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Complete application documents: what should be included in an application?

Your application is your figurehead when you apply for a job. It not only reveals something to the reader about your previous professional positions and your skills, but also gives a first impression of your way of working: Have you read the requirements from the job description carefully and sent all the required documents along? In order for the first impression to be in your favor, your application should be error-free, careful and of course complete.


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After reading this article you will know ...

  1. ... which systems HR managers want from you.
  2. ... what to do if a brief application is requested.
  3. ... for which positions you need a cover sheet for your application.
  4. ... what you should consider with your application photo.

First, take a look at our video. Application coach Simone Falk-Meding gives tips and explains what belongs in an application - and what you can do without.

What is a "complete" application?

The job advertisement often mentions “complete” application documents. A complete application includes all the documents that the HR manager needs to get a comprehensive picture of you and your professional profile. If the job advertisement states exactly which documents are required, you should also send them along with it. Because adding fewer or more documents than required does not leave a good impression. In both cases, your potential employer can take it to mean that you have either not read the requirements in the job description carefully. Or that you don't take things that seriously in (professional) life anyway. And unfortunately that can mean the premature end for you in the application process.

But how do you proceed if the company does not explicitly list which documents are required? In this case, you have to improvise a bit and follow the guidelines that traditionally apply to a full application. These are:

Complete application checklist by email (files in PDF format):

  1. Email text (attention: NOT the cover letter)
  2. Write to
  3. curriculum vitae
  4. job references
  5. Evidence of qualifications / certificates

Checklist for a complete application by post:

  1. cover sheet
  2. Write to
  3. curriculum vitae
  4. job references
  5. Evidence of qualifications / certificate

What is a "meaningful" application?

If a "meaningful" application is required in the job advertisement, this means all information that provides information about your suitability for the position. The aim is to demonstrate that you have the skills and experience that the HR manager is looking for. Application expert Falk-Meding advises you not to include all job references in this case if they do not have a strong content-related relationship to the position you are applying for. The same applies to outdated or outdated evidence of qualifications. Instead, send suitable work samples with your application. The rule here is: quality comes before quantity. Instead of promoting your entire portfolio, choose about three examples.

What should a short application include?

Sometimes the job advertisement also requires a brief application. As the name suggests, the flavor is in the brevity of this type of application. That means: cover letter and curriculum vitae are sufficient. But: be careful! Do not be tempted to approach your brief application with less care than a more extensive application. If you were able to convince and are invited to the interview, you should have additional documents such as certificates and references in your pocket and bring them with you to the appointment.

Application by email or post?

In principle, the following applies: Follow the guidelines that are asked for in the job advertisement. In most cases nowadays it is preferred to apply by e-mail, as it can be processed more quickly in the HR department. For you as an applicant, it is also cheap because you save the costs for the application folder, printing and postage for sending your application. Some companies have their own online application centers, through which you can apply directly and upload documents. Of course, you should approach your online application with the same care and accuracy as you would your postal application. "First of all, the e-mail is just another mode of transport," says Ms. Falk-Meding.

Do I need a cover sheet for my application?

Nowadays, a cover sheet is no longer standard for applications, but is usually optional. When applying for certain positions, however, it is still advisable to use an attractively designed cover sheet. Namely when you apply for a position in which you as a person are very much in focus. For example in the area of ​​sales, distribution or as a manager. A cover sheet with a prominently placed application photo can be appropriate here.

tip: In the case of an application by e-mail, a cover sheet is particularly useful if you send all documents in a single PDF file. Otherwise, the cover sheet makes little sense as a stand-alone file.

What belongs in the cover letter?

An individual and error-free cover letter is one of the most important components of every application - and in the best case, your ticket to the next round, the job interview. HR managers quickly notice when they have a mass application in front of them, in which only the company and the name of the contact person have been exchanged according to the copy-and-paste principle. The cover letter is not called a letter of motivation for nothing. So explain your motivation and credibly explain what drives you to apply for this position.

Creative introductory sentences for the cover letter.

"I hereby apply ...". Yawn! Imagine having to read the same phrases every day. As a HR manager, you'd get bored quickly, wouldn't you? But somehow you have to open your cover letter. The motto is: individuality! To stand out from the crowd, turn the creativity screw a little. For example, you can open your cover letter with your favorite quote - provided it fits into the professional context. Try to look at your application like a story or a film that you open with an interesting scene to guide the reader piece by piece through your cover letter and your professional career. And if possible, in such a way that you can be sure of their attention until the end.

Which certificates do I have to include in my application?

Certificates are written evidence of your knowledge and skills that you claim for yourself in your cover letter. Therefore, they are an important part of your complete application. But that means that you all Have to enclose certificates? How many and which certificates you add to your application mainly depends on your professional experience, your age and the position you are applying for. Are you a career starter, returnee, career changer or climber? The career level you are at also plays a role.

Danger: Simply omitting certificates from important positions can make a strange impression on HR managers. Because they may be wondering what you have to hide. Therefore, you should include references from companies where you have worked for more than a few months, even if you may not have earned the top grade there. This is better than leaving your counterpart in the dark.

If you have already completed a few stations in your professional life, you should sort them in a targeted counter-chronological order. The current job is listed first. A rule of thumb is: If you have certificates from more than seven professional positions, you should only enclose older certificates if they are either extremely good or indicative of your professional career.

Do work samples always belong to a complete application?

On average, HR decision-makers only spend a few seconds looking at your application for the first time. Therefore, you should only include work samples if requested in the job advertisement. Otherwise your application will quickly look overloaded. It can also happen that you will only be asked to submit work samples after the interview. You should comply with this request quickly, if possible on the same day, but in any case promptly after the interview. This is also a good way to thank you again for the interview and to emphasize that the interview reinforced your desire to work for the company - if that was the case.

Can I send work samples via file sharing?

For professional groups such as media designers, communication or screen designers who mainly work with images, it is not always possible to display work samples as PDF files. With audiovisual attachments, the files can quickly exceed the size limit for attachments. With this type of work samples, it is advisable to make them available via a so-called file-sharing service. Make sure to choose a reputable and well-known provider. After all, the HR manager shouldn't think that the link you sent is a virus. With classic attachments in PDF format, there is no reason to use a file sharing service. Application coach Simone Falk-Meding also advises in this case not to do so and to send the attachments as usual as an email attachment.

Watch out: In the free version of some file sharing services, the uploaded files are often only available for the recipient to download for a certain period of time. This period of time may already have passed when the HR manager reads your application. Therefore, it is best to choose a provider who can permanently access the files.

Do I need an attachment directory?

A list of assets is no longer mandatory these days. If there are several different systems, a numbered system directory is still worthwhile. Because it helps to find the desired systems quickly without having to scroll through and search for a long time. On the attachment directory you should list clearly (font size 12-14) one below the other which documents are in the attachment.

What do you have to look out for in the application photo?

The first impression counts. This not only applies to personal encounters, but also to your application picture. It does not matter whether you are applying for an internship or a senior position. When it comes to the subject of application photos, there are some stumbling blocks lurking. Keyword: photo booths. They are useful if you need a passport photo for your passport in a hurry - but when it comes to application photos, you should keep your hands off them. The same applies to selfies or vacation photos: Even if you get a lot of likes on Instagram, such self-portraits do not go down well in a professional context.

Don't skimp in the wrong place and seek out a professional photo studio instead. Otherwise, you may miss out on exciting job opportunities due to a carelessly shot picture.              

tip: It doesn't always have to be the picture in the black blazer in front of the light gray photo wallpaper. Depending on the industry, you can also score points with creativity and originality. Don't be afraid of colors and unconventional poses. But don't worry, we don't mean you have to do a handstand or wear a funny hat. Even a less common format (e.g. square) can make your image stand out from other applicants.


Would you like professional application coaching?

At WBS TRAINING you receive individual coaching - completely free of charge with a placement voucher.

To offer.


Article image from LinkedIn Sales Navigator