Write application letters from a personal point of view: 10 tips for more empathy when applying


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Job application letters are always in the discussion: Too long, too inefficient, simply superfluous find many HR experts. Company like Deutsche Bahn have long done away with it. And many applicants would like to bestow the warm effusions.

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Simone Janson Simone JansonSimone Janson is publisher, German Top20 blogger and Consultant for HR communication.

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What are the personnel of applicants really wanting

"Dear Sir or Madam…. blah blah… work with your publisher ”was one Castingthat I had recently on the screen - and in the same time I noticed several errors that only resulted from one: The applicant had simply given too little effort!

Bad applications usually go straight to the wastebasket. Again, this one: the impersonal salutation that suggested the same eMail to umpteen editorial offices had passed. On the other hand, the applicant did not seem to have bothered to tell them what I'm doing and how he can get involved. So away with it!

“Sorry, it wasn't for you at all”

Like me in this case, it happens to many HR and potential employers: And it's amazing that the same simple mistakes are made over and over again in spite of countless application counselors. Recently a colleague told me that he had an application per eMail which apparently was addressed to another editorial staff - and an hour later one eMail: "Oh, sorry, it wasn't meant for you ..."

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It is actually always the same thing, what HR want: Find someone who fits the job profile as well as possible and not anyone. And someone who is really serious about his application, who really wants to work for the company and who is reliable.

Personnel start with cheating

An amazing fact is: Apparently, most finance and HR managers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland assume that the information in the CV is cheated. says at least one study interviewed by human resource provider Robert Half about 2.525 personnel and finance professionals in 11 countries.

The study examined career trends and developments in eleven countries: Belgium, Brazil, Germany, Dubai, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic. And leads to the question: If the majority of HR staff is so skeptical, then what chances do you have with a candid application - assuming 50% is deducted from every claim you make as a candidate?

Skepticism about language and software knowledge

In any case, the temptation for many applicants is to exaggerate something in the résumé - for example, to provide perfect English skills if you can only have a wheel-breaking conversation or to sell your last vacation as an impressive international experience. "They don't notice that," many think. But what does the truth look like?

Personnel managers are skeptical, especially with regard to language and software knowledge and the reasons for changing jobs. Even when it comes to the management skills of applicants, HR managers are on guard.

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Why job change?

39 percent of German, 40 percent of Austrian and 36 percent of Swiss recruiters assume that applicants in the old job had less responsibility than they claim. About half of the finance and HR managers in Austria and one third in Germany and Switzerland are equally suspicious when candidates talk about the exact tasks of the former job.

However, according to respondents, candidates should not disguise the true change. After all, HR managers pay great attention to the expertise and professional experience of a candidate. For this reason, many HR managers first examine the job qualification of a job candidate when studying for an application (25 percent in Germany, 32 percent in Austria and 30 percent of Switzerland) - and, if need be, check the references.

Empathy for the HR specialist

People like to complain about people who only have to make settings in a standardized way and are already working through the flood of applicants in a robot-like manner - not for nothing is the subject of robot recruiting one of the most talked about in recent years.

However, applicants also do not seem to have much of an ability to think and feel in other people. Otherwise not many HR, employers, companies or bosses would complain about the same problem as I always have: They are filled with absolutely unsuitable applications. And how many human resources actually have the time to check the details of their applicants and check the references? And what percentage of applicants will that be?

Complete the role reversal

So what helps: Complete the role reversal. This is the best way to find out how to respond to your application. Imagine yourself in a similar situation:

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  • How would you feel?
  • Would not you be annoyed too?
  • Imagine if you were the personnel manager of the company you are currently applying for: What would you think about when applying?
  • What should you think?

10 tips for the application from a personal point of view

However, as it is probably not enough just to get used to the opposite, we have listed 10 tips here once again, which will make it easier for the HR specialist to sift through your application.

  1. Take a look: What are you applying for? In the subject of your application, refer to the title of the position to be filled and the company. To do this, use the original description used in the job description (eg “Process / chemical engineer (m / f) at XY Co. KG.”). But the salutation already has some pitfalls: rather general or addressing someone directly? Study the job description carefully and see if you cannot find the name of a specific contact person. If not, it is worth calling and asking the company: "Who can I address my application to ...?" This shows commitment and interest.
  2. Avoid unconcrete: Take enough time to write your application text. The reader should notice that you really looked at the job. Qualities such as the ability to work in a team, flexibility and a sense of responsibility are important, but they usually don't set you apart from other applicants. Take a close look at the job advertisement and think about how you can bring your particular strengths into line with the job requirements. For example, if the job requires an “independent and conscientious way of working”, you could prove your experience in the independent management of projects, which requires a high degree of self-organization, conscientiousness and a sense of duty.
  3. Use your cover letter also for form applications: Form applications are all the rage. This is mainly due to the fact that they are extremely practical due to the time saved - especially for companies. But for applicants it often means here: Only an application with a cover letter is a complete application! As a rule, forms do not exempt the applicant from enclosing a full cover letter. This can usually be integrated under the heading “Upload more documents” (or similar). You will find a reference to the required documents under the information on the application process.
  4. Stay consistent: Even if the curriculum vitae and the cover letter are separated files, they still create your digital application portfolio. Therefore, you should pay attention to a uniform layout - not only the font, but also the font size, the line spacing as well as the foot and / or header are to be found in cover letter and CV.
  5. Summarize: Certainly you have a lot to tell, especially when it comes to explaining gaps in your CV or changing your business, and to put them in the right light. But in general, a cover letter should not be more than one page. Therefore, focus on your essential professional qualifications that are relevant to the job and specifically formulate your motivation. If you can convince here, there is still enough space to explain everything else in the personal conversation.
  6. Do not hide your personality: Be individual and avoid standard phrases such as "... I hereby apply for the position ..." or "... I was able to identify myself with the profile of the advertised position". Be yourself - dare to give your application a personal touch, whether with a little humor, a special writing style or a creative start. Show with a little tact why you are the best candidate for the company.
  7. Avoid clerical errors: Please handle your application conscientiously. After all, there is nothing more annoying than grammar or spelling mistakes caused by pure negligence. In the worst case, even if the other qualifications meet the requirements of the position, this even threatens to be selected from the application process. To avoid these mistakes, ask friends or acquaintances to read with an alert eye over your text. Alternatively, it helps to cover the cover letter a few hours and then have a look again.
  8. Do not make it hard for the reader: Just as with a well-written story is true: put sense sections. This will help the reader to understand your application text more easily. Remember: For each application, a human resource manager usually spends no more than two minutes (our experience). So write an exciting short story and not a novel. You should also refrain from long box sets. This significantly contributes to a positive overall impression of your person and increases your chances of being short-listed.
  9. Avoid inattention: You should not lose a bad word about your old or current employer, not just in the application interview, but already in the application form. This could be a sign of lack of loyalty on your part and will not be seen at a potential new employee. Nobody would like to imagine how bad his opponent could talk about him in the future.
  10. Ask for the application for: To find out what it was exactly, you can ask in case of refusal just once: What was it? What impression has my application made on you? Because only experience brings on.

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German edition: ISBN 9783965962378

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English version: ISBN 9783965962392 (Translation notice)

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Buy a book on the topic at a discount: Do you like this text and want more information? There is also a book, including this text, and you can purchase the book title here directly in two languages, as a member even with a 20 percent discount. Would you like to take a look at the book first? You can do this by previewing the book look at and then buy directly on the book page.


German edition: ISBN 9783965962378

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  1. Jacob

    People, do not listen to what personal people say, do your own thing.

  2. Hipolito Pyfrom

    Great article in your blog, I'll remember.

  3. Gerhard

    What is the most effective way to get a job? That was and always will be: networking. Because think about what you do, for example, if you are looking for a good doctor or hairdresser. Right: You ask someone you already know for recommendations. And usually after personal recommendations, because they trust this rather than reviews on the Internet. And so does everyone, including your potential employer.

  4. Holger Prieske

    Skills shortage Application flood? Are we living in the same decade?

    And the job requirement for a cleaning lady is recently: “Must be able to put yourself in the mind of a human resources manager”?

    The easier the job, the sooner you can apply with “Hello, here I am, I would have time and interest”.

    As an applicant, you cannot anticipate whether a personnel officer would prefer to use a “socially compatible” person who fits halfway in the qualification, or one whose qualification fits exactly, but is otherwise socially disturbed. Personnel managers are also people, have day moods and are subjective.

    The German mentality says "Self-praise stinks". It is difficult to say "I am hardworking and conscientious". You like to say it a little more indirectly.

    It is no wonder, if these requirements, rather the showman have success.

    • Simone Janson

      Hello Mr. Prieske,
      to the myth shortage of skilled workers you will find here comprehensive material in the blog.

  5. Piet

    It's a bit amusing to initiate a post with tips about writing from the point of view of a reader, here the staff member, first of all with a double ego posing.

    • Simone Janson

      Thanks for the contribution. Where do you see a double ego posing?

  6. Donnell Zaneski

    Really a great site that you have here!

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