If you want to learn how to write a resume and application that gets you a job, then keep on reading.
In this article, you will find a detailed explanation as well as some templates which will help you with this.

In the first section of the article I will show you how to structure your resume/CV.

The second section will show you how to write a perfect cover letter or letter of interest.

Before we start some advice:

Write your CV and letter of interest for the job offering you apply to. This is quite important as nowadays a lot of automated systems are in place to filter out unwanted applications. They will look for keywords and requirements listed in the job description. Even if those systems are not in place a recruiter would dismiss your application since it is obvious that you didn’t write the application for this job. 

So take the time, read the offering and adapt your application accordingly!

The Curriculum Vitae (CV or Resume)

Before you now read through all the details you can download two free templates. They will provide you with some structure which makes it easier to follow this article along. 

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One last tidbit of advice before we go into the CV structure. There is always the question if you should include a picture on your application.

The good thing is I do not have to answer this alone, instead, I will use the power of science to back my argument.

There have been several studies regarding this topic. More or less all of them agree that a picture has more influence on the application than it should be. If the desired outcome would always be clear than I would say great, let’s use it. However the results often depend on who gets the CV first.

Let me give you some examples:

  • If you are a good looking man your chances are good that a picture is positive
  • If you are a good looking woman your chance is not that great as it depends on whether the recruiter is male or female. If it is a male recruiter your chances are higher for an interview. However, if it is received by a female recruiter your chances are lower.
  • If you do not look good your chances are already slightly reduced

The above examples are not complete, there are tons of findings you can look up on google. My advice is, forget about the picture if it is no hard requirement!

That being said, should you decide to include a picture I would place it on the CV/Resume itself as this document will likely be forwarded if it lands in the hands of recruiting or management.

Structure, Format, and Content

First of all, as in almost all situations, looks matter. Meaning make sure that your CV has a clean and easy to read structure. Avoid crazy colors or anything distracting. If it is not for a marketing or design company keep it simple.

Structure & Format

Most common is a table based resume. If this is used the dates should be on the left side and the data on the right. Try to keep it clean. The goal is to give a fast / fact-based overview of your experience and work history. In case you apply for a creative job then you can experiment a bit, but in most cases, I would go with this design.

Once the design is setup fill the document from top to bottom with the following information:

  • Personal information – This part of the information is placed in the top or headline of the CV. The information which should be included are:
    • First and Last name
    • Address
    • Phone Number
    • E-Mail Address

After the basic information, you should include information about

  • Birthday and Birthplace
  • Nationality
  • Marital status
  • And sometimes denomination
  • Professional Summary / Career Objective (especially in the US)
    • This is a short summary where you should describe what you bring to the table and what you are looking for. Ideally, this is a summary of your strongest traits, a kind of mini advertisement.
  • Practical Experience / Work experience – Place the details in reverse chronological order, meaning start with the most current one and go down to the oldest. This is usually the most important information. The details you should provide:
    • Start and End-date (no need for exact dates, month and year is usually sufficient) – Place this on the left side of the table (valid for most CVs)
    • Employer and place of work, place this on the right side
    • Position – place this on the right side
    • Information about your job – place this on the right side
      Describe what you did, focus on tasks and responsibilities which are relevant for your current application
  • Education – Provide information about your education. You can use the same style as for practical experience
    • School & University
  • Knowledge and Skills
    • Skills (e.g. Graphical design, Programming language knowledge, etc..)
    • Tools or software you have experience with
    • Visited courses
  • Additional information/hobbies – You can add this information but you do not have to. I would only add information which might be relevant for the job and are socially agreeable.

Content

From the “structure & format” section, the content should already be relatively clear. However, I would like to give you some tips and information about how to write and present the content.

  1. Keep it brief: Write in a crisp precise way and put only relevant information into the resume
  2. Make it easy to get in touch with you: Apart from the personal information, you could include your twitter handle or other social media information. However, keep in mind how you present yourself on social media. If you have an own website it also might be a valid reference.
  3. Provide references: Ask your previous employers if you can use them as references. Do not provide the contact information already in the CV. A remark with the phrase “available on request” will be sufficient.
  4. Titles are key: Make sure your job titles are correct and meaningful
  5. Be direct and correct: Avoid clutter and make sure what you write is correct. Don’t make things up. This will in the long run not help you. Of course, you can use nice formulation to highlight certain parts of your previous employments, just ensure you are truthful. 
  6. Formulations / Use “action-packed” words: The right wording can provide the right amount of pep and meaning. Powerful words convey a talented and strong person. Some examples are:
    1. Launched or initiated(instead of started or get going)
      1. E.g. Launched a new sales program that generated 30 % more results than the previous program
    2. Directed/led/managed
    3. Generated instead of produced
      1. E.g. Generated XX % in traffic increase or sales
  7. Be truthful: This should be a no brainer but I mention it anyway. Make sure the things you write are true. It will help neither you nor your new employee if you put incorrect information into the CV.

General Do’s and Don’ts

Find below some of the typical best practics / do’s & don’ts:

  • Do’s
    • Cover letter or application letter should be consistent in terms of content
    • Clear cut structure
    • List up to ten professional activities since your last occupation
    • Content should focus on quality and information
    • reverse chronological order (newest to oldest)
    • Nice, consistent design
  • Don’ts
    • Incorrect or wrong details
    • Spelling mistakes
    • More than 3 pages
    • Chaotic structure
    • More than 2 different font types
    • Too many visual elements or effects
    • Details about elementary school (usually never relevant)
    • Listing parents and siblings
    • Irrelevant hobbies or interests
    • Duplicate information

If you follow those tips your resume will look good and professional and will be seriously considered during the screening. In order to get your resume in front of a person you usually also require a cover letter or letter of application. Similar to the CV some rules and best practices exist and should be followed. If you need more information keep on reading the next section.

The cover letter (letter of interest / letter of application)

In the past this was usually the first visible page on a written and printed application. Or the lead page of a letter. Nowadays it is more likely the first page of an email you send. The format, content, and structure, however, did not really change.

Before you start writing here a good tip on how to make it a bit easier:
Before you start with the letter think about some fundamental questions related to the job and yourself. Note the answers down. This will make later writing easier.

Some of the questions you should ask yourself are:

  • Why do you want the job at THIS company?
  • What are your specific strengths?
  • Why are you the perfect candidate for the position?
  • What is your personal work style?

Structure, Format, and Content

Structure & Format

The most common is the letter format. You will find templates for this almost everywhere. I attached some of my examples or ones I think are pretty good in the template section.  

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Once the basic layout is setup fill the document from top to bottom with the following information (the placing may vary depending on the template you choose, however, the order is usually from top to bottom the same):

  • Sender & Date (usually in the left corner or in the header of the document)
  • Recipient Address (Company, first and last name (if known), address)
  • Subject (E.g. Application for your job posting XYZ)
  • Content (This is now the part where you need to get creative)

The content contains several elements as listed below

  • Introduction / Opening: In this section, you should make your motivation known. Why are you writing? What do you want?
  • Main section/body: Here you will try to do some self-marketing and highlight why you would be a good fit
  • Concluding part: Put a proper ending in this section. Ask for an appointment or a call.
  • Salutation and signature
  • Appendix – optional

Content

I usually need some examples to orient myself on what to write or how to formulate it, therefore I will give you some examples of what to write or how to write it. 

  • Self-marketing & competencies

    • Don’t use I sentences but show your strengths
      • Don’t: 
        • I am a team player
        • I am good at communications
        • I am a doer
        • I am highly motivated and active
        • I take over responsibility
      • Better (example):
        • One of my strengths lies in providing practical solutions to problems during business operations. Through good collaboration with the team and the willingness to take over tasks and responsibility (even on weekends) I was often able to minimize production losses or even prevent them.
        • By taking over the marketing campaign for a product I was able to increase incoming leads by more than 50 %,
  • Business or company relation (value add for the company)

    • Try to highlight how you can generate value for the company with your strengths
      • Ask yourself questions like:
        • What have you been able to do in a short time?
        • How many people did you coordinate or instruct?
        • How much percent did you improve something?
        • How many customers were you able to win for the company?
      • Formulation example
        • During my time as team lead, of our 20 head sales department, I could increase the team effectiveness year over year by 20 % (direct sales)
  • Formulations for the concluding part: Your target is to get a reaction and invitation. Therefore you should ask for it in a polite way. 

    • Did I arouse your interest? In that case, it would be a great pleasure to talk to you in person.
    • I believe that it would be worthwhile for us to meet face-to-face to discuss the position and how I could make a positive contribution to your organization. 
    • I am looking forward to convincing you in person that I am the right fit for your company. 
    • I would like to schedule a meeting to discuss how my skill set and experience align with your company’s needs.
    • If you are looking for a competent, reliable and resilient employee, then I will gladly accept an invitation to an introduction meeting

General Do’s and Don’ts

Find below some of the typical best practics / do’s & don’ts:

  • Do’s
    • Write a fresh cover letter for each job application (use templates, but the content should be hand-drafted per application)
    • Include the hiring manager’s name
    • Craft a good opening line
    • Add details which are not visible from your resume
    • Think about what you can do for the company
    • Showcase your skills with real business examples 
    • Mirror the language used in the job offer
    • Keep it short
  • Don’ts
    • Re-use an existing cover letter
    • Incorrect or wrong details
    • Spelling mistakes
    • More than 1-2 pages, HR or managers usually do not have much time
    • Don’t write about what the company can do for you (make it the opposite)
    • Don’t be overly formal

If you need some examples or templates subscribe and you will receive the download links immediately! I hope you found the information useful. I wish you all the best with your application!

In case you want to know how to get your application in front of the right people, have a look at our short blog post: How to get a job part 3 / How to get your application in front of the right people/

Let me know if this article was helpful or if you have any tips you want to share.

Good luck!
Jonathan