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Checklist: Design and Photos for Your Job Application Materials

Fireworks for the eyes, or functional template – What should an application look like so that it leaves a positive impression?

Unfortunately there is no pat answer to this question. Tastes differ, and what looks chic and appealing to one person may be superfluous bells and whistles for another. Despite this we'd like to venture to provide you with a few tips on how to style your documents. Because what is also true is that a few skillful moves can achieve a lot. A carelessly laid out résumé without highlights is a bad first example of your work and suggests a lack of attention to detail. So we've put together a summary of how not to overshoot the mark when it comes to design and how you can best put the spotlight on yourself.

Tips for Putting Together Your Application

  • Form follows function: What this means is that the layout should support what your documents are trying to achieve and not play the leading role. Job application materials should first and foremost showcase information quickly and clearly and at the same time express individuality. A clear and precise structure is therefore required. It should also show that you've made an effort and not just copied some template for job applications.
  • The style fits to the industry and the field of activity: If you're unsure about how "creative" your application should be, first take a look at how the employer presents themselves. The job advertisement and website offer good starting points for this. There are definitely different customs in different industries. If you're applying to a bank, the application can definitely be more traditional than it would for a young media start-up.  The field of activity can also play an important role. So if, for instance, you're applying for a job in public relations or marketing, you should definitely pay closer attention to the layout of your documents.
  • The style fits to you: Above all, you should feel that you are well represented by your documents. Take a look at your application from this perspective. Does the style fit you? Does the layout look consistent and believable
  • Seamlessness: Make sure that your documents are visually coordinated. This makes them look clearer and more professional. Cover letter, résumé and (if needed) a cover page should form a unit.
  • Cover page – yes or no?: You can handle this as you think best. A cover page is by no means mandatory. It can however be practical if your résumé is a bit longer than one page. This then saves space for a photo and personal details and can present them in a clear and detailed manner.
  • Fonts: Use one or a maximum of two fonts, and no decorative fonts. There are two types of fonts: serif fonts (i.e., Times New Roman) and sans-serif fonts (i.e., Calibri, Arial). Serif fonts (serifs = small lines on the letters) are used for longer contiguous texts (i.e., novels), while sans-serif fonts are used for headers and shorter passages. Which font you choose depends on how compartmentalized your application looks. The more paragraphs, subheaders or highlighting you choose to use, the more appropriate a sans-serif font becomes. Ultimately it's also a matter of taste, but you should choose a uniform look.
  • Font size: There can be large differences in font sizes depending on the font. So you should check to see which font size fits best to the font you have chosen. Generally, your font size should not be smaller than 10 point so that the text is pleasant to read. A good orientation is a three-part scale for continuous text, subheaders and main headers: either 11-13-15 or 12-14-16.
  • Sections and Structure: Pay attention to uniform indentations, lines and spacing. In the cover letter you may use either left-justified or justified text – whichever you prefer. It makes sense to use single line spacing so that the text appears clear and compact. Section the cover letter with paragraphs for each topic (one paragraph each for the introduction, motivation, expertise and closing). The most important thing here is to create a clear, concise structure.
  • Photo: If you decide against submitting an anonymous application and decide to include a photo, your photo should also be consistent with the overall concept. It would be a shame to include an unprofessional photo in a well-structured and well-formulated application since most people are visual beings after all.

    What you should pay attention to:

  • A current photo – so that recognition can be guaranteed
  • Eye contact: good posture, a vertical visual axis and an open and friendly expression
  • Your face should be well lighted and clear to see
  • Select clothing that you feel comfortable in and that is appropriate for the job
  • Avoid distracting details: no conspicuous accessories, plunging necklines or artificial poses.

Tip: Google yourself and use the privacy settings for a private network. It doesn't help if you've spent a lot of money for a good application photo when you can be found on the internet in ways that you don't wish to appear.