What makes a good job application?

CVs are regulated by somewhat strict guidelines and practices, but the job application letter is the right document to let your personality show. Consider carefully which characteristics and expertise you want to emphasise relating to the job you are applying for, and always try to start the letter in the most interesting way you can. “I'm a 32-year old BBA and mother from Helsinki” tells a lot less to the recruiter than “I'm a professional in financial management and system changes looking for new challenges”.

Condense down the essential issues, since a job application letter should fit onto one A4 page. You do not have to follow a specified form for an application letter, but a good solution could be to write the content of the letter as an e-mail message and attach the CV to the message. If you apply for a job with an online form, you can enter the contents of the application letter into the fields provided on the form.

Since the recruiting supervisor usually reads the CV first and then the application letter, providing a lengthy summary of your work history in the application letter is not useful. First and foremost, try to answer the question ”Why are you applying for this particular job and why are you the best applicant?” When you explain about your background, focus on the essential issues. If, for example, the job announcement describes that the company is looking for a change manager, tell about the change projects you have managed, not about your general tasks.

Checklist for a good application letter

  • Sell yourself briefly and promptly.
  • Tell the reader about your current situation. Why are you looking for a job and what caught your interest in this particular position? If there is something exceptional about your situation, the application letter is the right place to explain about it. If you are applying for a job in another locality, specify your moving schedule. If you are returning from maternity leave, you can tell the reader when your children will go to day care and when you could start the work.
  • What kind of education do you have? What have you done previously? If you are a seasoned employee, start by telling the reader about your experience and expertise. If you are at the start of your career, it is worth starting from the education and training which will lead or have led to qualifications.
  • What experience and skills have you gained in your previous positions that will help you in this job? 
  • Do not focus only on the substance of your expertise, but also give an idea of what kind of person you are. What personal strengths do you have that you think are assets in the position you are applying for?
  • Also specify your expectation with regard to salary, especially if the employee has asked for it in the job announcement. Do not overshoot your salary expectation. On the other hand, being too modest can raise suspicion about your true level of expertise, and increasing the salary at the employment stage can be difficult. If you are unsure about the appropriate salary level or the actual level of demand of the position, you can specify a salary range within which you are willing to negotiate. If you are changing jobs, a good guideline for your salary expectation is your current salary adjusted to the level of demand of the new job you apply for. A general indication of the general level of wages and salaries can be found from various salary surveys and organisations.