The application dossier is crucial to the success of your application. If you can use your application to present a convincing argument that your qualifications, experience, competences and motivation make you the right person for the job advertised, you will be invited to a personal interview. You should therefore take the time necessary to prepare an impeccable application dossier.
An application dossier generally includes:
- A letter of motivation (and a cover letter or letter of application)
- Enclosures (certificates of study, job references, diplomas, etc.)
Letter of motivation
The letter of motivation or cover letter is generally the element of an application dossier which makes that essential first impression. The quality of a letter of motivation often determines whether your application dossier is read in its entirety or not. The aim is to arouse the interest of the recipient by stating briefly and plausibly why you are applying for the job advertised and thanks to which qualifications and competences you are the right person for the job advertised.
- Take the time to write your letter of motivation
- Do not send a standardized letter of motivation. Provide a targeted response to the advertised job and the company. Create a reference between your qualifications and the job profile
- Use precise and clearly understandable wording
- Avoid meaningless phrases
- Use active and positive wording
- No spelling mistakes!
- Ask others to proofread your letter of motivation
- The letter of motivation should not exceed 1 page of A4. The letter of motivation includes the following elements:
- Sender: Your complete contact details (first name, surname, address, telephone number, e-mail address).
- Address: Complete company address with the name of the contact person. If no contact person is indicated in the job advert, ask the company for information by telephone.
- Town and date: e.g. “Bern, July 5, 2013”
- Subject line: This should include the description from the advertised job, the source and the date of publication of the job advert. In the event of a spontaneous application, this should be indicated in the subject line. The word “Subject" should not be used. The line is shown in bold and ends without a period.
- Personal form of address: Avoid impersonal forms of address such as “Dear Sir/Madam”. Do not forget the academic title.
- Running text: The text should be divided into three to five sections containing the following points
- A convincing introduction with no meaningless phrases. Get to the point quickly. Explain why you are applying for the job.
- Briefly, succinctly and convincingly state why you are the right person for the job advertised. Describe your professional competences and relevant experience which qualify you for the job. In particular, respond to the requirements indicated in the job advert. Indicate which activity you are currently pursuing, without losing track of the central theme.
- Respond to personal characteristics (or “soft skills”) which are of particular relevance for the post.
- Briefly and concisely make it clear that you are motivated for a personal interview. (Please note: Not “I would be pleased…”, but “I am pleased…”)
- Salutation: “Yours sincerely,”
- Signature: With blue pen so that the letter is easily recognized as an original.
- Enclosures: Without the word “Enclosures”
The CV is the central element of an application and lists the applicant's most important personal data. HR managers generally spend very little time evaluating an application dossier or a CV. Your most important qualifications, experiences and interests for job advertised should therefore be clearly visible. Adapt your CV to each specific job advertised.
The CV follows the letter of motivation. It is generally presented in table form and is organized as follows:
Presentation and layout
- Paper: white, high-quality, minimum weight (100g/m²).
- Font: Font size no smaller than 10 points
- Length: no longer than two pages of A4.
- Title: The CV does not need the title “CV” or “Curriculum Vitae”.
- Divide your CV into different thematic blocks and give each block a relevant title. Spaces must be left between the different blocks so that the text remains clear.
- Consistency: To create an attractive and clear CV, use a consistent formating style. Do not mix too many fonts/font sizes.
- Dates: The date is normally placed on the left and consistently listed precisely according to the month. (e.g. month/year; 06/2009)
- No spelling or grammar mistakes!
- Arrange your enclosures in the application dossier in accordance with the order used in the CV.
- Use sentences which are short and as precise as possible.
- Be positive – avoid negative formulations.
- Do not generalize, be specific.
- Wherever possible, do not use passive sentences.
- Ensure that you can back your statements up in a personal interview.
- False or exaggerated representations of your own capacities are a no go!
Gaps in your CV
While gaps in your CV are not ideal, they are not tragic. It is important that you can plausibly justify the gaps. It is always decisive whether an entire CV is chaotic and filled with gaps or whether it is simply an “outlier” in your career. A “youthful folly” is easier to explain and to overcome than years of confusion.
The term soft skills refers to cross-disciplinary competences and personality traits, which are relatively difficult to measure in contrast to hard skills (technical competences) which can evaluated relatively well by means of objective performance tests. Soft skills are vital for a career in the present-day world of work. In particular, soft skills are often the decisive element when two applicants possess equivalent technical qualifications.
The presentation of and emphasis on cross-disciplinary strengths is an important aspect of an application. It is therefore essential for you to examine your own soft skills in order to present them convincingly during the application process. You should nevertheless remain realistic and avoid exaggerations.
Important soft skills
Some soft skills describe an individual competence precisely while others can cover a range of different skills. A distinction can be made between intrapersonal and interpersonal soft skills.
- Intrapersonal soft skills include:
- Ability to work under pressure
- Sense of responsibility
- Time management competence
- Organizational ability
- Willingness to learn
- Self-motivation competence
- Receptiveness to criticism
- Problem-solving ability
- Analytical thinking
- Interpersonal soft skills include:
- Communicative competence
- Team spirit
- Critical faculties
- Conflict-solving ability
- Ability to motivate others
- Managerial competence
- Presentation competence
Presentation of soft skills in the application
You should avoid a simple, incoherent list of your soft skills. Instead, try to illustrate your cross-disciplinary qualifications using specific examples:
- Professional experience: Create a link between the soft skills required in the job advertisement and your cross-disciplinary competences (which you have acquired, for example, during your professional activity to date).
- Scope: In the letter of motivation, you have the opportunity to develop your soft skills in greater depth than in the CV. If you have pursued a professional activity in which you enjoyed successful dealings with your customers, you can use this, for example, to emphasize your sociability and communicative competences.
- Hobbies: You can also illustrate your soft skills by means of your hobbies. If you play a team sport, use this top demonstrate your team spirit. Please note: Some hobbies may suggest characteristics which are not necessarily desirable with regard to certain advertised jobs (for example excessive willingness to take risks if you are enjoy extreme mountaineering).