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

Cover letters are always a topic of discussion: Many find them too long, too inefficient, simply superfluous 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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What are the personnel of applicants really wanting

"Ladies and gentlemen…. blabla… work in your publishing house “That was one of them Castingthat I recently had on the screen - and several in me Error that resulted from only one thing: the applicant had simply not made enough 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, that 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, that wasn't meant for you at all ..."

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

Personnel start with cheating

An astonishing fact is: Apparently most finance and HR managers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland assume that the information in the Curriculum vitae cheated. says at least one study for which recruitment agency Robert Half surveyed over 2.525 HR and finance professionals in 11 countries.

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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 great to exaggerate a bit in their résumé - for example, to state perfect English skills if you can only talk to one another or to view your last vacation as an impressive international experience sell. “They don't even notice it,” many think. But what is the truth?

Especially with language and software skills and the reasons for the job change HR managers are skeptical. HR managers are also on their guard when it comes to applicants' management skills.

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:

  • 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? Make reference to the title of the vacant position and the company in the subject of your application. Use the original designation used in the job description (eg "Process / chemical engineer (m / f) at XY Co. KG."). But even the salutation has some pitfalls: keep it general or address someone directly? To do this, study the job description carefully and see whether you can 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 when writing your application text. The reader should realize that you really have looked at the job. Qualities like Teamwork, Flexibility and a sense of responsibility are important, but usually do not stand out from other applicants. Take a close look at the advertisement and think about how you can reconcile your particular strengths with the requirements profile of the position. For example, if the job requires an “independent and conscientious way of working”, you could prove your experience in the independent management of projects that require 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 because they are extremely practical because of the time they save - especially for businesses. But for applicants it often means: only an application with a cover letter is a complete application! Because forms usually do not exempt applicants from attaching a full cover letter. This can usually be integrated under the heading "Upload additional documents" (or similar). You can 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: You certainly have a lot to talk about, especially when it comes to explaining gaps in your CV or a change of industry and putting them in the right light. But overall, the following applies: a cover letter should not be longer than one page. You should therefore concentrate on your essential professional qualifications that are important for the job and specifically formulate yours Motivation. If you can convince here, there is still enough space to explain everything else in more detail in a personal conversation.
  6. Do not hide your personality: Be individual and avoid standard phrases such as "... I am applying 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 sensitivity why you are the ideal 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 like with a well-written story, put sections of meaning. This will help the reader to understand your application text more easily. Remember: a HR manager usually does not spend more than two minutes per application (according to our experience). So write an exciting short story and not a novel. You should also avoid long nested sentences. This contributes significantly to a positive overall impression of you and increases your chances of being shortlisted.
  9. Avoid inattention: You shouldn't lose a bad word about your old or current employer not just in the job interview, but in your cover letter. This could be a sign of a lack of loyalty on your part and a potential new employee would not like it to be seen. Nobody wants to imaginehow badly the other person might 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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13 responses to "Formulating cover letters from the HR perspective: 10 tips for more empathy when applying"

  1. Jacob says:

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

  2. Hipolito Pyfrom says:

    Great article in your blog, I'll remember.

  3. Gerhard says:

    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 says:

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

    And the recently asked cleaning lady is: “Must be able to empathize with the wishes of a HR manager”?

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

    As an applicant, you cannot foresee whether a HR manager prefers a “socially compatible” one who fits the qualification so halfway, or one with whom the qualification fits exactly, but is otherwise socially disturbed. HR managers are people too, have daily moods and are subjective.

    The German mentality in particular says “self-praise stinks”. It is difficult to make statements like "I am hardworking and conscientious". People like to enclose this in a somewhat more indirect way.

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

    • Simone Janson says:

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

  5. Piet says:

    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 says:

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

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    Really a great site that you have here!

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