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Application documents: Quality over quantity

Emilie Jo Ipsen
Emilie Jo Ipsen

Whether it's our first application after our apprenticeship or studies, or our next leap forward in our professional career - every time we apply for a job, we need to make sure all of our documents are in order. They are the first thing the company will see of you, and will be what may open the door to an interview. Consider the following points before handing in your next portfolio.

1. Complete, but not overflowing

A complete application will most of the time include an up-to-date CV and a cover letter. Other documents will likely include references from previous jobs and certificates of degrees, though these may be optional. Read the job posting carefully, as they will oftentimes tell you which documents are expected of you. Unless you think they give extra value to your application, it may be best to simply show your experience through your CV, and provide referrals, references and certificates only when requested.

2. Focus on the CV

The CV will be the focal point of your application: it gives large amounts of information in a single glance, which is exactly what HR wants. Even if you have many years of work experience keep the CV to a maximum of 2 pages and always keep it up to date. Your recent experiences will be of more relevance to the position you are now applying to, so give more detail here.
Be meticulous in your CV: come to the point, be succinct and avoid any spelling mistakes or number twists. Have a friend or colleague proofread your CV and get second opinions on it so that you can perfect it and present yourself in the best way possible.

3. Hard facts

Much of the written application is about hard facts that have to be presented, these will likely also have been mentioned in the jobs description, including:

  • school leaving certificate
  • completed traineeship/apprenticeship
  • attained degrees and which fields of study
  • experience abroad
  • language skills and their levels
  • professional experience and in which industry
  • any additional qualifications

4. A CV for personal use

Create a long CV-type document for your own personal use - there you can maintain an overview over all your vocational training, university studies, specializations and detailed professional experience and projects. Here you can record the titles of seminary or lecture series you attended so that you can later refer to them should they be related to the position you are applying to. This long version serves as a basis for all further CVs, but should never be sent out.

Once you are applying for an advertised position, you can use this detailed list to prepare the CV for the specific position. You can tailor-make it for the job, and include only the aspects which will be relevant to the position. If you are applying for a position in marketing, for example, focus on the presentation of marketing tasks and leave out the others or mention them less. If the new position is in an international environment, we must explicitly state in our CV that we had English as our working language in a previous position. If you see in the job advertisement that the candidate is offered further training opportunities in the future, this seems to be part of the corporate culture. In such a case we certainly score by mentioning seminars and workshops that we have attended (also privately), showing your interest and initiative. Through this approach, you can present yourself as the ideal candidate and recruiters will be happy to see all the relevant information compiled in one document.

5. Show compatibility

All in all, it's not just about showing the company how great we are. Of course, the goal is to put yourself in a positive light and to shed light on your own abilities and qualifications. But in the overall view, we have to be compatible: with the company and the culture, with the team, and with the advertised position. We must represent added value for the company, because from the company's point of view, filling a position is always an investment. So make sure that your application documents speak loudly and clearly about why you are a worthwhile investment.

You can reach our international team in Hamburg by phone at +49 40 53 799 1400 or by mail at

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