How to write a good motivated application

Marianne Bom & Rie Jerichow, Publicér

No one would claim that it is easy to write an application. Here are some pointers from Karrierecenteret at DTU.

Rikke Bjerregård Jespersen from Karrierecenteret at DTU has no doubts: the key to being able to write a good motivated application is thorough research.

“It is about reading the job listing through, and almost analysing it in a high school-like manner, where you make it clear to yourself what responsibilities you will have, and what competences are asked for. Otherwise, you will easily write an application that is way too general,” says special consultant Rikke Bjerregård Jespersen from Karrierecenteret at DTU.

Then you should look into the company you hope to get a job in. You can do this by digging through the company’s website, follow them on LinkedIn, or read about the company in the media.

She points out that you can reuse the words from the job listing. “Those are the ones it’s about, you should write an application that mirrors what it says in the listing. Then you’re neither stupid nor uninnovative, because you write yourself into a context. It may even be necessary, because some companies choose to screen the applications automatically for a list of keywords. If the words doesn’t appear in the text, you risk it never being read,” she says. 

Use the headline
Traditionally, you would start an application with a ‘Dear sir/madam’ or ‘For whom it may concern’. That is changing.
“I see more and more applications with an actual headline like ‘Creative and innovative building engineer looking for challenges at MT Højgaard’. And here, the words ‘creative’ and ‘innovative’ has been picked from the job description or describes the strongest skills the applicant can draw on in relation to the concrete job. You flash that in the headline, because it works like a hook that can make the reader continue,” says Rikke Bjerregård Jespersen.

Many have a hard time differentiating between an application and a resume. The big difference is time perspective.

“A resume points backwards, while an application points forwards. In the application, you pick something from the past and relates it to the future. The company doesn’t want to hear a good story about an applicant – but the good story about an applicant for them. You can do this by giving concrete examples of how you can solve the problems described in the listing,” says Rikke Bjerregård Jespersen.

Keep the right focus
To separate yourself from the masses in a good way, it is vital that the application shows both experiences, competences, and the results you have created. “It is relevant in most engineer jobs that you first present your technical experiences and competences. Afterwards, you glide into how you work, and then mention personal competences. Here, it might be worth mentioning that you are goal oriented, effective, or innovative. The order is reversed if you apply for a general job,” says Rikke Bjerregård Jespersen. It is her experience that many students have a tendency to present themselves in a too vague and broad manner.
“It is neither a good idea to send the HR-department a list of all classes – or to just mention the name of the study. But you can mention the most relevant courses you have taken, pick a couple of projects, or write about your master thesis or finishing exam, but you should always mention the competences it has brought upon you. Then you should remember to connect it to the future. That means that you should create a connection between the demands of the job, and what you, as an applicant, can offer, in a way that makes it clear as to how the company can use it. If you use ‘you’ or the name of the company, it is a good indicator that you as a student goes from past to present,” she says.

More focus on competences

Anders first wrote a very short unsolicited application. Rikke Bjerregård Jespersen from Karrierecenteret at DTU recommends that Anders is more clear when he describes his motivation, and academic and personal competences.

1: Consider a more catching headline.
‘Hi’ does not say anything about you. Idea: ‘software student from DTU with relevant work experience looking for internship’. In one line, you say what you study, that you bring interesting experience, and what you are looking for. If there is a description of the internship, and it for instance says that they are looking for someone with personal drive, you can mix competences into the headline. You should only mention the competences in the headline, that you know they need, remember to use the same language in the resume and application. Check up on what corporate language they use in the company you apply in.

2: You can add more info. 
For instance how long your internship is, and when you can start.

3: Talk about your motivation.
Use some lines on talking about why that exact company is an exciting place for you to have an internship. It gives the reader a good reason to read the rest of the application.

4: New order. 
Make a different order of your information, so you do not start your application by mentioning your high school exam. It was long ago and is not as relevant as your current education. Instead write, “before I started software development at DTU, I worked a year at…”

5: Show the company that they can make use of your academic competences.
Try to make a connection between your past and the coming internship by adding: ‘working for you, I will of course use these experience when I have to do ‘this and this’’… Or ‘by offering me an internship, you get a student that can do ‘this and this’’. It seems very convincing if you can come up with specific examples of how you feel you can contribute and why. 

6: More focus on personal competences.
The other part of your application could focus on your personal competences and give examples of how you work. You write that you have competences within management. But you do not mention what kind of competences those are! Give examples: maybe you are patient and good at listening and using people’s strengths? Or are you good at planning a big process with many phases, so you make the deadline

7: Your application can be longer!
Name more examples of how you work. If you know that you would be part of a team in the internship, your coming boss and colleagues would like to know who you are and how you work with others. 

8: Good short ending!

9: Proofreading.
You lack a few commas here and there, maybe get someone to help you proofread it in relation to grammar.

Expanded and relevant application

After advice from carrier adviser Rikke Bjerregård Jespersen at DTU, Anders edited his application so that he is more clear in describing his motivation and academic and personal competences.

1: Good that the application is more detailed.
This is generally a document where you say more about yourself and what you can contribute with. I prefer this version to the short first draft.

2: Nice and to the point. 
Already in the headline you help me by describing what the mail is concerning, just like you give examples of a competence that is central for your way of working – nice!

3: Short and precise. 
In just a few lines, you give me facts regarding what internship you are looking for – good! You also mention why you are applying at that specific company – good!

4: Add more concrete examples. 
Consider what you imagine the reader can use your information for. How might it be relevant for the company that you have the experience you say you have? Give a concrete example of how you will translate your experiences to something relevant for the company. In the resume, you could do with just documenting what you have done so far, in the application, you have to connect your experiences and competences concretely for the problems you will solve in the internship company.

5: Even more connection between past and future. 
Yet again, my advice will be to create a connection between the past and what you will do in the future. That is, your internship. That way, you have control over what you want the reader to get from all the relevant and interesting stuff you can do.

6: Give examples of competences within management. 
It is nice that you say that you have competences within management of smaller teams. Before you move on, you should give examples of how you do it. Further down, you mention your listening skills. Move the example here, and provide another example or two. 

7: Restructure. 
Consider moving your bullets up between the first two paragraphs, so that they are in the middle of your application. As it is now, they cut the section with the description of how you work in two. Name your technical competences first, and move the examples 1, 2, and 5 to the bottom of the list. They are about how you work, and would be good together. 

8: Nice and short ending.
The last two examples that you have mentioned before should be deleted.

9: Remember the proofreading.
You could get some fresh eyes to read it through and help you with the punctuation.