How can I beat online applications

Application tips: Overview of the 12 best tips

The following application tips are not only based on our more than 13 years of application knowledge - they have now been verified by numerous readers who have found and received their dream job with the help of the tips and tricks (see also fan feedback). We have revised and optimized this dossier again and again on the basis of hundreds of feedback, so that you can now find an up-to-date and extensive compendium for the perfect application - plus numerous samples, checklists and links to our free templates ...

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➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Application tips for cover letters, résumé and application portfolio

Application tip 1: This is how the application folder is structured

Many think that you can save yourself the expensive application portfolio. Think! Anyone who thinks that he or she only attracts positive attention through content is seriously wrong. Everyone can be cheap. On the other hand, anyone who proves style and class with a noble cardboard folder shows at the same time what he or she is willing to invest in their own professional future and what the job is worth to him or her. Even more: an expensive and elegant application folder cannot be a mass-produced item.

Classically (most medium-sized employers prefer this form of application) the "complete application documents" are structured as follows:

The folder for this is ideally a clip-on file, not a flat file with perforation. This makes it easier for the HR manager to remove the documents and put them back again. And please do not use any bright or intrusive colors. Black, dark blue, muted red or blue are noticeable enough. You can also read about everything that belongs in the application folder in this checklist.

Extra tip for online applications

Every second vacancy today is filled via the Internet. German companies already publish 85 percent of their vacancies on their own homepage. Corporations in particular prefer the so-called online application or email application.

The electronic applications, however, follow their own rules: The subject line of the e-mail application should, for example, contain short, meaningful keywords so that it can be better assigned. Not “application for a job”, but “application as sales manager / your advertisement”. In addition, manners, grammar and spelling must be correct. The usual relaxed tone in e-mails is an application killer.

Where there are free fields in the online application, you should definitely use them to put yourself in the right light. Please write down the text calmly. Mistakes creep in spontaneously. If you can or should upload attachments, please save them beforehand in PDF format, otherwise the formatting may be lost.

Attention also with special characters: The euro symbol (e.g. for salary expectations) can lead to involuntary confusion if the program version of the recipient makes a different character out of it. Better to write "EUR" or "Euro" right away. This also applies to other special characters.

Application tip 2: How to create the perfect cover letter

The cover letter is always on top and is therefore the initial of your application. The first impression should be right. The cover letter must be accordingly clear and concise.

In contrast to the résumé, which sharpens the applicant's profile, the cover letter reflects their motivation and personality. It is crucial that you attract attention here and show the HR manager why you are applying for the position, what qualifies you and how you can and want to get involved. A few emotions don't hurt at all.

It would be wrong to only repeat the highlights of your biography in your cover letter. Rather, condense your achievements, experiences and successes into a fiery plea for yourself. Ideally, graduates aim at major fields of study; Experienced professionals place more emphasis on previous positions and successfully completed projects. Social skills are particularly important for managers. HR managers pay special attention to them. To formulate everything cliché-free is difficult but essential. With a sentence like "I am capable of working in a team and dealing with conflicts ...", recruiters only count the days until retirement.

Indispensable in the cover letter: Formalities such as your name, address, email address and telephone number in the header. Including the date. Then left-aligned first and last name of the addressee (not: "To the HR department") and address, a specific subject line ("Application / your job advertisement from July 24, 2015 in the local newspaper"). Finally, a signature (not printed!) And the list of attachments (curriculum vitae, certificates).

The structure of the application letter thus consists of four parts:

If possible, the introductory sentence refers to the advertised position. Better yet, get straight to the point. Please never enter with "I hereby apply as ..."

The main part is mostly self-marketing. Here the applicant makes it clear why he or she is the right person. In the third part, a connection to the company is established: Why are you applying here of all places? Finally, thank you for your interest, make it clear that you would be happy to have an interview and garnish the whole thing “with best regards”.

Formula for the perfect application

According to Google's HR manager Laszlo Bock, there is one
Formula for the perfect application. In an interview with the "New York Times" he described it. Formulate your successes according to this scheme:

"I achieved X, relative to Y, by doing Z."

Most applicants would write something like: “I've already written articles for the New York Times.” But it would work better if it read: “During that time I wrote 50 articles for the New York Times (the average is six Articles) because I have had deep insights into this area for three years. "

Application tip 3: If you have a cover sheet, do it right

Opinions differ on the cover sheet: Some say it is an essential part of the application and on top of it. Others only see it after the cover letter - with a photo and the applicant's oversized contact details. And still others see it as a waste of time and material. What is right now?

Short answer: You decide! The cover sheet is not mandatory, just an accessory. Used for no reason and for no apparent benefit, it can amount to a stylistic declaration of bankruptcy by the applicant - especially if it is confused with a work of art. Used correctly, however, it can contribute to clarity and make you stand out from the crowd.

If you want to use it, there are three typical cover sheet patterns:

When we evaluated our employer check on this, however, a large majority of HR managers spoke out against the cover sheet. The respondents said that if the application is otherwise very extensive and the third page is well done, it would also be taken into account. But on the whole, it seems rather superfluous. 75 percent say “no” to the cover sheet, only 25 percent find it helpful.

Beware of incorrect information in the application

Basically, the obligation to truth applies
for application documents and job interviews. Means: You must not pretend to have a university degree if it is only that of a university of applied sciences. Incidentally, if that comes out later, this is a reason for termination without notice. If the company even suffers economic damage as a result, it can sue you for compensation.

Some weak points and gaps in the résumé can still be glossed over. Pregnancy or chronic illnesses do not have to be reported to the employer, provided the illness does not have a direct impact on the job.

Application tip 4: Make sure you use an application photo

Since the AGG, the General Equal Treatment Act, came into force, the application photo can also be omitted. Some employers even explicitly request this (in which case, of course, the following does not apply). In other words: the application photo is an optional element, not a must element of your application.

However, you should still use it. Behind the scenes, recruiters still confirm to us that they like to see the photo so that they can literally get an idea of ​​the applicant. Make sure you realize that a photo like this works on several levels: not only the portrait itself, but also facial expressions, smiles, clothing, background, quality. All of this flows into the personal impression. This can be a disadvantage (with cheap photos) - but you can also use this subtly.

In purely formal terms, the size of the application picture varies between 6 x 4 or 9 x 6 centimeters. It should not come from the machine or from vacation, but rather be a portrait (i.e. not a full-body picture) in front of a neutral background. Best done by a professional photographer. If deductions are included in the application, please do so on the first sheet of your résumé - above. Right or left depends on the layout of the resume and the direction in which the nose is pointing. Rule of thumb: always look into the side!

The photo is attached with a glue stick, not a paper clip. If you digitally integrate the photo into your résumé, you should pay attention to two things:

  • choose as high a resolution as possible so that the print is sharp.
  • Use high quality paper that is suitable for photos if possible. Otherwise you might as well send in a photocopy.

Here are two examples of the difference a smile can make on an application photo:

Whether you use a picture in black and white or in color is ultimately a matter of taste. Monochrome images look more elegant, but can quickly look like art. Color photos, on the other hand, are more authentic, but also jarring depending on the lighting. It's best to ask friends which alternative they find more sympathetic. The motif itself shows you in a half portrait, plus a little shoulder area. So that the face does not shine, powder it beforehand or rub it gently with toilet paper. The clothes should match the desired job: Anyone applying to be a future banker should also look like a banker.

How hair looks in the photo

Around 120,000 hairs grow on our heads. That's a good thing: a full head is a strong signal for vitality and sexual potency - for men and women. Anyone who loses their hair always loses strength and sympathy in the eyes of others. According to some studies, bald men are invited to job interviews less often than their hairy competitors. Women with ponytails, on the other hand, are questioned less critically by HR professionals than their competitors with flowing, loose hair. And women with short hair are mostly perceived as intelligent and self-confident. By the way, dark, long curls do just as badly as blondes: the majority consider the women who wear them to be insecure or even stupid. This also applies to men: female HR managers consider blond men to be less intelligent and attractive than dark-haired men.

Application tip 5: How to optimize your CV

The so-called tabular curriculum vitae is standard today. Because it fulfills the most important criterion of the Vita: clarity. The HR manager must therefore be able to quickly grasp your career. Very few invest more than five minutes for this reading.

The essentials and relevant for the desired position must therefore immediately catch the eye. And these are above all facts - please no optical frippery! A résumé is purely a collection of facts: professional career, training, internships, hobbies. Keywords are sufficient, comments are taboo. Just like a salutation or greeting at the end. On the left are the times, on the right the stations and positions.

The whole thing looks like this, for example:

What you absolutely have to include in your vita: personal data (name, date and place of birth, address, marital status, nationality), education (this may also include military or alternative service), professional experience, special qualifications (further education, knowledge, skills, Languages), interests (memberships, social services, hobbies). Everything is precisely timed, especially without gaps. Otherwise, this arouses the suspicion that you were trying to cover up embarrassing stations. Monthly information is usually sufficient, so: “06/2020 - 06/2020 training as a banker at the Kreissparkasse Cologne.

Formally, the résumé must include the place, date and a signature. This makes it a certificate. Attention: Deliberately false information is then forgery of documents and fraud and can result in termination.

Even if this all sounds very schematic, you can vary and experiment with the layout and design. You can stand out positively, especially with a few small application tips and tricks:

PS: You can find the appropriate templates for free HERE.

Exclusive application tip: Name the position you are aiming for

Add a line with the "desired position" under the personal details and contact information. This emphasizes the claim to the advertised position. And at the same time you document that this résumé is not mass-produced, but was written specifically for this application. Every HR manager likes to see this (see video tip):

This should be followed immediately by the strongest argument for this: For graduates, it is the training and study focus that leads to it, for job changers the current position, for job seekers their special qualifications.

Application tip 6: Never save on paper

Suppose you get three applications on the table: Two of them are in a plastic folder and are printed on cheap copy paper - the other on high-quality paper, framed by an elegant cardboard folder ... Which do you read first? Which candidate do you expect more from? Just. HR managers are only human. They react to the look and feel like all of us: What already looks and feels high-quality must also be high-quality in terms of content.

So don't skimp on paper (standard: A4). Of course, the leaves have no spots, kinks, or dog-ears. The print is sharp and does not smudge (laser printing is best). The quality should be right, especially if you print a digital application photo. Yes, that costs money - but it's not just about any greeting card, it's about THE job - your professional future and your future income. Avarice would be out of place.

In addition, the texts should be free from grammar and spelling errors. It is optimal to use only one font for the format (only not the 0815 types “Arial” or “Times”) as well as uniform indents, lines, bold fonts and spaces (one and a half lines has proven itself). Otherwise, the application documents have a patchwork character. The cover letter should not be longer than one page, the résumé - if possible - no more than two pages.

The so-called application according to DIN 5008 offers a good orientation aid. The DIN 5008 standard applies in general to business letters and does not regulate their content, but rather their structure and design:

This is how important the look of your application documents is

A survey by the Center for Economic Education at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum found that around two-thirds of HR staff (66.4 percent) consider the appearance of the cover letter and CV to be an important decision-making criterion. At the same time, only 16.2 percent of HR managers found the application folders submitted to be appealing. Or to put it positively: That gives you enormous opportunities ...

For example, when choosing the font, as another study shows.

When it comes to cover letters, however, according to the Bochum survey, 65.3 percent of HR employees value formatting in accordance with DIN 5008. It was even more important to them that the cover letter does not exceed one A4 page (84.1 percent). On the other hand, around two thirds dislike spelling and grammatical errors (65.4 percent).

On the other hand, the résumé should be one thing above all: clear. In addition, 65.4 percent of the personnel decision-makers prefer the tabular résumé in the "American" version (76.5 percent) - that is, with the current position first. In addition, the respondents would like brief bullet points on the most important tasks and professional successes (72 percent).

Application tip 7: Pay attention to these details in your job reference

The basic rule: only send copies with your application - never originals! Because applications are sometimes lost. In addition, you should not send too many proofs - especially if the proof of employment was a long time ago. A maximum of five references are sufficient. A high school diploma as well as an apprenticeship or university degree are compulsory for young professionals. Anyone over 40 can safely omit the former. You should - if you can - select the mix of apprenticeship certificate, skilled worker or journeyman certificate, master craftsman certificate and job references. Only the best belong in the portfolio.These are above all those who describe and extensively praise your previous tasks and qualifications, your (interpersonal) strengths and successes. He will ask what else is of interest to the HR manager.

Job descriptions, references and letters of recommendation are increasingly being considered as alternatives to the certificate. And if you write your job reference yourself, which is also increasing, pay attention to the correct structure, the corresponding language codes and do not overdo it with self-praise. How to set it up correctly:

Quick check: HR managers pay special attention to these 5 points

  • Formal criteria
    Is the certificate printed on company paper? Has it been signed by the person in charge?
  • Applicant's competencies
    Does the certificate confirm the skills that are being sought for the position?
  • Comparison with the curriculum vitae
    Do the references and times correspond to those in the résumé?
  • Certificate Codes & Warning Signals
    What do previous employers reveal between the lines about the candidate?
  • Achievements over time
    How have the assessments developed within 3 certificates: better or worse?

And they pay attention to so-called courtesy certificates: If the certificate shines through the exaggerated use of top grades and superlatives, it becomes implausible.

Often, the letter of courtesy is written so that the employee can go faster or to save himself a labor law process. Experienced HR managers recognize this and then evaluate the certificate negatively. Therefore, pay attention to a balanced reference language. No adulation!

Label and send the application envelope

Classically, application documents are NOT folded, but come in a so-called C4 envelope with a viewing window (without a viewing window is also possible). Practical: Because the cover letter is always on top of the application folder, the target address is already in the right place (at least if you have designed your cover letter for business letters in accordance with DIN 5008). In that case, just slide the application documents into the C4 envelope and the company address will appear in the viewing window.

If you like, you can print the word "Application" again in large letters on the C4 envelope. Some deliverers may then handle the documents a little more carefully. And the recipient's post office also immediately knows how to assign the letter better.

So that your sender address can also be read there (if the documents cannot be delivered for any reason), it is advisable to position them in smaller and gray font above the company address or recipient address. It also looks professional.

If a contact person has been named or you know him, you should definitely name and state this in the address.

Please do not forget to post sufficient postage on the envelope. Incidentally, the stamps are placed on the top right of the envelope. You can determine the postage for shipping and C4 envelopes online at Swiss Post. And please do not send application documents as registered mail. That seems latently intrusive.

Application tips for the job interview

Application tip 1: Choose the right date

If you have alternative dates for an interview to choose from: take the later one! In competitions, judges give better marks the further the competition advances. This is what psychologist Wändi Bruine de Bruin from Carnegie Mellon University found out when she analyzed the points awarded at figure skating championships and the “Eurovision Song Contest”. The effect even works regardless of whether the grades are awarded during the competition or at the end. And it can be transferred to job interviews: With the first candidate, the interviewer still has no comparison options, with the second he is attentive and critical, but becomes milder (and more tired) the closer he gets to the candidate. So the last is often the first - as in the Bible.

For the same reason, some counselors recommend making an appointment on Thursday.

Mondays and Fridays are unfavorable: Mondays may sound like a lousy weekend or the HR manager has the Monday blues; On Fridays, many people are already mentally back to work and on the weekend after 12 noon. Neither of these are good prerequisites for employment.

So try to make an appointment on Wednesday or Thursday if possible. Ideal: Thursday morning around 10 a.m. The week is almost over by then, but at 10 everyone (including you) is still fresh and the midday hunger does not depress the mood.

Application tip 2: Admit your nervousness

Nervousness is completely normal in job interviews. Even HR managers have stress here. So stand by it. This can certainly be shown in moderation. Even more: people who put on a cool facade in the interview are considered to be “suppressing emotions” and usually get negative points.

According to a study by the psychologist Jane Richards from the University of Texas, those who hide their feelings are less likely to respond to their interlocutors in a stressful situation and react with delay. Self-control takes strength. Memory suffers as a result. This is why feeling suppressors have a harder time remembering details of a conversation or give particularly quick-witted, clever answers.

Authenticity is much better received. So if you stutter or lose the thread - just say it calmly: "Sorry, now I've lost the thread, where have I just been?" That is only human. Anyone who garnishes the admission with a bit of charm immediately disarms his interlocutor: "You see how much I want the job, I am so nervous that I am already at a loss for words ..."

And if that's not your style at all: stage fright can be overcome.

Just breathe away stage fright and fear

Should the blackout attack you in the job interview, a few inconspicuous breathing exercises usually help - while the HR manager is talking. Consciously breathe deeply and slowly. Especially in the stomach. The slow breathing ensures that the circulation calms down. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth.

The best way to do this is according to the 5-by-5 ​​rule: Breathe in and slowly count to 5 in your mind, hold your breath and count to 5, breathe out and count to 5 again, take a five-second break and repeat the whole thing - at least five times. Ultimately, you can use the same methods you may already know to overcome test anxiety or panic attacks.

Application tip 3: Use the mirror technology

Observe the body language of the other person during the interview. If his eyelids are beating less and less, his gaze wanders more often, he changes his sitting position more often and hardly takes any notes, then you'd better break off your monologue. All signs that the interviewer is bored.

To re-establish a connection, you can use the so-called mirror technology instead. In doing so, you subtly imitate the body language of your counterpart - do not ape! If he takes something to drink, grab a glass afterwards; if she crosses her legs, do the same shortly afterwards. This also works for certain terms or phrases that you also use. The message that has a psychological effect on the other person: "We are more similar than you think." And similarity creates immediate sympathy.

Be careful with too much openness

Forget about being too open. With all the love for authenticity - those who say “yes” usually get the job until the HR manager shines. Or to put it another way: The adaptable beats every self-promoter in the interview. This is what the US economists Chad Higgins and Timothy Judge found out and observed in 116 students which behavior was better received in the job interview. They also interviewed numerous HR managers.

The result was always the same: promoting yourself is not bad, but it is more successful to pay compliments, find common ground and subtly incorporate them into the conversation. So feel free to say that you have attended the same university as the HR manager or that you have the same hobby (only if that's true, of course). That builds a bond.

Even more: Too much self-praise turns HR managers off. This was the result of a study by HR consultancy Korn / Ferry International among 212 HR consultants. Air pumps that sell themselves to the economy as God's gift mostly fail. The same applies to those who exceed the normal level by 20 percent in terms of salary expectations. Confidence in the interview is important. But HR professionals always prefer naturalness to noticeable arrogance. Nothing is more repulsive than a vain self-promoter.

Application tip 4: Ask questions

Many interviews take place in five interview phases.

Most applicants only think that the interviewer asks and the candidate answers. But this is wrong! Use the time of greeting for the dialogue and ask many clever questions later. They are the symbol of initiative, self-confidence and signal a professional attitude.

Good questions are, for example:

Anyone who only tries to trump the job interview with "correct" answers sees the interview from the wrong perspective: The point is to find out whether you fit in with the targeted company yourself. Anyone who bends in the process just to make the right impression will usually first be noticed negatively and then fail. So do not focus on yourself or your effect, and do not leave it at answering questions. Better to get the recruiter to talk himself. In short: ask questions yourself - and turn an “interview” into an exciting conversation.

Application tip 5: Always say thank you

A thank you is rare after an interview. As HR managers have confirmed several times, only about three out of 100 applicants thank us with a letter. It stands out more than brightly colored application folders. So why not write a thank you?

In this thank you letter, emphasize that you found the conversation stimulating and that you now know how well the job suits you and that it has increased your desire to work for this company.

Repeat a maximum of two findings from the interview and answer any open questions. Thank you for the time and attention (if you went out to dinner for that too), and look forward to an early reply. All of this shouldn't be longer than half a page or a postcard. Enough - and has an enormous effect.

Extra tip: Use job fairs

Recruiting fair, internship exchange, graduate congress - job fairs are THE opportunity to find out about internships or a job description and to talk to future bosses.

The point of such job fairs is not to rush from stand to stand and visit all the exhibitors. Concentrate only on companies that interest you professionally and make fixed appointments with them early on. The most popular employers are quickly booked out.

And don't over-fill the day. You should expect 45 minutes per company and conversation. Ideally, you appear at the trade fair like you would later start your job. Professionals even bring a few cosmetics to freshen up in the washrooms between appointments. Also in the luggage: several copies of a short application or current application folders with a short letter, curriculum vitae and photo. Plus points are collected by those who formulate their letter of motivation individually for the respective company.

And come up with a strategy for self-presentation. Please do not differentiate yourself using empty phrases like "I am flexible, motivated and creative" (yawning factor 10), but rather by focusing your strengths on the point you are aiming for and telling anecdotes and examples. Optimal: Candidates who get a precise picture of the respective company, the industry, the products and the current presentation in the press beforehand and respond to this in an interview. More on this in our job fair guide.

[Photo credit: Karrierebibel.de]

Further sources and advice

Application tips
➠ Application templates
➠ 11 application forms
➠ ABC of application tips
➠ Application folder
➠ Application photo
➠ cover sheet
➠ Brief profile

Tips on the résumé
➠ CV in tabular form
➠ Resume templates
➠ Internships on the résumé
➠ hobbies on the resume
➠ Unemployment on the résumé
➠ gaps in the résumé

Tips for covering letters
➠ Cover letter
➠ Introductory sentence in the cover letter
➠ Final sentence in the cover letter
➠ Interests in the cover letter
➠ Strengths in the cover letter
➠ Attachment directory

Tips on the job reference
➠ Assess job reference
➠ Secret codes in the certificate
➠ Interim report
➠ Job description
➠ References & samples

Special applications
➠ Unsolicited application
➠ Internal application
➠ Discreet application
➠ Email application
➠ Online application
➠ Application as a temporary worker
➠ Application for mini jobs
➠ Application after termination