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University of Basel

Tips and Tricks for Job Applications and Interviews

Having accurate and sophisticated job application documents is crucial. Based on them a decision is made as to whether you will be invited to an interview or not. Ideally, all of the application documents are tailor-made to fit the advertised position as closely as possible. Furthermore, they should be unique and innovative, but at the same time also adhere to certain standards. Once this initial step of preparing and submitting the application documents is taken, the interview hopefully awaits. Here applicants are faced with another difficult challenge: the balancing act between presenting oneself in the best possible light and avoiding any faux pas.

General information on application documents

In our counseling session, we will help you prepare for the many stages of the application process. Below is a summary of a few tips and tricks to keep in mind when applying (for positions in Switzerland).

The application documents usually consist of the following:

  • Cover page (not mandatory)
  • Cover letter
  • CV
  • Enclosures (diplomas, employment references, etc., adapted to the specific application)

What to keep in mind

  • Correct grammar, spelling and wording are absolutely essential!
  • The application should look consistent (layout, paper, etc.).
  • The application should be adapted to the specific position listed and the company (i.e. do not always send the same letter). Select aspects of your profile that are relevant to the position and present your motivations convincingly for every particular position.

Cover letter

The cover letter or letter of motivation is an opportunity to communicate directly with your desired employer. You present your qualifications and strengths and explain the reasons why you are interested in applying for the position. An outstanding letter of motivation allows you to distinguish yourself positively in the eyes of your prospective employer and ensures you will be remembered.

What to keep in mind

The cover letter should be written in the style of a business letter.

It should always contain the following:

  • Your contact details
  • The complete address of your prospective employer along with the name of the contact person (without “ATTN:”)
  • Place and date
  • Subject line (in bold typeface, but the word “Subject” is not written)
  • Direct addressing of the contact person
  • Text (ideally begins with a convincing first line and explains your current job, your qualifications for the position, your motivation for applying as well as the commitment and goals you would bring to the position)
  • Valediction (“Best regards”, “Warm regards”)
  • Signature
  • Reference to any enclosures
  • The language should be succinct (the letter should not exceed one page). Avoid "flowery" language.
  • Present yourself confidently, without selling yourself arrogantly; use descriptive expressions to explain your current duties and qualifications.
  • Tailor your letter of motivation to the position listed and potential employer. Do not use the same letter for every application.


In addition to the letter of motivation, the CV provides the opportunity to present more in-depth information about yourself. The CV usually has a tabular structure (no body text) and uses short phrases. The sections should have an appropriate heading and are structured in reverse chronological order. The CV should be no longer than two pages and, much like the cover letter, tailored to match athe specific position.

Every CV used to apply for jobs in Switzerland should contain the following:

  • Personal details (name, address, phone number, professional email address, date of birth, nationality/nationalities; optional: marital status and children)
  • Photo (not mandatory, but a good photo of a congenial, confident person always makes a positive impression)
  • Educational qualifications (schools and all degrees starting with the school leaving examination, including focal area and subjects [the topic of the thesis and final grade if applicable])
  • Professional experience (employer and location as well as function and brief job description)
  • Languages (starting with your native language, use internationally recognized standards for foreign languages and list any language certificates you hold)
  • Computer skills
  • Any other skills
  • Any continuing education
  • Hobbies, extracurricular activities, miscellaneous activities, stays abroad (mention activities appropriate to the position and which reflect positive character traits, e.g., volunteer work)
  • The layout should be clearly structured and simple.
  • Explain any gaps in your education and career path.
  • Keep to an appropriate length (no more than two pages). The prospective employer should be able to gain an impression of you within a few seconds.


An invitation to an interview is great news! And being well prepared is the name of the game. For this reason, you should do some in-depth research about the prospective employer and company (e.g. company history, business segments, customers, etc.). You should also reread the job ad as well as the application documents you submitted. The interview gives you the opportunity to present yourself in the most favorable light. Explain your motivations and strengths as well as find out more about your potential place of work.

What to keep in mind

  • Come to your interview well prepared and on time.
  • Wear appropriate clothing for the position and make sure that you are comfortable in them.
  • Remember the names of the people you speak with and address them by their names.
  • Remain focused and interested during the interview and do not be content simply answering questions. Instead, sell yourself and also ask questions. For example:
    What perspectives for growth does the job offer?
    What continuing education opportunities exist?
    What expectations do you have of the prospective job holder?
    What are the major tasks in the near future?
    What is the next step in the application process?

Standard questions

Questions that are always asked

  • About yourself
    Please introduce yourself.
    Tell us a bit about yourself.
    How would your previous boss / friends describe you?
    What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?
    What was your biggest success or failure?
    How do you deal with criticism?
    Describe your last job. What did you do most recently?
    Why did you select this course of studies specifically?
  • About your work style
    How would you describe your work style?
    What do you know about our company?
    How do you react to stress?
    How do you deal with tight deadlines?
    Do you consider yourself a team player?
  • Regarding the employer
    What do you know about our company/organization?
    Why have you applied to us?
    What are your expectations of our company? Of your superiors?
    Why should we choose you over someone else? What makes you an exact match for us?
  • Your expectations and goals
    What are your professional goals?
    Where do you see yourself in five/ten years? What would you like to have achieved by then?
    What are your salary requirements?
  • Tricky situations and miscellaneous
    Where else have you applied?
    Do you have any other questions?


When answering all of these questions, what is most important is to remain calm and relaxed and respond as positively to the questions as possible. Do not become unsettled, and remain honest and sincere.

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