A great deal of attention needs to be paid to the application dossier, for it reveals more about the applicant than he or she may think. Therefore the same applies here: the first impression is crucial.
Despite advancing digitalisation, the traditional application dossier remains standard. It includes:
Résumé or CV
The core of every application is the résumé or the curriculum vitae, abbreviated to CV. NB: "Ordinary mortals" should use the title "Résumé", "Curriculum Vitae" should strictly only be used by graduates and academics.
The résumé should be persuasive right from the start, otherwise the HR director will not read on any further. In this case, even a presentation folder designed with a great deal of effort is of no use at all. The résumé should be a maximum of three pages long.
Important: there is no universally valid format for the design of the résumé. It is better if it matches the relevant job profile. (see Examples/Templates).
A résumé lists in tabular or in bullet-point form all the factual information about a candidate: personal details, schooling, further education and professional training, career stages and professional experience, language and computer skills, and referees. Under certain circumstances secondary activities and hobbies can be mentioned, so long as they fit the job specification. Going to the disco and watching TV only makes the HR director yawn, however activities in clubs/societies or political commitment may be of interest. Always begin with the most recent information; under the heading "Schooling", your primary school comes last. The entry date is also detailed, although the remark "By agreement" is usually used here.
More and more frequently, a short section is added to the résumé, in which the candidate describes his or her personal and professional motivation, and indicates particular skills. If you give this section the auspicious title "Other things you should know about me", you make the HR director curious about what you have to say about yourself.
The HR director will perform a sequence and item analysis of your résumé. He performs the sequence analysis to identify possible gaps in your biography. "Blanks" and gaps are not a good sign. If you have been a student for twice as long as your peers, if there is a "gap" between completing your apprenticeship and your first job, then you should document this period sensibly, for example with a period abroad or further education. On the other hand, the HR director will use the item analysis to chart your career path: linear with a central thread; or erratic with no great coherence.
This point cannot be stressed enough: a picture says more than 1000 words. In the application it is the element that is most strongly emotive and also shows how you would represent your potential employer. Have a professional picture taken by a specialist portrait photographer. He or she can also advise on clothing, hairstyle, how to look at the camera, the way you hold your head and all other minute details which have to be considered. Passport photos from a machine have no place in an application, and private snaps from your last beach holiday are totally inappropriate.
For the HR director, employment references are one of many bases for making decisions. They give him an impression of your performance and conduct in previous employment and also verify that the details in your résumé are not pure fiction. It is therefore important that you enclose all employment references and are thus able to demonstrate that your career has no gaps. Do not enclose originals, only copies!
Once again, only send copies. Only include with your application those diplomas and certificates which are relevant to your new job – if possible they should less than ten years old. If a 55-year-old includes his degree certificate and his secondary education certificate, this would seem odd. The certificate for your highest level of education should however always be included.
There are applications where the usual documents do not suffice. In this case, a sample of your handwriting or a specialist driving licence is explicitly required, but these other documents could also include work samples (e.g. in professions where writing copy is important).
As soon as your application is short-listed, many HR directors will contact any one of your previous employers to find out whether you were really as good as you said you were in your application. As a rule, it is sufficient if you give three referees. An unwritten rule requires that the HR director may only contact those people that you have listed in your list of referees; and that you contact these people beforehand to see if they are willing to act as referees. You should also find out from whom and when they are likely to receive such a request. Important: the referees may only provide information about your workplace performance and conduct; anything else is unprofessional. Employers and also former colleagues may act as referees; for graduates, possibly their professor; for club members, possibly the president or for sportspeople, their coach may possibly act as a referee.
Application letters, Motivation letters, Covering letters
Often these open the door. A persuasively written covering letter that matches the job, which you submit with your documents, in many cases determines whether your dossier will be examined more closely at all. Short, concise letters have more chance than novels; and a 4-section structure is ideal. Describe why you are interested in the position, what qualifications and what motivation you bring to the job, and give a reason why you wish to change jobs. Your willingness to attend an interview must also be stated. If you have previously called the HR department, refer to that conversation by mentioning the date and the name of your contact. Bear in mind that your written style and tone already give an indication of your professionalism and your personality. With banal clichés and commonplace phrases such as: "I refer to your job advertisement", you’re application is sure to land on the rejection pile.
In the course of my long career as (...) I have become familiar with the excellent reputation of your company and of your product range. I am all the more delighted to be able to offer you my services as (...). In respect of the advertised position of ... I have the qualifications and experience that you are looking for. Thus I have.../I am...
Sample additional qualifications:
In addition to first-rate SAP/ABAP4 knowledge, I also have a very broad range of experience in business processes and all associated administrative responsibilities, given my previous positions as Head of IT and Organisational Programmer. For this reason, I am also in a position to provide you and your clients with appropriate added value in the area of general IT-related consultancy assignments. In the course of my many international project assignments, I have also coordinated teams of up to 50 employees, and have developed and successfully implemented many spontaneous, innovative and very effective solutions.
Should I be invited to an interview, I would be delighted to attend.
Should you choose a neutral or an elaborate design for your application folder? Even from its external appearance you can differentiate your application from those of your competitors. Yet however you design the folder, it should match the job profile and emphasise your personality. However, you should avoid being too original, since ultimately it is the content that matters. Creative professions are an exception, where the folder is already treated as a first sample of one's work. Although all applications have that central thread from the first to the last page in common: a glittering cover with ultra-conservative content is just absurd. You should also avoid using plastic folders. Tip: ask for some advice at your local stationery store.
Is your application ready? A final check-through is important at this stage:
- Check whether the documents are complete, including copies
- Proof read documents several times for errors
- The address - including the name of the HR executive - must be written correctly and uniformly on every document
- Choose one single font Although this can vary in size, your standard font should ideally be 12 point
- Always write years and months in the same manner; example: 10/2007
- Keep the way you write names uniform; example: Jürg P. Huber or Jürg Peter Huber
- Use a stiff envelope and pay enough postage on it
European sample résumé: europass.cedefop.europa.eu
Model résumés as PDFs: karriere.ch