Ms. Fuchs, what questions do students usually ask you in the Application Forum?
I notice that young people often do not know exactly what is important for their application. For example, many think that they should not mention their part-time jobs or private interests in the CV. They might play soccer four times a week, so the hobby makes up an important part of their personality, and yet they think: No HR person or Admissions Department would be interested in this. But for them, this is especially interesting. What does the candidate do voluntarily, completely independent of what he has to do at school? Does he feel better alone or in a group? It makes a big difference to the HR manager, whether the aspiring trainee is an introvert or extrovert. Companies wishing to receive information about the hobbies of their applicants should explicitly ask for it in the job advertisement.
How much knowledge do students already bring from their career orientation sessions in school?
Quite often, the students have never even written a cover letter. In addition to the standard CV there is little time left for career orientation in school. There are also topics such as workplace exploration or job interview. So teachers have to decide what they want to focus on, everything simply does not fit into the restricted timeframe they have. So for this reason, some students do not even know what even belongs into a trainee or university application. Or they do not dare to ask questions in the classroom. During puberty, many are shy and afraid to make a fool of themselves in front of the others. In addition: Many students believe that you do not have to know how to write a traditional application anymore, because so many applications are done through online application portals these days. But in these portals they also have to upload a cover letter and a CV, so they still need those classic documents.
Do some students bring their application documents to apply directly at the fair?
Yes, sometimes. But usually their documents still need a few final changes. Then I often tell students what to change and ask them to come back the next day with the revised documents. And some really do come back. I think that’s cool. They can then walk straight to their desired employer or institution and hand over the documents – there is no better way to do this!
Deutsche Bahn recently announced that they will stop requesting cover letters in order to simplify the application process. But I know many companies that say the cover letter plays an important role for them and they would not give it up. How do you feel about this?
I think it’s better for students to include a proper cover letter in their application documents. Because it gives them a good opportunity to reflect: What am I good at? What do I bring with me? And why do I really want to have this job, or study at this institution? You do not always have the opportunity to do this in an online application. Many students are also disappointed if they cannot bring in their own personality. However, there is no doubt that the letter is a challenge for young people, for most it is the first official thing they write. First of all, they have to get used to the standards, the formulations. In the Application Forum we go through the wording together. I question a lot, for example: “Why do you think this job or course would be right for you?”. When they start brainstorming, we can use those keywords to rebuild and optimise their letter a little bit. The HR or Admissions Team wants to find out what motivates the student to start the apprenticeship or course. The cover letter is the vehicle to transport this message. And where else would you get an opportunity to explain a gap in the CV? In my opinion, a company cannot work without cover letters. How else would you get to know the candidate? By the way, you would not believe how many students do not have a straightforward CV. I get a lot of students who have studied for a few semesters, went abroad and decided to do an apprenticeship instead. About 30 percent of the young people who come to me have a gap or a detour in their vita. The reverse case happens a lot, too. Someone breaks off their apprenticeship after six months and applies for a university course. In such situations the applicant needs a wording explaining his decision. A good alternative is the video application, that is slowly becoming more popular. Of course you can explain yourself very well in that. But this is only for students who are not too introverted, not everyone dares to do that.
Some companies argue that the cover letter is not meaningful, because theoretically it can also be written by the mother.
I think that’s a shame. You can tell right away if that’s what the mother wrote or if it comes from the student himself. Even if the mother has helped a bit: The confrontation with the job requirements, is something that the student must do himself either way.
Thank you for the interview!