This post was first published on LinkedIn.
Getting a Swiss recruiter’s attention is almost like asking her out on a date. When you write a cover letter you want the other person to like you and find you attractive enough to read your résumé. The cover letter is your appetizer and the résumé is your main course. If you get to the interview stage then that’s like having the dessert on the first date. And after three interviews you might get kissed. I mean you might get the job offer you are longing for.
Don’t spoil the recruiter’s appetite by presenting the main course in the cover letter.
Imagine you are on your first date and your counterpart tells you for half an hour how great he or she is. Rather boring right? You zoom out of the conversation and wish to run away. Same is true if a recruiter reads your whole résumé already in the cover letter.
What could you do to make the conversation more interesting?
Cover letter writing is an art. With modern technology applicants often do not see a need to write a cover letter these days but in my view it is the most artistic part of a good application and in Switzerland it is a MUST.
Many recruiters want to read it. They would like to see you made an effort to get that interview. I receive a number of cover letters and most of them sound like they were copied from a textbook. Only the more personal ones gain my attention. The have to be personal, crisp and show me who you are.
Here are tips for fresh cover letters:
- Use the correct name of the recruiter instead of Sir or Madam. Make sure you also spell names of references correctly. Be respectful and address recruiters formally.
- Make the letter appealing and nice looking by using one font only and adhering to normal letter writing style in the country you are applying to.
- Speak about the needs of the other party before you speak about your needs.
- Find a personal connection between either you and the company or you and the recruiter. Maybe you use one of their products or you associate positive feelings with the brand because of a personal story.
- If you copy and paste (which is not a good idea in general), please check that you did not use the wrong company name or contact person. It helps to read the letter out loud.
- Use active language and full sentences. When I say active language I ask you to use more verbs than nouns, avoid passive constructs and keep sentences short.
- If you are not an English native speaker check your translation and let a native speaker review your grammar.
- Be brief and stick to a maximum of one page. Five paragraphs are sufficient.
- Add your contact data in the last paragraph especially your phone number and email ID. Make sure your email sounds respectable and the name is memorable.
- Avoid slang and casual writing style. You are a professional so behave like one! Even if you are from Generation Y or Game, remember that this is a letter and not a chat. The person you want to date might be the age of your parents.
- I just read a great post by Liz Ryan on LinkedIn about modern companies asking applicants to send them 250 to 300 words to describe their “WHY”. A lot of applications still do not get that this is the whole purpose of the cover letter. I also recommend brainstorming exercises to my clients on why they want to work in the role and the company before they start writing a fresh letter.
Send convincing testimonials
In Switzerland and Germany work certificates, references and testimonials are usually summarized with the word “Zeugnisse“. They are required for any job application. Some employers only request them once you are offered a job, others want to see them when you send your initial application. When a job ad asks you to hand in your complete documentation, then you should include all your work certificates, references and testimonials
Helpful types of work certificates, references and testimonials
1) Work certificates and confirmations
Show proof from all your previous employments. Here we expect to see a qualitative element in them explaining what you do well and how you performed on your job. If you apply from abroad request a three liner from your previous employer confirming the times you have worked fort hem and a contact person who will give a reference. If you only have names of referees make sure they expect to be called by the potential employer.
2) Certificates of language certifications and seminars
Our assumption is that the more additional training you have undertaken, the better you are at your job. Even if the certification is a bit older it is worthwhile adding it to your file. Make sure all foreign language certifications are translated into English.
3) University and high school diplomas
Usually the last diploma and transcript is required. If your marks do not translate into German try to give an explanation on a separate sheet. Please note that even Switzerland and Germany have completely opposite grading systems so it is always good to explain (1.3 in Germany is excellent, in Switzerland it is a fail).
4) Client testimonials and performance reviews
If you have a chance and it is not against any confidentiality agreements you can add client testimonials and even your performance reviews in your file. It is often more credible to hear words of praise of others than your own. You can ask your former clients and managers to edit and sign a draft that you send to them so they know exactly what you would like them to confirm about you.
How do you arrange your testimonials?
To make it easy for the HR Professional I would advise you sort the testimonials in chronological order and give an overview on a cover page too. Scan all docs in one pdf and make sure that the file size is not more than 2MB as a lot of recruiting platforms won’t accept bigger files. If you do not have all your documents together yet mention on the cover page when you will hand them in.
I hope this post helps you with your job application in Switzerland. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about it.
PS: If you feel challenged about finding a job in Switzerland make sure you subscribe here to our newsletter “The Global People Club Sandwich”. We will soon publish “The Global Career Workbook” which should help you with these types of challenges when moving to Switzerland or other countries for your career.
PPS: One of my favorite blogs about recruiting topics is www.careerrealism.com. You can find helpful resume writing tips there too.