HOW TO APPLY FOR A JOB
The most efficient ways of applying for a job varies.
Here, you'll learn about the following:
Before you apply
The cover letter
How to send the application and what to check beforehand
Before you apply
There are a few steps you should take before you write an application for a position.
The job ad
Many job ads (also called job advertisements or job postings) are written in Danish - even though more and more companies start advertising some or all their open positions in English. If the job ad is written in Danish, it does not necessarily mean that they expect the candidate to have strong Danish skills. Posting positions in Danish might be a matter of habit, or maybe the possibility of hiring a non-Danish speaker has not occurred to the company even if the position does not require a specific level of Danish. However, sometimes a certain level of Danish proficiency is clearly stated as a requirement, or it is obvious from the job description that fluency in Danish is necessary. In any case, you can call the listed contact person and ask, whether a certain proficiency in Danish is an imperative requirement for the job.
The job ad is usually a good source of information about the available position. Once you have found a job ad that sparks your interest, you should analyze it carefully by asking yourself:
- Do I find this job interesting?
- Do I have (some of the) listed qualifications and requirements?
- Does the job ad list some requirements, that seem imperative, which I do not meet?
Question 1 and 2 give you an indication of the relevance of you applying for the job. Question 3 is more tricky, but instead of automatically disqualifying yourself for the position, call the company and ask how important these requirements are.
Research the company
Once you have read through the job ad, do some research on the company. Check out the company’s website and read through their career page. Make sure to expand your research to the company’s social media platforms, find out more about the people who work there (LinkedIn is a great tool for that), and do a Google search of the company. This will give you a better idea of the company’s key tasks, which challenges they have, and how you can present yourself in the best way in your application.
Reach out to your network
If you know someone who works, has worked in or holds a connection with a company of your interest, they might be able to offer some tips on how to apply for a job there - and some insights on what it is like to work at this particular company.
If you do not have a direct contact within the company, reach out to someone from the same field who will be able to give you some insights on how to make your preparation, cover letter and CV fit the company’s needs.
Contact the company
In general, you should always contact the company before you apply. It is perfectly OKAY to do so – and in most job ads at least one contact person is listed for the exact same reason.
When applying for listed positions, the purpose of contacting the company is NOT to “sell” yourself; the chance of the recruiter remembering you when choosing candidates for a job interview is minimal.
The purpose of contacting the company is to get valuable information about specific challenges/insights and key competences required in the position. This information will help you tailor your cover letter and CV towards the company´s needs - and this will make you a much more interesting candidate.
Another important aspect of calling the company is to determine whether the position is a match for your profile and seems relevant and interesting to you. Sometimes the call reveals information that may change your mind about applying, which means you saved yourself (and the company) valuable time.
NOTE: Most applicants do not reach out to the company before sending an application, so it will give you an advantage if you do.
Contact by e-mail or phone?
Who to call?
Your best option to get an answer to task specific questions is to contact the department hiring (and in the best case, the contact person from the job ad). If you contact the HR department, they will maybe not know the answer and refer you to the right department anyway – or not at all.
How to call?
- Prepare and ask questions that neither the job ad nor the company’s website can answer.
- Prepare a short presentation of yourself in case the person you call has questions for you.
- Practice, and practice again, before you make the call.
- Start calling companies about positions that you are not really interested in, and then move on to the interesting ones. This way, you will have a lot of practice and have learned to calm your nerves.
Examples of questions to ask:
- Which tasks are the most important ones to solve in the beginning?
- Are there any big tasks/projects coming up that I need to be prepared for?
- Which competences are the most important in relation to the team I will become part of?
- What is the biggest challenge I will face in this position?
- Which skills/backgrounds do the other team members have? (Maybe you will be able to emphasize a skill in the cover letter that you know the team now lacks and could benefit extra from)
- Find more questions here (in Danish, but Google Translate is a great help)
If you have called to require about the job before applying, you can easily mention it in the beginning of your cover letter, e.g.,” After a [pleasant/interesting/other word] conversation on the phone with Anders Andersen, I ….”.
…. The person you talked to might remember you after all.
Update your social media profiles
When you apply for a job, an employer may search your social media profiles after reading you application. Therefore, make sure your profiles display what you want employers to see. This means that your LinkedIn profile have been updated and you have removed anything from Twitter or Facebook you do not want an employer to see.
A great CV (also called a resume) - combined with a great cover letter - is the key to getting invited for a job interview. Your CV should be relevant and tailored to the position you are applying for - you should never apply with a standard CV.
Start with a standard CV just for you
Often people forget certain positions they held, or tasks and responsibilities they had during their years as
students or in their work life. These details, combined with the results you have conducted and skills and competences you have gained from your experiences, is the key to a great CV.
Therefore, start by writing down a very long, comprehensive CV that lists all your experiences. You will end up with a very long list, which is the goal: you need a comprehensive “portfolio” of all your experiences, skills, and accomplishments.
Make a new CV for each position
Once you have a complete standard CV, it is time to make a new CV tailored to the specific position you are
applying for. Every time you apply for a job, make a new CV just for that. It will make a difference.
Layout and length matter
The CV needs to look nice and professional. Font size, layout, paragraphs, etc. should match and it should be easy for the reader to find and understand the information they are looking for.
A CV should be informative enough, relevant, and not too long. (2-3 pages is perfect - remember page numbers).
If you want your CV to stand out and do not have the skills/time/patience to make one, there are many free or cheap CV templates online. Just make sure that the template you choose is flexible enough to allow you to make the adjustments you need and want.
The job ad is the key to a great application
Identify important key words and requirements from the job ad to focus on and include in your CV. Make sure to not just mention that you possess certain skills, but also emphasize and prove them using examples to make it clear for the recruiter that you meet their requirements.
What information to include in your CV
Everything in your CV should be mentioned chronologically backwards (newest information first).
Remember start/end dates (month + year) and the country (and maybe city) for every position/education.
Although CVs differ in style, make sure to include the sections below when applying for a job in Denmark. The order may vary – list the most relevant parts first, according to the relevance for the position.
- Contact and personal information
- Name, address, telephone number, mail, date of birth, nationality, and LinkedIn profile link
- Name, address, telephone number, mail, date of birth, nationality, and LinkedIn profile link
- Photo (optional)
- Make sure that the picture is up to date (use a fairly new photo that looks like you), looks professional, and matches the “Danish” profile picture: a calm background, business casual clothes and a smile (see others’ LinkedIn pictures for inspiration)
- Personal profile (also called a Summary)
- This section is VERY IMPORTANT TO INCLUDE AND TAILOR FOR EACH POSITION.
- A short (4-6 lines) presentation of your background, skills, and competences. Make sure to mention the company’s name here and how you will bring value/contribute to the team/company. See this section as an appetizer to the rest of your CV and as a summary of your cover letter.
- Always state your primary professional skills in the first sentence, e.g. “Project manager with five years of experience in the health sector…”. That will help the recruiter quickly assess your relevance when making the first screening of candidates.
- Work experience
- List the position first, and then the company name with a short (1-2 lines) description of the company.
- Second, list your tasks/responsibilities and results/value creation.
- Focus on the relevant tasks for the position you apply for; do not list every task you completed.
- If you have a degree beyond your high school degree, do not include the high school degree.
- List your education first and then the name of the university and country.
- Explain, if necessary, your degree (its focus, relevant classes/papers, etc.). Many studies are “translatable” to the Danish studies, others are not. Your goal is to show the employer that your education has made you capable of solving tasks relevant for the job you are applying for.
- If you had your education assessed by Danish authorities (see more in the section about assessment and recognition of your qualifications), mention that and what level it corresponds to in Denmark.
- List the courses you have taken in the past if they have any relevance at all for the company/job and remember to explain their content if it is not obvious from the course title.
- Remember that even online courses and short courses can be relevant.
- Honorary office and voluntary work
- Experience counts in a CV – paid as well as unpaid. Make sure to list any voluntary organisations/jobs/ tasks you have been involved in. That demonstrates commitment and tells a story about the kind of person/employee you are.
- ◦List your voluntary work in the same way you list work experience with dates, tasks, results, etc.
- IT skills
- ◦List all relevant IT skills, even Microsoft Office, and your skill level.
- ◦Programs/systems that you know are not used in Denmark should be listed too. Explain their main features and use in a few words. This will show that you can acquire new knowledge and can apply it to other systems.
- Language skills
- ◦Make sure to list all your foreign languages, your mother tongue, and your Danish skills (even if they are basic).
- Include your proficiency level for each language. Avoid letters or numbers and describe your proficiency in words or short sentences instead. Here is an example:
- □German (mother tongue)
- □English (fluent) or (full work proficiency)
- □Spanish (intermediate – reasonable work level)
- □Danish (basic – can communicate on everyday topics and take Danish lessons to learn more).
- Personal information (you can call this section "More about me" or something else)
- For Danish employers, the right match for a job also includes the right personality for the job/team. Include information about your personal life (your interests/passions/hobbies/spare time activities, if you have family, etc.).
- As an international in Denmark, this section is also the perfect opportunity to mention when and why you came to Denmark, as it may say something else about you. For example, if you came to Denmark because of your partner’s job (here you can also mention where they work), this can be valuable information for the employer, since this proves stability and can give an indication of your possibilities for long term employment.
- References are crucial to you at the end of the recruitment process, as many employers check references before making the final decision.
- You can choose to state in your CV that references can be provided – this way you will be in control of who the employer calls and when, and you will be able to give your references a heads-up. Or you can choose to list your references in the CV from the start and let them know that they might get contacted about you.
If you know some Danish, try writing the Professional Profile section in Danish. It will distinguish you from many other international applicants and demonstrate your Danish skills and willingness and ability to learn more.
Two CV examples
Here are two CV examples for your inspiration (from the website of Djøf, one of the Danish trade unions):
Video CV – how and why
The video CV can be an alternative way of applying for a job – or a supplement to the written application. It gives you the chance to present yourself in a different way where the employer can see and hear you – and thus get a better idea of your persona. Sometimes employers also ask for a short video to be included as part of the application.
You can find good tips for your video CV on Workindenmark’s website.
The cover letter
When you are applying for a job, y ou should always include a cover letter - unless the job ad clearly states that you should only send your CV, or someone asks you for your CV only.
The purpose of the cover letter
While your CV is mainly focused on your past (your experience and educational background), the cover letter
should paint a picture of the future; if the company hires you, what will they gain? How can you contribute to make their future brighter? The purpose of the cover letter is, thus, to get the company’s attention. A good cover letter expresses your motivation for wanting to work for the company and shows them that you - in this position - will be an asset to them.
Your CV is a list of your education, skills, experience, and accomplishments. In the cover letter you explain how you have obtained and used those experiences and skills in the past and – most importantly – how the company will benefit from it if they hire you. In other words, in the cover letter you want to focus on your future results by giving examples of past results. Great result examples do not have to be “more customers” or “revenue for the company”, but also successful initiatives and projects you have worked on.
A template example to get you started
Copenhagen Business School has composed a “how to” cover letter template, that breaks down the cover letter into different paragraphs, with easy-to-follow explanations of how and where to write what. You can find the template here.
NOTE: This (or any) template should only be used for inspiration and is not a one-fits-all solution. The template will give you an idea of what to include in your cover letter, but each cover letter should be a unique composition tailored to the specific position in the specific company.
Characteristics of a good cover letter
- Fits on 1 page
- Contains your contact information, place and date
- Lists the company name, city and possibly the name of the contact person (if such is listed in the job ad)
- Has an easy-to-read layout (nice to look at, separated into paragraphs, clear and concise)
- Has a catchy headline - or the title of the position you apply for (If you choose a catchy headline, make sure to list the name of the position in the first paragraph or above the headline)
- Is a little less formal than in other countries (but the style should fit the company and position)
- Contains understandable language/arguments (avoid long and complex sentences)
- Responds to the requirements of the job ad
- States your motivation and fit for the position
- Provides examples of how the company will benefit from your past experiences, skills, and results
- Mentions the company/team by name (several times) instead of just “your company”/”your team”
- Is ALWAYS a unique composition tailored to the specific position in the specific company
Try to consider your cover letter from the employer’s point of view:
Can you manage the key tasks – and can you manage well? Is it clear to the employer how? Have you stated your motivation for applying? Addressing and “answering” these questions is crucial to a good cover letter.
Remember that very few positions require you to know it all from day one, so if you can somehow show in your cover letter that you can learn it all, you have come a long way.
Before sending your application, make sure to proofread all documents you want to send – and ask someone
else to proofread them, as well, and give you feedback.
If you know some Danish, try writing one paragraph of the cover letter in Danish to demonstrate your skills and show that you are committed and able to learn. If your Danish is good, consider writing your entire cover letter and CV in Danish.