Essential etiquette for online job applications

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Are you applying for jobs online? Do you know how to conduct yourself so as not to appear an ignorant electronic oaf? Are you familiar with the nuances of emailed cover letters?


This article is for you. Read on.

1) Covering letter, or not a covering letter?

If you're applying for a job advertised on this site, or elsewhere, electronically, is there any point in writing a covering letter?

Yes. But keep it short.

"A covering letter is good, but we don't ask for one as standard," says Trevor Symons at recruitment firm Selby Jennings. "The best covering letters aren't too long winded and simply outline your technical capabilities," he adds. ""They should also be tailored to the job you are applying for and not just one huge body of text regarding your motivations for a generic role."

The crafting of this covering letter becomes far more important when you're applying directly to employers, rather than indirectly through recruitment firms.

"If you're applying directly to an employer, then yes - you absolutely should send a covering letter," says Ray Baptiste, a senior recruiter at Gazprom. "It should effectively be an executive summary of your CV, highlighting why you're right for the role."

2) Covering letter in the body of the email or as an attachment?

So you're writing a covering letter. Where should you put it?

Symons advises against appending it as an attachment to an email. ""With the volume of applications recruiters receive, an attachment is very easy to miss, and I would suggest that hiring managers are the same" he says.

If you're applying direct to employers Baptiste advises definitely appending the covering letter as an attachment AND posting it in the body of the email. "If you send a covering letter as an email, it may get lost," he points out. "In order to save it, hiring managers will need to paste it into a word file and they might not do so.

"I'd write a synopsis of the covering letter in the body of the email and append the full covering letter as an attachment," he recommends.

3) Font and case?

Which variety of font should you select for your online CV and carefully crafted covering letter?

Janet Moran, managing director at the CV House, says your online application needs to be easy to read on screen. For this reason, she advises against the use of Times New Roman and recommends more accessible fonts like Sans Serif, Tahoma and Verdana.

If you are GIVEN TO WRITING IN UPPER CASE, don't. Using capitals in your CV or covering letter will make you look CRAZY.

4) Subject line

Add a subject line to your application emails. Failure to do so will make your application harder to process. Evidently, the subject line should say which job you're applying for.

5) Self-restraint

When applying for jobs online, you may feel the urge to apply for all sorts of things that look like they might apply to you even though you don't really have the qualifications or experience specified.


This is especially so if you're applying directly to employers. "If you send in too many applications, people will become over familiar with you as an applicant," cautions Baptiste. "It's better to be targeted in your applications," he advises.

Recruiters are less resistant to multiple applications, but don't welcome multiple applications for the same job, or even single applications for jobs you're patently unsuited to. "It can get a bit draining trying to filter applications from recent graduates applying for VP and director-level roles," says one recruiter.

6) Chasing or not chasing?

You've sent in your online application, should you chase it up?

Yes. But not immediately.

"Leave it for a few days before chasing your application," says Logan Naidu at The Cornell Partnership. "Sometimes people slip through the net, so it's always worth making a call.

"However, it's not worth chasing and chasing when we've already told you that you're not suitable for the job," he adds.

7) Attachment size

This is unlikely to be an issue if you're just sending your CV and a covering letter, but if - for some reason - you also decide to send scanned documents of references, exam passes and photographs of yourself as a child (not recommended), be aware that emails larger than 3MB may be filtered out by firewalls.


Finally, be aware that a silly email address will just suggest you are a silly candidate. Baptiste says web developers are prone to foolish addresses because they often have their own companies, sometimes with foolish names.

If your personal email address is zany, create a new one along the lines of It may not make you stand out, but it will not make you look mad.

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