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Application letter:
What does “complete application documents” actually mean?

Most probably, you will have read this request from companies at the end of a job advert: “Please send your complete application documents to…”. But what do employers mean by “complete”?

When writing an application, make sure to include the following essential content:

If you, the applicant, get all the components of an application in the right order, your documents are complete. And if you apply online where you e-mail PDF attachments or upload them to an application portal, you don’t even need an application portfolio. You can usually also dispense with a cover page.

If you are unsure as to how elaborate your application letter should be: Ask. This signals your genuine interest in the vacant position, shows your focus on solutions and your ability to communicate.

Some employers may ask for brief applications consisting just of an application letter and a Curriculum Vitae. However, if they explicitly request complete application documents, that means that a brief application is not sufficient to clearly assess you as an applicant.

Perfectly aligning application letters: how to better classify job adverts

Application letters and applications always entail an element of “marketing” (yourself). The word “job advert” shows this very clearly—companies and organisations also want to “advertise” themselves when posting vacancies. Use this information in your application letter by including individual items from it.

A job advert is a valuable source of details and specifications of your area of responsibility, the requirements profile and, often, the values practised at your potential next employer. Address these items and focus on wording such as “indispensable”, “preferable” or “ideally”.

When writing an application, link the characteristics referenced by this wording to your own skills profile. This will help your contact assess you even better when reading your application letter.

Cover letter for your application: communicate motivation and objectives

You should ideally limit your application letter to one page, two at the most. Many companies don’t even want a cover letter as some HR managers find a tabular Curriculum Vitae more informative.

Nevertheless, there are reasons for cover letters because they reveal the applicant’s personal motivations and career objectives. Be aware that companies may have special requirements for cover letters—in particular if you, the candidate, need to insert your application letter into an online form.

Ideally, use one page to express why you are the ideal candidate for the advertised position. Show that you are the perfect professional and social match for the company and evidence this in short succinct sentences.

Try to structure your cover letter as follows when writing an application:

  • Start with an intriguing sentence that motivates your contact to read on. Make them curious by cleverly inserting core company messages that you have found on the website of your ideal next employer or detail your passion for the job. This will spark the interest of HR managers and will make you stand out from the crowd. The same applies to the e-mail subject line in a digital application.
  • In the main part of your application letter, reference your skills and showcase your professional aptitude using a successfully completed project. If you have numbers to substantiate your success, this will resonate positively.
  • Follow up by creating a reference to the company. Explain how your preferred next employer can benefit from you as a professional. Tell them about your objectives and what you would like to achieve with the company in the future.
  • A fresh, clever final sentence is as important as the initial sentence. Show passion and self-confidence without overdoing it and convey your enthusiasm about possibly getting to know them better.

Typical motivational letters have become a bit outdated. Use this page, which follows the cover letter, to detail your intrinsic motivation, the beliefs and passions you have and why you are a perfect match for the position because of the values you practise.

Curriculum Vitae: describe your qualifications in your application letter in short and to the point

As mentioned above, Curriculum Vitae have become the key elements of application letters for many HR managers. Invest enough time here to tailor your tabular Curriculum Vitae to the advertised job.

If your Curriculum Vitae doesn’t impress the HR manager, neither will your application letter—no matter how thrilling it is. For most HR people, CVs offer a first impression, also because you have ideally included a professional application photo. See the following link for a summary of mistakes to avoid when writing your Curriculum Vitae .

More and more companies no longer want photos or dates of births from applicants so as to avoid (un)knowingly discriminating against them. If you are unsure, ask to find out how the company handles this issue.

If you want to include an application photo with your documents, be sure not to use a picture from a photo booth. A photo is another way to express your appreciation of your potential new employer. Make sure to dress appropriately and look your best for the photo.

In your Curriculum Vitae, list your career so far in short and concise words on no more than two pages, even if you have many years of professional experience. Add short information about your previous responsibilities to each career step and, if possible, back this up with the success you have achieved. Here you can also specify clearly and concisely any qualifications you have acquired, (IT) skills and capabilities, etc.

A word on clarity: Make things as easy as possible for HR managers. Don't use excessive or overly playful layouts in your Curriculum Vitae (including your cover letter) while refraining from common, uninspiring designs. See our donwload section (Word documents) for some templates for your application along with checklists and guidelines.

Often, a quick glance at your Curriculum Vitae to assess your qualification is all that's required—especially if there is a lot of competition for attractive positions. Therefore, focus on an easily understood structure, a clear layout and career steps that can be scanned over.

Enclosures/attachments: evidence and document your skills for your next career step

Your application documents are only complete once you list your enclosures/attachments—meaning certificates, references, work samples. Take your time presenting and choosing these elements. Only add documents that are actually relevant to the advertised position.

Diplomas from your training company or university must be included as well as letters of recommendation or testimonials from former employers. Of equal interest and meaningful are certificates of further professional training you have completed as well as your language skills.

As mentioned above: Only choose documents that are relevant and helpful in showing your qualification. Don’t include poor testimonials but be aware that this may put your application at a disadvantage. Companies are reluctant to work with candidates who have something to hide. Decide for yourself which approach is beneficial and which one puts you at a disadvantage.

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