The good application: Understand the needs of the company

You have to know the company’s needs and the concrete tasks in the job. Then you have the right grounds for writing a good application, says career counsellor Kristi Johvik from Karrierecenteret at DTU.

Kristi Johvik is career counsellor at Karrierecenteret at DTU, where a part of her job is to advice the students on job application. Private photo.

A good application starts with a thorough analysis of the job listing. So says Kristi Johvik, who is career counsellor at Karrierecenteret at DTU. “When you read the job listing, mark which technical competences and personal skills the company is asking for, and which tasks are part of the job. Next, mark what you match or have similar experience with,” she recommends. Three or four points are chosen in the end and included in the application, and here it may be a good idea to repeat the word choices of the company.

Highlight the good match

“It is important that the applicant writes concretely about the tasks mentioned in the job listing. A good application is an application where you actually tell the company how you can solve concrete tasks in the job, due to your skills and competences,” says Kristi Johvik.
For instance, write: ‘When I have to work with [task], I can draw on my experience from project [xx]…’ The point is that the company sees the good match. “The company gets a sense that you have looked into the job and are in ‘solution mode’. They can see your strengths and the experiences that you can draw on, and it means that you have a greater chance of making it to the interview,” says Kristi Johvik. But what do you do, if the listing is very general, and does not clearly state what the contents of the job are?
“Then we recommend that the applicant calls the company, the contact person in the listing, and asks them to explain more about the job. It is better to send an application where you can highlight the exact competences the company needs than sending a general application that does not accurately state how you can fulfill their needs,” says Kristi Johvik.

Tips for brief and targeted writing

A good application is short and to the point, and answers three main questions:

1) Why did you apply for this exact job?

2) Which competences and experiences can you use to solve which of the concrete tasks in the job?

3) What kind of colleague will they gain from hiring you – that is, which personal competences do you match?

“Therefore, build your application up in sections that only match these three questions. Avoid writing everything that does not fit in under these three sections, like your spare time interests, demands you cannot match, experiences you cannot connect to the tasks in the job,” says Kristi Johvik. “Furthermore, you can shorten the application by clearing it of fillers and empty sentences,” she says. Fillers can be ‘much’ and ‘really’, and other strengthening expressions that, according to Kristi Johvik, make the text too long and less credible, since you easily promise too much. Empty sentences are sentences that does not contain concrete information, like: ‘I feel that I have a lot of competences to solve the tasks of the job’. Here it is better to be head on and write what competences match concrete tasks.

Concrete suggestions for a better application

Career counsellor Kristi Johvik, Karrierecenteret at DTU, has read an application from an engineering student and gives concrete suggestions for improvements.

  1. Instead of ‘Hello’, write a headline that says something about the competences and experiences you have that match the job.
  2. Avoid repeating the information from your résumé. Instead, start with a paragraph about your motivation: why you applied for this exact position.
  3. Avoid writing about your personal interests in the application. Instead write about which technical competences and experiences you can contribute with, when you have to solve the concrete tasks of the job.
  4. In this section, you return to the motivation for the job. But you should only write about your motivation once, and that is in the first section of the application.
  5. Only apply for one job or collaboration at a time (in this case, the student assistant position), because then you can write a focused application, which is built up in three sections, and which describes:
  6. – Why you are applying for this exact position.
    – Which technical competences/experiences you can contribute with in the solution.
    – What kind of colleague they get by hiring you, that is, personal competences/way of working.

  7. COWI did not mention wanting a criminal record in the job listing, so it is not necessary to mention and enclose.

The finished and good application

The engineering student has now improved his application after input from career counsellor Kristi Johvik from Karrierecenteret at DTU. Here is Kristi Johvik’s comments on the new version.

Generally, the application has improved a lot, especially because the applicant now has a clear structure. There is an easily understood section about why he applied for this exact position, what he can contribute with, and which personal competences he has. By doing this, he tells the employer what he can do, and what it would be like to work with him.

  1. There is now the headline ‘Ambitious student…’, which says something about the applicant as a candidate, and a section which briefly describes why he is motivated to apply for the job. It grabs the reader’s attention, and the company can immediately see that the application is targeted to their company and the posted job listing.
  2. The headline ‘experience in Python…’ catches the eye, especially because it says something about what the applicant can bring to this listing. He has chosen only to highlight keywords about the experiences and competences that the company wants.
  3. The application now includes more sentences which directly describe what COWI gains from hiring him. It is important to write the name of the company in the application and mention the concrete tasks from the listing, since it forces the applicant to target his application and write more specifically how he can solve the tasks in the job. This is exactly what the employer wants to read about.
  4. The headline ‘Dedicated team player’ makes it clear that the candidate now wants to describe which personal competences he can contribute with in the job. The section is also written with focus on what the company gains from hiring him.