Want to avoid application mistakes? How you can make your application more appealing

An applicant’s technical and professional background is crucial to a successful application process. But so are other things, too. If the application documents fail to satisfy certain formal criteria and our recruiters cannot find the information they need, that may result in rejection. To prevent that from happening we have compiled the following article to tell you how to make sure your application documents hit the spot, and also how to avoid the pitfalls that would make sure it doesn’t. We have drawn all our descriptions and examples from the actual experience gathered by our recruiters in their day-to-day work.


An applicant’s story:

It’s not long now until I complete my studies. Time to take a rather more detailed look at various companies’ job websites and application portals. It doesn’t take me long to notice that there’s no shortage of interesting jobs – but when I mentally run through my fellow students, I’m forced to conclude that there’s no shortage of well-educated and qualified applicants either. The competition is fierce!

How can I make sure my application documents stand out from the endless flood of incoming applications, and stop them from disappearing without trace among the other letters of application, CVs and references? Would a little creativity help? An unorthodox photo? An interesting hobby? Why not? It must be worth a try!


First I’d better put a CV together. A while ago I had some serious application photos taken, but now I no longer find them impressive. With these run-of-the-mill images I definitely won’t stand out from the competition. But there’s a nice holiday snap of me – suntanned and in shades, grinning at the camera – that just might. And look at the Acropolis in the background – doesn’t that prove how interested in culture I am, not to mention adventurous? Anyone can be serious, I think – and in no time at all my original photo has been replaced by the relaxed holiday snap.

The question about my marital status doesn’t take long to answer. I’m single. Though I am spoken for. Hold on. Single but spoken for? Wouldn’t that put a twinkle in the eye of any HR executive? Definitely! So I spontaneously decide to pep my marital status up a bit. After neatly going through all the stages of my career – here and there I may have added a bit of colour and a few design effects, because at the end of the day creativity always scores points – I get stuck on my hobbies. What should I put? Sport? Everyone does that these days! Reading? Is there anyone who doesn’t read? I enjoy taking photographs. Of beautiful women, preferably. Doesn’t that hobby make me interesting? Won’t a recruiter automatically stop at that when he or she screens my application documents? Definitely!

Next on my list is the letter of application. It’s a good job my CV’s more or less done. The letter won’t take me long. All you have to do is list the career stages in your CV, filling them out with a few links, and you’re done. These days English is more or less a basic requirement for lots of jobs, so I also put my documents together in English. With Google Translate it doesn’t take a lot of extra time.

I compose a quick covering e-mail, upload my documents in the application tool and… click on send!


A recruiter’s story:

We constantly receive applications that differ less in their content than in their creative application design. Applicants often think an application like that will stand out from the competition, appealing to us directly as HR people. Not many of them reflect on the fact that if a design is too colourful and striking, it actually has a negative effect on the clarity of the documents submitted – and thus also on their informative value.

More often than you might expect, we also receive application documents with really unprofessional photos. Either they were taken at home by family members, on the applicant’s last holiday – or they also include a favourite pet. I especially recall an application in which I found a dog looking at me, accompanied by the argument that the applicant had identified so closely with the dog’s personality that she decided to include a picture of the very same hound with her application. All I can do is advise our applicants to take the time to have professional application photos taken by an expert, showing them as they really are. 

Another point that I really want to mention is the covering letter. Many of the letters that we receive are nothing more than an extended CV with the addition of the salary the applicant expects. What interests us most in a covering letter is the supplementary information that you don't notice at first glance when screening the CV, such as why the candidate believes he or she is right for the job advertised – also on the basis of experience that’s not contained in the CV. We are also interested in why applicants are particularly attracted by this one job in our company, and why they are inclined to leave their current job and change direction. But when giving all this information and detail, in your CV and your covering letter, it’s best to stick to the truth rather than embellishing it. Perfect spelling and grammatically correct sentences are absolutely essential. When submitting documents in English, applicants should take the time to prepare them conscientiously – which simply can’t be done with a translation by Google Translate.

If applications arouse our interest and we invite applicants to a personal interview, then they should do what they did with their application photos: make sure their appearance and behaviour are professional and maintain a confident attitude. We usually ask the candidates to give us examples of situations in their previous career stages, during their studies or at school – and we can only advise them to be authentic in their responses. It doesn’t take us long to decide whether candidates are talking about their personal experiences or telling someone else’s story. They should be ready to give credible examples when we ask them about their personal strengths and weaknesses.

Frankly speaking: applicants are most convincing in a job interview if they are authentic!

Tags: Career Blog, Germany