Excerpted from the France Career Guide
Cover Letter Guidelines
In France, a cover letter, or lettre de motivation, should be short and focus on the position for which the jobseeker is applying. Typically, cover letters include a reference line at the top with the offer reference or the title of the position for which one is applying. An opening paragraph, one or two main body paragraphs outlining key qualifications for the job, and a closing paragraph normally suffice. Overly positive personality descriptions are to be avoided since recruiters evaluate applicants’ personalities at the interview stage according to their own criteria. In general, the candidate should concentrate on highlighting his or her qualifications for the target position without resorting to using over-the-top superlatives that may be perceived as superficial bragging.
When writing to a prospective employer in France, it is important to not send an exhaustive resume/CV (curriculum vitae). Two pages can be justified when the applicant has—at the very least—eight years of professional experience; otherwise, one to one and a half pages will suffice. Lengthy résumés/CV’s are not popular with recruiters and increase the risk of the application being put at the bottom of the pile or automatically discarded.
Luxury or heavy paper will not be of any advantage except in the luxury sector; standard white A4, 80-gram stationery, printed on one side only, is the norm. In France, it is still customary to include a photograph on the CV; however, this is not obligatory. Should the candidate wish to include one, a small, good quality, formal photograph can be scanned onto the top right corner of the resume/CV with the applicant’s name and contact information justified to the left. A friendly but not overly smiling pose, exuding professionalism and seriousness, is best. The text of the resume/CV is to be aligned to the left, with a margin of 1.5 to 2 centimeters. A neutral, business-like font is the norm (such as Times, Helvetica, Arial, Tahoma or Verdana). CVs tend to be conservative in style and format. Applicants should avoid using overly creative or garish CV templates or designs – standing out for these reasons is not considered a good thing by recruiters, unless the target industry is a creative one, in which case the format should be stylish and tasteful.
You'll find more advice and cover letter and resume samples in the complete France Guide.