To land a good job, professional application documents are necessary. A typical application consists of a cover letter and a CV (curriculum vitae, sometimes called résumé). Often, you also want to include reference letters or letters of recommendation.
Every application comes with a cover letter, though these days, calling it a “cover e-mail” may be more appropriate. Either way, what you write in your letter usually determines the first impression you make. It may not make or break your chances of getting an interview (your CV is indefinitely more important), but it is crucial that it satisfies at least the basic requirements. Follow a few general guidelines for your cover letter:
- Explain your motivation. Be specific about why you are applying at that particular company. Show that you understand where you are applying and how that particular firm stands out among competitors.
- Describe your value. Write about your qualities and experience, and illustrate how you think you can make a valuable contribution at the company you are applying to.
- Be concise. Only include the most relevant information in your letter. Your CV can supply additional details. On paper or as a PDF attachment, a cover letter should always fit one page (including letterhead, salutation etc.). As an e-mail, try staying below 300 words.
Your CV (or résumé) contains information on your professional profile, such as education, work experience and specific skills. The way you should structure your CV depends on its purpose and where you are applying (a US-based company may expect a different structure than a Germany-based employer). The Wikipedia article on résumés contains a lot of helpful information and links.
References and letters of recommendation
While your CV should normally include the names and contact details of reference persons – or at least the notice “References will be provided upon request” – it may be a good idea to include reference letters (or: letters of recommendation) with your application. In such a letter, someone who knows you well – like a boss at a former job or professor at your university – praises your qualities and skills. Of course, you should only ask someone to write a reference letter for you if you know that person thinks highly of you.
To make the task easier and spare your referee some valuable time, suggest to them to write the recommendation with Reference-Letter.com. That tool makes it very easy to write a reference letter. The user can choose from hundreds of phrases that describe qualities and skills adequately, and combine them within minutes to build a complete letter of recommendation. With minor adjustments to the phrases, the letter can be completely individualised.
Choosing the right university
If you are not ready to actually apply for your dreamjob, but are currently looking for academic options to boost your career, you should base your study choice on what your future employers consider relevant. Typical university rankings are often helpful. You should also consult websites such as Study.EU (for Europe) where you can find a range of Bachelors, Masters or MBAs to suit the need you have for your career.