Why so much effort?
Applications are subject to the toughest requirements, as the first impression is usually decisive. For example, if a HR manager receives 100 applications, he or she cannot give each folder the 15 minutes it takes to complete the job because then they would need a total of 25 hours for all of them. From 100 applications, the 10 best ones will be selected in a few minutes, the rest of them will first be placed in a waiting position and the applicants will receive an intermediate message ("You can understand that we first receive all applications..."). Only completely "useless" applications land directly on the "cancellation stack". From the first 10 candidates, 5 applications will be carefully read and 2 to 3 candidates will be invited to the interview. It doesn't matter if no candidate was the "right one", you still have all applications "in the middle pile" and the game starts again. Your application has an average of 30 seconds to get through the first round!
The only thing a company sees from you and the basis for deciding whether you are invited to an interview is:
  • Your offer
  • Your work sample
  • Expression of your personality
  • Your business card


  • Who am I?
  • What can I do?
  • What do I want?

The goal

The invitation to a personal interview in order to be able to directly influence the HR manager's decision.

The best reasons to cancel quickly:
You have to imagine that a HR manager not only looks for good starting points in the applications but also very specifically for exclusion criteria. He has the task to reduce the received 100 applications into 10. Some exclusion criteria are:
Spelling errors, poor grammar, sentence structure confusion
Poor formatting (missing alignment in lists, missing spacing, incorrect and changing fonts)
For electronic applications:
Files too large
Word documents instead of PDF (especially if "track changes" is switched on)
Poor quality of scanned certificates and references
For applications on paper:
Smeared computer printout (especially a problem with ink splashes!)
Bad copies, coffee stains, creases
Handwritten corrections (with Tipp Ex or whiteout)
Bad paper 
Each application is individual and as personal as your own fingerprint. It shows your life experience and a piece of one's own personality. An application for an academic position may look quite different from an application for a job in a private company and again different from an application for a job in public administration. Nevertheless, there are recognised general rules that apply to every application.

The application letter

Anyone applying for job positions knows how difficult it is to write an attractive application letter. There is always the temptation to write a standard letter - one for all. In such letters of application, the applicant's own qualifications are simply given without reference to the respective job advertisement. But that hardly tears a HR manager from his stool:
  • No general application letters!
When writing your letter of application, remember that the reader is only interested in two things:
  • Does the applicant fit the position?
  • Can the applicant solve my staff problem?
Therefore, in each sentence of the letter of application, show that you are tailor-made for the position. Repeat the strongest arguments from your CV and provide additional information.
The letter of application consists of the following parts:
  • Sender: Your own name, address, and all communication options you have to be reachable, e.g. private telephone, if possible business, mobile phone, fax, e-mail. (caution: confidentiality!)
  • Recipient: Name and address of the recipient (if specified): P. O. Box for box number advertisements: "Chiffre XYZ in the NZZ of the N. N. N. NN").
  • Place, date: This line is right-justified on the page.
  • Subject line: without writing 'subject' as a word. Simply format this line bold.
  • Salutation: The responsible contact person (try to find out if he or she is mentioned in the advertisement). Only in exceptional cases use 'Ladies and gentlemen'.
  • The main part
  • Closing: The usual closing formula ("Best regards")​
  • Signature with first and last name​
  • Reference to attached documents

Checklist for application letter

Structure of the main body
The main part of an application letter should contain the following elements:
  • The opening with the aim of attracting the reader's attention, either by mentioning the newspaper advertisement, the needs of the company, a performance of the company itself, or a particular task that has made you want to support them.
  • The body in which your professional and non-working experiences that best meet the needs of the company are mentioned. One to five sections are enough to describe your outstanding achievements.
  • The request for an invitation to a meeting, in which you explain your wishes and propose a meeting.


Matching the candidate and the job profile

A good letter of application is produced when the applicant addresses the requested five to seven professional qualifications, personal characteristics, tasks of the position and statements about the company from the advertisement. In the letter of application, the candidate should briefly and concisely state why they meet the requirements that the company is looking for. This can be achieved if you provide concrete proof of the practical experience or theoretical qualifications necessary to fulfill the demands.


  • The advertisement reads:"Modifying foreign constructions is an essential task of the position to be filled. The willingness to work abroad for a limited period of time for installation and commissioning and a good command of the English language are required".
  • A successful proof of competence in the letter of application could be, "During my time in the engineering office ABC Engineering I often dealt with foreign constructions. I would also be happy to work for you abroad. After having spent two years in the USA, I have a good command of English."
  • An unsuccessful proof of competence would be, "I can quickly familiarize myself with foreign constructions. English doesn't pose any major problems."
  • It is even worse if the application letter fails to address a key requirement of the advertisement at all.
If you consistently follow this procedure, you will have no difficulty in writing a good letter of application.
Particularly important:
  • You only enter references and salary expectations if required in the job posting.
  • Specify the possible start date
  • Reference to attachments. However, you do not have to list them all individually.
  • The application letter is best attached to the outside of the application folder with a paper clip.
  • If you apply electronically, zip all relevant documents together, convert all documents into PDF and pay attention to concise, short file names.
  • If you are not sure whether to apply electronically or on paper, please ask! Unfortunately, not all companies accept electronic applications.
Stylistic requirements
The basic rule is to keep it to one page. However, if you are good at writing and have important things to say, you can do more. But it must be really good:
  • Bore the reader with generalisations, you have lost.
  • Avoid tapeworm sentences, complicated sentence constructs and long paragraphs.
  • Difficult passages are all too easily ignored. Accommodate the reader.
  • Divide the application letter into four to five paragraphs.
  • Limit the sentences to 12 to 15 words and split nested and long sentences into several shorter ones.
To bring your text to life, fine-tune your writing style:
  • Edit your application several times, sleep on it. Even experienced copywriters spend a long time brooding over important drafts.
  • Let someone else proofread your draft.
  • The first version usually contains all the information, but is often twice as long as planned. Don't give in to your impulse to leave it at that. This does the reader (and consequently yourself) no favours. The only recipe is: Shorten, shorten, shorten. You can gain a lot by eliminating cumbersome phrases, filling words such as "but also" and "such as" for example ". Repetitions and cumbersome phrases belong in the electronic rubbish bin.
  • Also look at individual words. See if you can substitute long pieces of terminology with shorter words. 
  • Avoid the nominal style and passive phrases with static verbs:
    • Bad: "I was introduced to merchandise management. Later, I was given responsibility for it. The development of concepts, and their implementation... are the focus of my work."
    • Better:"I became familiar with merchandise management. Today, I'm in charge of this department. I mainly design and implement new solutions.