the continuous growth and development of your airline.

In this example, the writer prioritizes the airline’s accomplishments and shows how the accolades can benefit prospective employees instead of the other way around. However, the writer also indicates her experience as a flight attendant without shining the spotlight on herself. Once she has established the proper rapport, she can continuously and humbly inject her knowledge, skills, and abilities into the cover letter.

It is important to be mindful of the culture with which you are interacting. This is necessary to determine the level of humility you should use in the cover letter writing process. As with other aspects of expat job seeking, the culture of the land will play a big role in how you approach the overall process. You must do your research to determine what is appropriate for the region in which you are seeking employment.

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