How to write a job application? Tips, patterns& examples

While most job ads give guidance on what components an application should include. However, not everyone is aware of what is important when compiling the documents – and how to increase your own chances of getting the job.

If you want to change careers or are not currently pursuing any activity, you can not avoid writing applications. Especially people whose last job application was a long time ago or who just want to start their professional life, often do not know exactly, how to write a job application. This text provides tips and examples on which components must be included and what should be taken into account. Free application templates can also be downloaded.

Sift through application documents and compile them individually

Before writing the actual application, it is useful to look through references, certificates and other evidence of activities that will appear in the resume. Here it is also important to check the completeness of the documents. If you have not yet asked for a reference for your last job, you should do so as soon as possible. Until the desired certificate or reference is with the former employee, it often takes a long time. However, the last reference is very important for the application.

Relevant documents for the application are, in addition to job references or references, also certificates from school and a possible study, and, depending on the employer, for example, proof of language skills and other skills as well as work samples.

It is often clear from the job advertisement which certificates are important to the company. For example, a completed course of study is required? Then the diploma should be attached. If the potential employer wishes excellent knowledge of Spanish? The certificate of the successfully completed language course then belongs in the application.

Last but not least, an application includes an application photo. If the applicant does not have a current picture at hand, he or she should have a picture taken in a photo studio or by a professional photographer.

How to write an application

Before writing the application: scan important documents

Once you have gathered all the documents you may need, it is important to read the job advertisement again thoroughly. Most companies specify which components of the application they require. Your own documents should be sorted according to these guidelines. If necessary, these must be scanned in.

Here it is important to pay attention to a good quality. But because a digitally sent application should not exceed a certain size, attention should be paid at the same time to ways in which the file size can be reduced. Often it makes sense to change the settings already during the scan to this effect. However, the readability should not suffer from the reduced file size.

The application photo must also be available in digital form. For this purpose, it can be scanned in or is possibly already available on a CD or another data carrier in digital form. Then it only needs to be transferred to the computer.

These documents belong in an application

While some documents are mandatory components of an application, others are optional or depend on the industry and the desired job. In any case, the cover letter and the curriculum vitae as well as relevant certificates from the profession and educational background belong in an application. Optional and depending on the job in question are cover sheet, letter of motivation, profile page and further supporting documents as well as work samples.

In the following, the individual (possible) components of an application are explained. The order in which these are sorted within the application is as follows: cover letter, cover sheet (optional), curriculum vitae, letter of motivation or short profile (both optional), references, further certificates, further evidence, work samples (optional).

The cover letter

Next to the CV, the cover letter is the most important part of an application. These two documents are also the ones that are of greatest interest to personnel officers. In the cover letter, the applicant explains why he or she believes he or she is the right candidate for the open position, what he or she has to offer the company, and why exactly he or she would like to work for the company. The last aspect in particular is neglected by many applicants, but it is very important. For many personnel managers it is negative if the applicant makes too little reference to the company – the application then easily appears arbitrary.

It is important to write an individual cover letter for each application. Mass cover letters may be tempting, because in this way more applications can be sent in a short time. As a rule, however, they are not very useful. The personnel manager usually notices immediately that the cover letter was not written for the position in his company. This way it remains superficial and is therefore not very convincing.

It is advisable to find out more about the potential employer in advance. The applicant should show in the cover letter that he or she is familiar with the company’s activities and self-image. And last but not least, he needs this information to justify his desire to work there.

When it comes to highlighting your own suitability, it makes sense to stay close to the job posting. There, a number of qualifications and skills are usually required. If the applicant responds to this, he not only presents himself as a suitable applicant, but also shows that he has read the advertisement carefully.

Personal strengths should also be mentioned in the cover letter. It is important to support these soft skills with credible examples. A mere list of alleged qualities does not convince anyone. The more impressive the description, the more likely the recruiter will be convinced.

For example, an applicant might cite a soft skill: "For me, working well in a team is crucial. I have often proved that I can be relied on – for example, on the one occasion when I stepped in at short notice on my day off when a colleague suddenly fell ill.

At the end of the cover letter, reference can be made to the attachments of the application. The length of the cover letter should not exceed one page. In addition, a personal signature is required at the end of the cover letter.

Examples: How to write a cover letter

The resume

In the resume, it is the "hard facts" that count. Does the candidate have the necessary experience to fill the position in the best possible way?? What other skills does he have? In tabular form, this is exactly what is listed in the resume. Only very rarely is a resume requested by the potential employer as continuous text, which is why this should generally be avoided.

The resume contains the applicant’s contact information as well as other personal information, such as place of birth and nationality, and an application photo of the candidate. Here, attention should be paid to good quality, even if a job application photo can cost quite a bit. For the gut feeling of the recruiter, however, a successful photo is crucial. The applicant should come across as competent, professional and likeable.

Professional stations, internships and educational background are listed in the resume and described in bullet point form. This is usually done anti-chronologically. The most recent experience is listed at the top, followed by the activities that immediately preceded it.

An exemplary description of a professional station in the resume could look something like this:

  • 07/2010 – 04/2015: Medical assistant, [employer, location]
    Receiving patients, making appointments, assisting in the handling of appointments and consultation hours by drawing blood, changing dressings, weighing, documenting treatments, maintaining equipment.

Important achievements can also be mentioned in the resume.

Analogous to the cover letter, the resume can also be individualized – an option that many applicants do not take advantage of. In this way, the text can be tailored to the job advertisement, for example, by naming qualifications. Also, when describing the activities, the applicant should consider what is likely to be important to the potential employer and accordingly highlight comparable activities that he himself has already performed.

The curriculum vitae comprises no more than two pages. The resume can also be signed. This is not a must, but it is well received by most recruiters.

Examples: How to write a resume

Attachments: certificates and references

Almost always mandatory components of an application are work references and documents proving the highest degree in the educational background. References, such as those for freelancers, are analogous to work references. The same applies to letters of recommendation. All these documents show how the applicant has performed in previous jobs and how satisfied the respective employer or client was with his/her work.

Current references should be included in any case. If a relevant certificate is omitted, it arouses the personnel officer’s suspicion. Therefore, even a certificate, which is not so good, should be included in the application – a missing certificate often has an even more negative effect. However, more than three certificates should not be included in the application, in order not to make the volume too large. Current references are preferable.

When it comes to educational background, the highest degree should be documented. The high school diploma is irrelevant, for example, if a master’s certificate is available. It is then clear to the personnel manager that the applicant must have a high school diploma – otherwise he or she would not have been able to study at a university.

Optional attachments: The cover page

The cover sheet is an optional part of an application. On one page the most important information of the applicant is listed once again. In addition, there is a comparatively large photo of the applicant. The cover page of an application should provide a high recognition value. In practice, however, it is controversial among recruiters, because the information contained in it often duplicates other components of the application. This applies for example to the address data of the applicant.

If a cover sheet is created, it should be placed after the cover letter. It is no longer than one page and lists the information in bullet points, not in body text.

Examples: How to create a cover sheet for the job application

Optional attachments: The letter of motivation

In a letter of motivation, the applicant has another opportunity to explain in detail his or her desire for the job and, as the name suggests, to highlight his or her motivation for applying for the advertised position. It is important that the aspects mentioned in the letter of motivation are not the same as those in the cover letter. It is mandatory to include new points of view.

A letter of motivation is rarely desired by the employer. Because it is viewed critically by many recruiters, it should only be prepared if this is explicitly required in the job advertisement. A letter of motivation may also be required when applying for scholarships or a place at university. It can also be a useful addition to the application if the candidate feels that he or she is not qualified enough for the job based on his or her resume – for example, because he or she lacks practical experience or other relevant knowledge and skills. Then he can try to score points with the personnel officer via the motivation letter after all.

There are no strict guidelines on how to write a letter of motivation, which is why the applicant is relatively free to design it as he or she wishes.

Examples: How to write the letter of motivation for an application

Template / Sample: Letter of motivation template

Optional attachments: the profile page

Also optional is a profile page, also called a short profile or third page. This document should be kept as short as possible and not exceed one page. Here, the applicant can describe in bullet points what makes him/her a good candidate. For example, strengths and experience can be listed. The applicant can also address his or her own motivation – or his or her ideas about the job.

This possible component of an application is also controversial among recruiters. If such a document is created, it should in any case represent an added value. Under no circumstances should you simply repeat what has already been mentioned in other parts of the application.

Attachments: Other supporting documents

Depending on the profession, position and company, it may be advisable to attach further supporting documents to the application. These can be as diverse as a police clearance certificate, proof of health or work samples. Language courses and further training can also be entered here. What makes sense depends on the job advertisement and the experience of the applicant.

Ensure uniformity within the application

Once all the documents have been written or put together in a sensible order, the applicant should make sure that this results in a harmonious overall picture of the application. This also means that the application documents should match each other visually. It is true that the applicant has no influence on the design of some documents. This applies, for example, to job references and certificates.

Other parts of the application can be changed. Applicants should pay particular attention to the cover letter and the resume. Both documents should be written in the same font and size. Even if other design elements are used, they should be the same in both documents. This also applies to possible color accents.

Proofread and check the documents

When the application is ready, it is important to check it carefully. In particular, the applicant should check that everything is in order, that scans are legible, and that there are no spelling or grammatical errors that need to be corrected. It is always a good idea to have someone else read the application. Often, even mistakes are no longer noticed at some point. Another pair of eyes is very helpful to discover them after all.

With a little distance, you will often find points that you would like to change – such as the wording of individual sentences or passages in the cover letter. Now is also the right time for this.

Send the application

The further procedure depends on the form in which the addressee would like to receive the application. Companies overwhelmingly want applications in digital form. For this purpose, the applicant should send all documents in a single file. A Word file is not useful for this purpose; instead, it is customary to create a PDF document with all the components of the application. This should be given a meaningful file name, such as the job title and your own name. The word "application" can also be placed there. However, it is important that the addressee can still easily assign the file later, so only "application" without further information is too little.

If the application is sent by e-mail, the size of the file must also be taken into account. Especially with many attachments and scans in high quality, the size of the PDF can easily become very large. However, an application should not exceed three or four megabytes in order not to clog up the addressee’s mailbox. Special programs and functions can be used to change the size at a later date. It also makes sense to pay attention to suitable quality settings already during scanning.

In the case of an application sent by e-mail, the applicant should also choose a meaningful subject for the e-mail. Here it makes sense to use the subject line of the cover letter as a guideline. In the actual text field of the e-mail, the candidate should briefly describe his or her request and refer to the attached application. It can also refer to a possible job interview or feedback from the company.

Some companies leave it up to the applicant whether he sends his application to them digitally or by post. In the latter case, the application documents must be printed out and sorted into an application folder. Here it is especially important to pay attention to good print quality. Also, the individual pages should not have any creases, so as not to make a bad impression.

Another option, which is becoming more and more popular, is to upload your application documents via an application portal on the Internet. Here there are usually individual fields for each relevant part of the application. Here, the individual documents should each be uploaded as a PDF. The maximum permissible size of the files is usually noted here.

Free sample applications

These free samples for a job application serve to give you an idea of what a job application can look like and what components it contains. They are to be understood as a suggestion and should not be simply taken over. A convincing application is always an individually written application – anyone who simply adopts a sample and only slightly changes its content will usually attract negative attention.

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