Work samples and references, certificates and curriculum vitae – the application portfolio can be quite thick in the U.S. Unless you are applying by e-mail – then minimalism is the order of the day. This also applies to the cover letter.
Applications are sent by e-mail in the USA just as often as in Germany. Then the documents include only a cover letter and a resume. A complete written application ("complete dossier") also includes an application form from the company in question, references and a few work samples. In addition, there are other documents that prove your qualifications or certain achievements – for example, also certificates or commendations. It is also important to include a table ("transcript") listing the courses and grades of your studies.
The "transcript" Is a table that contains all the courses and grades of your studies. To do this, you must first convert the number of hours per week so that it corresponds to the American credit system. Two hours per week at a German university are three to four credit hours. Then you have to bring your grades in line with the American grading system. Finally, the respective department of your university has to accept the completed "transcript" still certify.
Conversion table for the US grading system
In the USA, flexibility, persistence and perseverance are part of the application process. When looking for a job, you should be as proactive as possible: Call the companies or go there in person. This way you make first contacts, get to know contact persons and receive valuable information. Present your ambitious, creative and innovative side, because passive applicants will be lost in the land of unlimited opportunities. Soft skills and key qualifications such as flexibility, ambition or communication skills are in the foreground – and that’s exactly what you demonstrate with an active job search.
The application portfolio ("complete dossier")
It looks very different in the USA than we know it: A high-quality, possibly marbled or subtly colored DIN A3 sheet is folded in half. This is how you create a DIN A4 folder with four pages: The first page serves as a cover sheet and is available for your own address. Pages two, three, and four are for the resume. The fourth page can also be used for references or simply left blank. In addition you have to write the cover letter. The design of such a portfolio is only worthwhile for a resume that is at least two pages long. An extensive portfolio is only useful in the USA if it is also required. Otherwise, a cover letter and a resume are sufficient.
The cover letter
You should keep this mail as short as possible and be sure to address it to the correct contact person, i.e., the one named in the advertisement. In the cover letter, you convince the company of your added value, i.e. your experience and ambitions.
To the formal structure: In the first place is your complete address with telephone number and e-mail. You can place these either on the top left or on the top right. After the date, which you can also set either right- or left-aligned, follows the name of the specific addressee of your application and the postal address of the company. Underneath now comes the salutation.
A subject line is usually used in Anglo-American countries as well. However, it is not a must. As in German, refers to the advertised position or to a telephone conversation. In contrast to German business letters, the subject is placed after the salutation and highlighted in bold or underlined. At the beginning of this line it says "RE:" ("with reference to"). This is followed by your freely formulated and written application text. If you have already obtained the necessary documents for a work permit, you should briefly mention this in the cover letter – it underlines your interest in working in the USA.
The curriculum vitae
In the U.S., it is customary to have your own "resume"-Header to be created. The heading "Curriculum Vitae", which is common in Great Britain not applicable. At the top, as in the cover letter, the name of the applicant with the complete contact address. This is usually placed in the middle, but you can also place it flush left or flush right. The resume should not be longer than one page, the content should be limited to the essentials. Build your resume either by subject area or reverse chronologically. The current activity stands then at the beginning of the listing. Do not indicate in the resume when you can start the job. The employer assumes that you can start at short notice, otherwise you would not have applied at all. The resume is not signed in the USA.
In the job descriptions you use active phrases to emphasize that you contribute as an employee. Figures showing that you have increased sales, for example, are also advantageous for your application in the USA. Furthermore, value is placed on social commitment, internships or sporting successes. You round off your application with references.
Taboos in resume and cover letter
Some information that is completely normal in Germany should not appear in an application for the U.S. in any case. The reason for this is the strict US laws against discrimination – and the fear of lawsuits from rejected applicants.
So be sure to omit a photo and information about in your application materials:
- Marital status and children
The interview process in the USA is similar to that in other countries: Most of the time, companies conduct structured interviews with applicants. Depending on the size of the company and the position in question, there may also be intelligence tests or assessment centers. Punctuality is very important in the USA. In interviews, Americans like to get to the point quickly after a short small talk, and the atmosphere is comparatively relaxed.