How to apply for a job

SMEs are underrepresented in the job ads. They often do not have large budgets to carry out expensive recruitment campaigns. The advantage of this is that free application is meaningful in these companies and your application will usually be taken seriously into consideration. With an open application you already show that your motivation is good. Maybe there is no job for you at the moment, but your data will certainly be stored in the company's database, especially after a good application.

On this page we would like to give you some tips on how to write a good CV, complemented with a motivation letter and maybe even a video to distinguish yourself from other applicants.

Additional tip: Be sure to check out the forums of colleges and universities where SMEs also share vacancies. Doing a good internship during your studies will also increase your chances of getting a job in an SME.

Your CV (resume)

A Standard CV consists of:

  • 1-2 pages (max.)
  • Your CV is a personal marketing document used to ‘sell’ yourself to potential employers. It should tell them about you, your professional history and your skills, abilities and achievements. Ultimately, it should highlight why you’re the best person for the job.
  • Content: personal data, work experience, education, additional skills (and sometimes more about your personality)
  • Special emphasis on professional work experience with function, time period, tasks and achievements
  • Language knowledge (different languages). If you're not a native speaker, rate your language skills via following categories: basic, able to talk with colleagues, able to talk with customers or fluent

(Source: NIMAP tool by Talentree and Vlerick Business Schooll

Guidelines for CV writing

  • Start with your contact information (name, address, date of birth, contact details such as email, phone number and social media profiles like LinkedIn).
  • Proceed with listing your work experience with your most recent experience first. State your position and employer as well as your responsibilities and start/leave dates. Make sure to share achievements too (preferably achievements that are relevant for the job you're applying for).
  • List your education (also beginning with the most recent diploma) including degree, location, start/finish dates, study focus and thesis topic if relevant to your further career.
  • Definitely add all your language skills.
  • Name IT skills and additional work-related courses you may have completed.
  • Also add a personal touch: not only leisure time activities, but volunteer work, etc.
  • Always keep the structure of your CV in mind, use clear headings and subheadings.
  • More and more employers and job seekers are using social media to apply for jobs or recruit staff. Therefore, make sure that you also show your best side there. Linkedin is especially very famous for finding a job. As a highly educated job seeker, you should create a professional LinkedIn profile as soon as possible.
  • Employers are increasingly open to a resume clip. That is a short video in which you introduce yourself. With a movie you stand out more among all the paper resumes. Check these tips for a convincing video-cv.

(Sources: NIMAP tool by Talentree and Vlerick Business School and VDAB)

Most wanted skills

  • Communication skills (oral communication, presentation skills)
  • Interpersonal skills (relating & inspiring, conflict handling, negotiation skills)
  • Teamwork skills (group dynamics, group decision making)
  • Adaptability and learnability (adjusting to change, managing tasks, setting priorities, learning fast)
  • Analytical skills (assessing, gathering information, decision making)
  • Technical proficiency (competence in your field of study)
  • Leadership skills (taking charge, coaching, delegating)
  • Organizational skills (designing, planning, implementing)
  • Multicultural skills (awareness, handling diversity)

(Source: NIMAP tool by Talentree and Vlerick Business School)

Motivation letter

  • In addition to a CV, a job application or motivation letter is often requested during job application . In this letter you can stress your competencies and experiences.
  • Motivation letters are a very important part of the written job application and they allow you to illustrate your unique qualities. In a motivation letter, you can elaborate on your personal strengths and emphasize your value to the company. The motivation letter often determines if you get invited to an interview or not. This short but personal letter should convince the company that you are both motivated and qualified, to help them see the match. Some recruiters will not even look at your application if a motivation letter is missing.
  • Make sure that you write a separate motivation letter for every job application! As the jobs you apply for may differ in tasks or requirements, always adapt the letter to the job.
  • Do not make your motivation letter longer than 250 words - one page is more than enough. You either react to a job vacancy or you apply spontaneously, but in either case, make sure to refer to the correct company and job.
  • Your letter should have a good balance between professional relevance and personality, and you should not be too modest, neither too self-assured. To structure your motivation letter, you preferably choose a chronological order. To really convince the recruiter of your match with their vacancy, try to use the same description of certain skills, points or demands that were made in the job offer. See it as a complementary document to your CV, where you can distinguish your profile from other candidates for this job.
  • The letter is a chance to show them a glimpse of your personality and your creativity, so feel free to also take an unconventional approach - but of course this depends on the function you're applying for (e.g. marketing people are generally expected to be more creative than IT consultants). When you're finished writing your cover letter, make sure to proofread it and have others check it as well.

Tips for a compelling video resume

Are you a good speaker and do you want to stand out among the other candidates? Add a video resume to your application. This will not only attract the employer's attention, but also make you appear motivated and show who you are.

1. Know yourself

Presenting yourself in a video is not everyone's cup of tea. Are you not a smooth talker and do you find it difficult to sell yourself on camera? Then it's better to stick to a written resume. Otherwise a video resume can turn against you and make you stand out in a negative way.

2. Not for all jobs

Only choose a video CV if it suits the job or the company.

For example, if you're applying for a job as an accountant, then a video CV offers little added value. However, are you applying for a communicative job with lots of customer contact (for example in sales, media, PR, marketing...), then a video CV is a powerful medium because it allows you to demonstrate that you are social, enthusiastic, persuasive, open, spontaneous ...

The same applies to creative jobs or positions where your language skills are crucial. In this way you immediately prove that you are creative and that you master your languages.

3. Explore the market

Before you start your video, it is a good idea to look at a number of video CVs. You can find a lot of examples on YouTube. That way you will get inspiration and see what works and what doesn't.

4. Keep it short

If your video takes too long, you will lose the employer's attention. 1 minute is ideal, 2 minutes is the absolute maximum.

5. Tailor your work

In a video CV you show very briefly and in a personal way why you fit in with the job and the company in question. So, just like with your cover letter and CV, you have to adapt your video CV to the job you are applying for.

Show in your video that you have tailor-made it. For example, talk about an incident that recently made the company into the news, incorporate a quote from the CEO, respond to a publicity campaign, refer to a well-known product of theirs, etc.

6. Be fluent and friendly

Practice in advance what you are going to say so that you come across smoothly and spontaneously. Pretend you are sitting across a person and tell your story. Don’t read your text from a paper. Also remember to smile regularly.

Watch your video critically: do you come across spontaneously and do you show enough of your personality? If not: start again. Practice, practice, practice until you get it right.

7. Use your camera well

You don't need professional equipment to record a video resume. A webcam, smartphone or camera are more than adequate. But do follow these guidelines:

  • Do not hold your smartphone or camera yourself while filming. Ask someone to film you or use a tripod.
  • Use your smartphone horizontally. Otherwise you will see black edges.
  • Make sure the camera is close to your face so that you are filmed in close-up. That way your eyes are clearly visible. 
  • Place your camera at eye level. The idea is that you look straight into the employer's face.
  • Take the lighting into account: film during the day so that there is natural daylight. Choosing an indoor location? Stand facing the window. The natural light makes you easier to see and makes it more pleasant for the employer to watch you. Certainly do not stand with your back to a window. Then there may be too much backlight so that only your silhouette is visible.

9. Make sure you can be understood

Don't talk too fast, avoid dialect and film in a place without background noise. Make a test recording and check whether you can be understood.

10. Make sure there is variety

Do you want it to be a bit more? Alternate between images in which you speak and an infographic or animation with music. That way your video will not get boring. There are many apps for editing your video.

For the computer: Wevideo, Movavi, Magisto, Open Shot, Lightworks, Free Video Editor...

Mobile apps: Merge video, Splice, InShot, FilmoraGo, Adobe Premiere Clip...

11. Be careful with images and music.

Only use images or music that are royalty free and cite the source if necessary.

Rights-free images: Pixabay, Freeimages, Pexels, Freepik...

Rights-free music: YouTube Audio Library, Bensound...

12. Choose YouTube or Vimeo

Video resumes are usually too large to send via email. Publish your video on a site like YouTube or Vimeo. Copy the url and paste it into your cover letter or resume. Include that the link is to your video resume.

Don't want your video to be visible to everyone on YouTube or Vimeo? See how to set it to 'Hidden' under 'Settings'. That way it is only visible to those who received the link.

13. Have your video CV screened

Satisfied with the result? Show your video to your family or friends and ask if your personality stands out well.

Check these 5 tips by Nic Balthazar (Dutch, 5min35sec)

Job interview: Questions and Tips