The following points are crucial for putting together your best possible application:
- Read the job ad properly
- The cover letter
- Your CV
- Application Photo
- Application channels
Correct spelling and grammar are a must and prove that you have put careful consideration into writing and compiling your documents.
Read the job ad properly
Job ads are intended to present the job opening in the best possible light. A good job ad will give you actionable information about the scope of duties, job requirements, the company involved and the industry in which you will be working, should your application be successful. Be sure to note words and phrases such as "essential" (qualifications that the applicant must have) or "ideally has knowledge of" (something that is helpful, but not mandatory for the applicant to have). They give an indication of how well your profile matches the job at hand. If you find considerable overlap between what you have to offer and what the employer expects, you're ready to proceed with your application.
The cover letter
Your cover letter should show that you understand the requirements listed in the job advertisement and should highlight the qualities and abilities you possess that make you suitable for the particular job. Compare the job ad with your experiences from your current job as well as your education and your overall employment history. Take two to three important aspects from the job ad that either aren't covered or aren't covered in sufficient detail by your CV and other documents and address these in greater detail. If you take the time to write a personal and individually crafted cover letter, you will make a much better impression when the company's HR staff are initially assessing documents than if you just submit a dry, standard cover letter.
Whether the style should be eye-catching or more conservative will depend primarily on the person you intend to contact. You'll run a greater risk that a somewhat eccentric cover letter will be poorly received by a bank manager, for instance, than if you send it to an advertising agency.
Your cover letter should be specifically addressed to a named individual. Either the correct contact person should be specified in the ad or you should call the company and ask who the correct point of contact is.
Another tip: Keep it short and sweet. Your cover letter should not be more than one page in length. You should, therefore, avoid complicated or extravagantly worded sentences.
A CV is divided into contact details, professional experience and training and education. There are different philosophies as to how long a CV should be and how it should be constructed. Here's a good tip: If you choose to list your employment history in reverse chronological order (your latest job first and your oldest job last), this will have the advantage of allowing the reader to jump in wherever seems most appropriate for his purposes. Your current job, for instance, will offer the best insight into your professional focus.
Include keywords when listing your permanent positions, relevant activities during training courses or studies and internships. It's also a good idea to indent or use bullet points. These will make it easier to classify your suitability for the particular job. For university graduates, it is also advisable to include a general and easily understandable sentence regarding your thesis.
Foreign languages and software skills in accordance with the European classification system (basic, good, very good, fluent) help complete a good profile. Be prepared for your "business fluency" in English to be tested as part of your interview. You can also list hobbies on your resume, as these will help provide insights into your interests and can form a good basis for small talk during the interview.
If you have a long-established career path with many years of experience, it is a good idea to provide copies of any professional certificates or diplomas you have earned over the years. Employment references, however, are a must in any case. Proof of further training should only be included if they are directly related to the job at hand and are not more than five years old. Because having certificates is not common in all countries, you can also work with information supplied in references (management, supervisors, immediate colleagues).
In Germany, it is a standard practice to include a photo with job applications. However, so that applicants do not run the risk of being (un)consciously discriminated against, a growing number of companies now refrain from taking applications that include a photo or any indication of the applicant's age. If you're unsure which option to pursue, it would be best to ask the company in advance which type of CV / application they prefer.
If you do include a photo, pay close attention to professionalism: Inappropriate clothing or poor quality pictures are a big no-no. After all, if you do include a photo, remember it's only there for one purpose – to show you in your best light.
A frequently asked question about applications is: Where should my photo go? Your photo should be attached to the top right of the first page of your CV or on a separate covering page.
These days, an application can be submitted using a number of different channels: by post, email, via an application portal, the profile database of an online job market or by using a social media profile.
You should only apply by post when specifically requested to do so. You should then ensure that you application and documents are sent in a professional application portfolio.
Application documents should follow a specific order: first the cover letter, then the CV and finally any certificates and references.
If you are applying by email, the principle is still the same: required documents, i.e. cover letter, CV and references, should be submitted in a single PDF file. Ideally, this file should include the name of the applicant and should not exceed 3 megabytes. Make sure you keep the body of the email short and to the point. You're not trying to write a second cover letter. It is also a good idea to quote the reference number of the job ad in the subject line of your email.
If you are required to submit your application via a company's application portal, ensure you adhere to each company's individual requirements. Such portals have the advantage that your application is submitted just as the employer wishes to receive it. However, it is also more difficult to give your application a person touch by supplying an individually crafted cover letter. If this degree of individuality is important to you, making entries using the free text submission section may be your best option.