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Don't be shy - apply

Ian McMaster ist Chefredakteur von Business Spotlight
Den Gang zum Fotografen können Sie sich sparen, wenn Sie sich in Großbritannien oder in den USA bewerben wollen - aber den Unterschied zwischen "Yours sincerely" und "Yours faithfully" sollten Sie schon kennen.
Back to Basics. Many of the most important points about job applications are the same whatever language you are writing in. Your application is your marketing tool, and you have to convince the recruiter that you are the applicant they need. To do this, your application must meet three criteria: it must be clear, it must be relevant and it must be special. In other words, your application should be well presented and easy to read; it should show that you have relevant qualifications and experience; and it should highlight your unique selling proposition (USP).

Two steps to heaven. Applications in English normally consist of two parts: a covering letter (US: cover letter) and a curriculum vitae/CV (US: résumé). How long should they be? The golden rule is "as short as possible, as long as necessary". In practice, this means a maximum of one page for the covering letter and two pages for the CV.

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Cover yourself. The aim of the covering letter is to make sure your curriculum vitae is read. It should not simply repeat the information in your CV, but highlight what is special about your application. Start your letter with "Dear Mr/Ms/Dr ...", if you have a contact name. If you do not have a name, you can write "Dear Madam or Sir". The first sentence begins with a capital letter. Explain clearly why you are writing: "I am writing to apply for the post of finance manager as advertised in The Times on May 15th." In British English, you end with "Yours sincerely" if you know the name of the person you are writing to, "Yours faithfully" if you don't. In American English, you can use "Sincerely" in either case.

It's your life. Curriculum vitae is Latin for "the course of one's life". The key elements are personal details, your work experience, education and qualifications, additional skills such as foreign languages or computer experience, and (relevant) personal interests. Many people, particularly in the US, start their CV with a short 30 to 40 word career summary and statement of their career goals.

Not too personal. Applications in English tend to contain less information of a personal nature than German ones. For example, it is not usual to include a photograph, either in Britain or the US. One reason for this is to reduce the possibility of discrimination on the basis of appearance, age or race. For the same reasons, details of your marital status and religion can also be left out, as should information about your parents, their jobs, religion etc. Age and nationality are also details that can be left out, although if you think this information will help you, put it in.

Which order? In practice, most CVs are chronological. Traditionally, this meant listing the history of your education and work experience in the order in which it occurred. Now it is more common, and considered preferable by most people, to use a "reverse chronological CV". This starts with your current job and works backwards. Your education and qualifications then come after that. In other words, the most important information comes first.

Say it with power. Be clear and positive about what you have already achieved. To do this, experts often recommend the use of so-called power or action words, such as "increased", "reduced", "created" or "launched". Using the past forms of such verbs without "I" (for example: "Increased sales by 50 per cent over a five-year period") can sound dynamic without being over-egoistic.

Don't do it directly. It is important not to translate directly German qualifications, institutions and job titles. Instead, give the original German terms and then their nearest English equivalent in brackets. For example: "Abitur (equivalent to A levels in Britain)". A useful list of such terms can be found in the book "Bewerben in Europa" from Falken Verlag.

Testimonials and referees. It is not normal in either Britain or the US to collect a written testimonial from each past employer and to include these with your job application. So it is probably not worth having all your German testimonials translated into English. However, if there is one that is specifically relevant, there is little harm in including it.

Check and check again. It is essential to find a native-speaker of English to check your application before you send it off. When speaking English as a German, mistakes can be charming; on paper, spelling or grammatical mistakes simply say "this job wasn't important enough for me to take the time and trouble to get things right". Never think that your English is good enough to write an application on your own.

Key Terms

applicant - Bewerber
application - Bewerbung
character reference - persönliche Empfehlung
covering letter (US: cover letter) - Bewerbungsschreiben
curriculum vitae (US: résumé) - Lebenslauf
interview - Vorstellungsgespräch
referee/reference - Referenz
recruiter - Anwerber
testimonial - (Arbeits-)Zeugnis
USP (unique selling proposition) - einzigartiges Verkaufsargument
vacancy - offene Stelle
Dieser Artikel ist erschienen am 21.01.2002