Writing a job application in English Writing a job application in English
Job application

Writing a job application in English

The job application process in the UK

The job application process in the UK is very similar to that in Germany. Some industries encourage applicants to contact a potential employer in advance (either by stopping by in person or making a phone call), before the applicant has actually been invited to an official job interview – this is because the culture in the UK places high value on personal communication and taking the initiative to make contact. Often, the personal impression left by the applicant is just as important to the interviewing company as their professional qualifications. This is why unsolicited applications to companies where you’ve already either called or stopped by to introduce yourself are usually welcomed – this demonstrates personal initiative.

Unlike CVs in Germany, an English-language CV should be structured in reverse chronological order (most recent experience at the top) and does not require a date or signature from the applicant. This trend has been appearing in Germany as well. Another thing that’s different in the UK: you should not include too much personal information (i.e. marital status, nationality, date of birth, etc.) on your CV. Information about your marital or family status, age, religion, skin colour or place of birth is not relevant to your job application. The intention is to prevent inequality through discrimination.

  • An English-language CV for job applications in the UK

    A CV (‘curriculum vitae’; also known as a résumé in the United States) should be structured in a list form and in reverse chronological order – in other words, beginning with your most recent place of employment and working backwards through your career to date. Do not include a photo, date or signature. It’s wise to model your English-language CV after the HR questionnaires mentioned above; this could save you time and energy later on when filling in a similar form. (However, due to its standardised format and the fact that it’s filled in by hand, a questionnaire may not necessarily leave a positive impression in comparison to a comprehensive, detailed CV.) Such a questionnaire can, however, be useful as an aid for structuring your own CV.

    Details of your religious affiliation, marital status or parents’ professions are not included, although if you do include information relating to your family situation and number of children, it’s more likely that you’ll be able to skip the HR questionnaire later. Your CV is no place to be overly modest about your accomplishments. You should always emphasise your qualifications – particularly those that reflect the requirements listed in the job description – by underlining them or marking them in bold. At the same time, you should limit yourself to the two or three most compelling examples.

    • Extracurricular activities and hobbies (such as sports) should definitely be mentioned.
    • Where asked to do so by your prospective employer, you should bring original copies of your references/certificates relating to prior education or internships, as well as certified translations, along to the job interview.
    • These documents are usually submitted in an ordinary envelope and will not normally be returned.
  • An English-language cover letter for job applications in the UK

    In the UK, a cover letter should immediately make clear which position you’re applying for. It should also convince the hiring manager that your personal qualifications make you well-suited for the position and clarify your motivation for applying. You’re marketing yourself as a person, which means that your cover letter must be perfectly formulated; in the UK, it’s even possible to make your letter stand out from the crowd through your originality or sense of humour (keep this low-key!). Of course, it’s essential that you know the name of the person you’re writing to – call and ask if you’re not sure.

    When applying for a job in the UK, you should note the following formal aspects of the cover letter:

    If you open the letter with ‘Dear Mr/Ms/Dr [contact’s surname]’, you should close with ‘Sincerely, [your full name]’; on the other hand, if you must use the impersonal ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ because you’re unable to learn the contact person’s name, then you must end the letter with ‘Yours faithfully, [your full name]’. In the UK, the subject line is generally inserted between the greeting and the first line of the letter proper. The standard way to write dates in UK English is ‘18 August 2016’ (DD Month YYY) or ‘08.18.2016’ (DD.MM.JJJJ). Writing the date with a ‘th’ (i.e. ‘18th August 2018’) is considered old-fashioned, so you should avoid it.

    Just like in Germany, your cover letter should be no longer than one page.

In the United States, the job application process is very similar to that in Germany. Some industries encourage applicants to contact the potential employer in advance (either by stopping by in person or making a phone call), before the applicant has actually been invited to an official job interview – this is because the culture in the US places high value on personal communication and taking the initiative to make contact. Often, the personal impression left by the applicant is just as important to the interviewing company as their professional qualifications. This is why unsolicited applications to companies where you’ve already either called or stopped by to introduce yourself are usually welcomed – it demonstrates personal initiative.

Unlike CVs in Germany, an English-language CV should be structured in reverse chronological order (most recent experience at the top) and does not require a date or signature from the applicant. This trend has been appearing in Germany as well. Another thing that’s different in the US: you should not include too much personal information (i.e. marital status, nationality, date of birth, etc.) on your CV. Information about your marital or family status, age, religion, skin colour or place of birth is not relevant to your job application. The intention is to prevent inequality through discrimination.

How to structure your application materials

A written job application in the US usually consists of a cover letter and résumé. We recommend sending your application to your prospective employer by email. The only situation in which you should send a complete hard-copy portfolio with all your references, letters of recommendation, samples of work, etc., is if the employer explicitly asks for this.

Please note that you should always include an English-language translation of any German-language documents, as you should not expect the average hiring manager in the United States to understand German. We do not, however, recommend having your German Arbeitszeugnisse (formal, written letters of reference from your previous employer) translated into English without some reservations, as American hiring managers are likely to struggle with the vague phrasing of the typical German Arbeitszeugnis.

  • An English-language résumé for job applications in the US

    A résumé should be structured in tabular form and in reverse chronological order. (In the United States, the term ‘CV’/‘curriculum vitae’ is used only in an academic context, i.e. if you are applying for a professorship; in this case, there are also different standards for the academic CV than for an ordinary résumé.) In other words, your résumé should start with your most recent place of employment before working backwards through your career to date. Do not include the current date or your signature. A résumé should cover only your professional activities during the past two or three years in great detail; any previous employment should be referenced only briefly. As a result, an American résumé is much shorter than a German CV. The résumé should be one page in length – two pages maximum. This is very important! The fact remains, however, that your résumé is no place to be overly modest about your accomplishments. You should always emphasise your qualifications – particularly those that reflect the requirements listed in the job description – by underlining them or marking them in bold. At the same time, you must limit yourself to the two or three most compelling examples.

    Furthermore, personal information such as your age (date of birth), nationality or country of origin, marital status, number of children, etc. should not be included in your application. This is due to the strict laws against discrimination in the United States, which protect job applicants from being disadvantaged because of where they come from or the colour of their skin. This is also why you should not include a photo of yourself (though there are some exceptions to this rule, such as the performing arts, where a ‘headshot’ is required). Otherwise, an American résumé essentially includes the same information as a German CV: your education and training, employment history including internships, special skills, extracurricular and volunteer activities, any awards or honours you’ve received or work you’ve had published.

    However, your activities outside of work can sometimes be more important to hiring managers in the US than in Germany, for example relevant volunteer work in the field you’re applying in.

    References are very important in the United States. Letters of recommendation from former employers are better than copies of Arbeitszeugnisse (formal letters of recommendation using boilerplate phrasing). The usual approach is to write ‘References available on request’ at the bottom of your résumé, then have the letter of recommendation itself ready to submit if the prospective employer asks for it.

    In order to prevent the employer from thinking you completed your secondary-school degree in a sports facility (due to the fact that the German term Gymnasium is a false cognate with the English word gymnasium), you should write ‘secondary school’ or ‘high school’ instead.

  • An English-language cover letter for job applications in the US

    Of course, it’s essential when writing a cover letter that you know the name of the person you’re writing to – call and ask if you’re not sure. If this isn’t possible, then leave out the greeting altogether. If you already have a visa for the United States, then your employer can rest assured that you won’t run into any obstacles from the immigration authorities when trying to hire you. This also demonstrates personal initiative. In terms of content, your letter should describe you and your career to date with a confident, competent and dedicated tone – keep your sentences concise.

    When applying for a job in the US, you should especially note the following formal aspects of the cover letter:

    In the United States, the subject line is generally inserted between the greeting and the first line of the letter proper. The standard way to write dates in US English is ‘August 18, 2018’ (Month DD, YYYY) or ‘08/18/2018’ (MM/DD/YYYY). Writing the date with a ‘th’ (i.e. ‘August 18th, 2018’) is considered old-fashioned, so you should avoid it.

    Your cover letter should be no longer than one page.

  • The job application process in the United States

    After you’ve sent in your application, what happens next?

    In the United States, you need to be patient after you’ve sent in your application. It may take some time – days, weeks, even months – for the hiring manager to get back to you. It’s unfortunately quite common to get no acknowledgement that they have received your application at all. Don’t contact the employer afterwards inquiring about the status of your application, especially not more than once – this is more likely to annoy the hiring manager than impress them. You just have to wait.

    If your application isn’t rejected, then you’ll generally be invited for a job interview, just like in Germany. Even if you feel the interview went well, you should still follow up once by sending a thank-you note within a day or two of the interview.

    If the company makes you an offer, then you can send a short note thanking them and accepting. Feel free to express your enthusiasm. If you’re no longer interested in the position, then you should send a polite rejection note.

    Work-related cultural differences in the US

    Before starting work at your new job, assess how directly you give negative feedback – German cultural norms regarding confronting your colleagues with their own mistakes are not the same as American ones, so you could unintentionally damage your relationship with your co-workers by being too direct.

    Professional dress code in the US

    In the United States, it’s important to note the differences between dress codes from industry to industry – and to follow them! If you’re not sure what to wear, you can usually find employee photos on the company website for some orientation regarding what others wear. And it’s not unheard of to ask your interviewer about the office dress code during your interview.

Advantages of having your application materials translated at tolingo

When you entrust the translation of your application to tolingo, you know you’re in good hands. Phrasing a job application properly is often a challenging task – a simple word-for-word translation isn’t good enough. Instead, the text that is produced needs to incorporate fundamental stylistic changes to make it appropriate for the target country. Our translators know exactly how to translate a job application that’ll get employers abroad excited about you as a candidate.

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