After a job description that matches the personal priorities and preferred work style has been found, an application letter for the job needs to be written. Sometimes the application submission is required on-line and sometimes a hard copy is desired. The on-line submission procedure may specify a certain format and allow for the enclosure of multiple attachments. A hard copy version usually allows more freedom to decide the format. An application typically consists of the following components:
- Cover letter
- Curriculum vitae (resumé)
- Other relevant documents.
How the documents are presented (packaged), and whether or not the application deadline is respected, will contribute to the likelihood of receiving an invitation to an interview.
A cover letter should contain the following components:
- The applicant’s contact information
- Where the job description was found
- The applicant’s professional background (emphasizing the employer’s needs and what the applicant will bring to the position)
- The applicant’s personal skills (again emphasizing the employer’s needs)
- A closing phrase about how this job is a great opportunity, that further
information can be provided and that a response from the employer is anticipated
- The contact information for references
- List of enclosures (if hard copy).
Three common mistakes are:
- Any kind of negativity
- A wish to give impressive information that is not true or not relevant for the position
- A personal judgment praising one’s own capabilities (“I will be a great addition to your company”).
The phrasing needs to be concrete, to the point, positive, enthusiastic, truthful so it gives a realistic picture of the applicant and addresses the exact needs of the employer; The cover letter should not exceed one page.
Curriculum vitae (resumé)
The curriculum vitae (cv) is a personal “professional life document.” It contains:
- The applicant’s contact information
- A list of degrees from educational institutions
- Professional experience, including teaching experience and consultancies
- Pro bono work
- Publications, invited seminars, patents, grants, etc.
The length of the cv depends on the level of the position applied for. For example, an application Letter for an entry-level position may be accompanied by a 1–2 page cv, whereas an application for a senior scientist position may justify 5–10 pages because of the applicant’s prior relevant experience. People with academic experience may also include a list of students and graduates and other items such as workshops and advisory boards.
The style of the cv should be concise and individual items should be easy to find. All items should be listed in order so that the most current information is listed near the top. Use headings and do not use extra words or long descriptions. A good cv should be able to accompany any job application after minor modification.
Details that might be given on the cv:
- Contact information: Applicant’s name, address, phone number, e-mail
- Educational background: Degree, institution, address, year
- Professional experience: Job title, company, year, responsibility
- Pro bono work: Job title, company, year, responsibility
- Publications: Name(s), title, journal, page and year
- Seminars: Name, title, meeting, location, date, year
- Patents: Patent publication location, serial
- number, title, date, year
- Grants: Granting agency, funds, project title
- Other: Personalize as necessary
Letters of recommendation
Obtaining strong letters of recommendation is essential for chances to gain employment. Confidential letters of recommendation are usually submitted directly to the employer. Because they are confidential, they are highly valued. No confidential letters of recommendation are also valuable, but because these may have been seen by the applicant and discussed with the person(s) providing the letters, they may be deemed as less important. Different countries and companies have different rules regarding letters of recommendation. Sometimes the letters must be submitted together with the application Letter (in which case the materials have been seen by the applicant), sometimes they are submitted directly to the companies by the persons providing the letters of recommendation, and in other cases the referees themselves may be contacted directly by the companies.
People who provide letters of recommendation should address the applicant’s acumen in areas of specific interest to the employer and the specific position. They should also address the applicant’s interpersonal skills. Finally, they should be willing to be contacted by the employer if more questions arise after reading of the reference letters or later in the process of further interaction. Applicants must select those who provide references with great care. The people who are writing about the applicant must be trusted to write positive statements. If there is any doubt about whether a person is going to provide a good recommendation, it is wise to find somebody else to write it.
Other relevant documents
Any documents that can be used as evidence of experience relevant for the position can be included. Such evidence could be a syllabus from a course, a workshop, pro bono work descriptions, flyers, etc.
All application letters should be checked for spelling errors, style and format, and look as professional as possible. For this purpose, clean white paper and fonts that are easy to read work best. The application package should be organized in a logical manner with the cover letter on top followed by the cv and other supporting documents.
In order to be considered for an interview, the application Letter must be received by the employer “on time.” “On time” means if there is a deadline, the applicant must make sure the application is at the employer before or at that time. If there is no deadline, it is advisable to send the application as soon as possible because the job will most likely be filled as soon as an ideal candidate is identified.