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August 10, 2022

The perfect application portfolio: First step to a new job

43 seconds - This is the average time that HR managers need to look at an applicant's resume.
According to a study, however, it is significantly more: about 2 minutes per resume.
That is not much time for the first impression. Whether it's a classic paper application folder or a digital version, we've summarized everything you need to know about designing your application, including do's and don'ts.

Function of the application portfolio
Regardless of whether you are applying for a permanent position, part-time job or apprenticeship - the first impression counts. Your application is your first contact with a company.
Various documents are part of your application and should inform personnel officers about your motivation, qualifications and professional experience. However, your application is not only a list of your qualities and experience, but also a first work sample for your desired company.
Avoid empty phrases and general phrases that recruiters have already read a thousand times. Be creative in describing what makes you special and what sets you apart from other applicants.

Ideal application portfolio: structure
The structure of an application is classically structured and leaves little room for creativity.
The order of the obligatory and optional elements is predetermined:

1. cover letter
2. cover sheet (optional)
3. curriculum vitae
4. attachments (references)
A valuable tip - Make sure that all documents follow the same layout, i.e. standardize font and size, colors, form elements, etc., to create a consistent overall impression.

1. cover letter
When writing a cover letter, it is important to ensure that it is clearly laid out. For most personnel managers, the following applies: One DIN A4 page. This is enough to arouse initial interest and to show that you are able to formulate your application precisely and to get to the point.
You can be creative with regard to the content, but the formal structure should follow clear rules. An impeccable layout in terms of content and form makes an impression on potential employers and increases the chance of being personally invited for an interview.
It seems self-evident - However, it is important to note that the cover letter should have a letterhead that complies with the rules, including sender's details, addressing, date and subject line.
Avoid the subjunctive - phrases with "could" or "would" indicate uncertainty and should not be used if possible.

For the structure, you can follow the AIDA principle - Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. This can create curiosity and interest in your person so that recruiters want to learn more about you. After all, you want to be invited for an interview at the end of the letter.

Attention - you can reach in the subject line of the application, here you indicate for which position you are applying.

Interest - you can state this in the introduction of your cover letter. Pay special attention to a personal address. If you do not know the contact person, a look at the website or a call to the company can help. Introduce yourself briefly, explain precisely why you are the right person for exactly this position, give a substantive overview of your qualifications.

Desire - state your desire in the body of your cover letter. The main body provides plenty of space to describe your qualifications, your strong interest, as well as your personal suitability for the new job. Additionally, you can take the opportunity to describe why exactly you chose this company. You can also use the job posting as a guide, which of these requirements do you meet?

Action - As part of the closing paragraph, encourage the reader to invite you for an interview. Briefly and succinctly explain your interest and anticipation of a face-to-face interview.

The cover letter is all about soft skills and personality-specific assets. If you have a paper application, the cover letter is placed on top of the
the actual application. Some application folders have a separate insert for the cover letter.

2. cover sheet
A cover sheet is not a must, but it enhances the appearance of your application portfolio. It contains the application title, possibly a table of contents or a statement about your core competence. An application photo can also be incorporated into the layout; a picture in the curriculum vitae can then be omitted.

3. curriculum vitae
The resume is the heart of the application documents; according to a study, it makes up more than two-thirds (68 percent) of an application. Here, too, the rule is: short and precise.
The basic function of the resume is to provide a chronological, gap-free account of your past experience and qualifications.
The resume includes work experience, school, vocational and / or university education and additional qualifications, such as language skills or IT skills. Usually, a tabular curriculum in chronological order is chosen. However, you can also use a reverse chronological order, i.e. the most recent work experience is at the top.

4. additional option: letter of motivation
Whether you include a letter of motivation is a matter of discretion. Originally, this addition, also known as the "third page," comes from the U.S. job application culture. The aim is to emphasize special qualifications from the resume and thereby sharpen the applicant's profile.
To avoid redundancy, the motivation letter must be clearly distinguishable from the cover letter, otherwise it will not add any value. A potential weak point of the third page is that sometimes facts are listed that could also be part of the cover letter or are already apparent from the resume. This must be avoided. A cover letter must provide relevant additional information.

5. attachments
Pay special attention to the specifications in the job advertisement. Show that you know which references are important and relevant.
Work samples should only be attached if requested. In addition to work references, internship references and proof of volunteer work, as well as letters of recommendation, may also be important. The order of the attachments corresponds to the respective qualifications or activities in the resume.

What else to look out for: School reports are absolutely dispensable from a professional experience of five years. In addition, make sure that the references are up to date and that they relate to the new job; this determines their relevance.

Classic and digital application portfolio
It is clear from the job advertisement itself which form of submission is desired or at least preferred. The requirements formulated by the company must be met exactly.
Application folder in paper form
Folders with different designs, colors and clamping techniques are available on the market. Since you do not know the personal preferences of the decisive person in the personnel department, it is idle to rack your brains over the choice of the folder - trust your taste.
Just this much: loose-leaf binders are an absolute no-go. A bound application from a copy store, on the other hand, may make a representative impression, but some personnel officers prefer loose sheets for direct comparisons or copies. The best option is therefore usually to use a classic application folder.

Application folder as PDF
PDF is the standard format for digital applications. Documents can be saved as PDFs with common word processing programs. In addition, there are freely available programs for PDF editing. In most cases, all components of the application portfolio must be transferred into a single PDF document. Often there is a maximum size for the file. These specifications can be easily met with PDF apps.

Do's and Dont's

#1 Do
Be present online, especially online professional networks like Xing or LinkedIn are great for this. This not only shows companies social skills, but also additional, relevant information. Make sure your profile is well filled out, appealing and professional.

#2 Don't.
Spell errors, misspell names of decision makers or the company name. Pay attention to details. Linguistic errors can be the deciding factor in putting your application file directly in the "thank you" pile.

#3 Do
Prepare well for the interview, because just getting an invitation doesn't guarantee you the job. Reread your documents, find out about the company and pay attention to the dress code. Small tip: Practice your self-presentation, people often ask, "Why don't you tell us about yourself?" Be prepared for this.
Computer-assisted evaluation of the application portfolio

Some companies in Germany are using artificial intelligence (AI) to evaluate digital application folders, especially for the resume. It may be that even before a human reads the cover letter, a computer program evaluates the resume.
Therefore, the resume should be unambiguous for the algorithms, which requires uniformity in dates and clear information. Designations for degrees or activities should be in line with industry standards. It is helpful if keywords from the job profile appear in the curriculum.

Care is the top priority when preparing an application portfolio. Content and form must be right so that you meet all professional standards and present your individual suitability in the best possible way. Then you have already taken an important step towards your new position.
Basically - make the recruiters: inside aware of your motivation, generate curiosity and do not just repeat your resume in the cover letter. Get creative and sell yourself in an interesting way.