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Essential etiquette for online job applications

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.

8) Sarah@CrazyPig.com

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 Sarah123488@googlemail.com. It may not make you stand out, but it will not make you look mad.

Comments (19)

  1. What a totally useless article.

  2. There is no harm in being reminded of the ground rules now and again. Especially when one has not been in the job market for some time.

  3. @ Keith. I agree, the articles on this site just get worse everyday, I know the educational level of the nation is steadily falling but who actually writes this – a 13 year old? In fact, i have decided, from this point, not to bother reading anything on this site as it is taking up time in my life that I will never get back.

  4. “In order to save it, hiring managers will need to paste it into a word file and they might not do so.”

    WTF? You attach a pdf’ed cover letter and they copypaste it into a Word doc “in order to save it”. None of the headhunters I speak to are that stupid.

    Other than that, I agree with Keith above

  5. @Merlin – Thanks. Actually, I am not a teenager any more and have not been for some time. As this is a jobs website, this is an article intended to cover the fundamentals of applying for a job. It has come to my attention, for example, that not everyone knows about covering letters, I guess you are one of the fortunate ones in that respect. Maybe you should count yourself lucky.

    Sarah, Editor, eFinancialCareers Reply
  6. I do not think i have learned much from this article with the exception of not using Times New Roman as a font, which you by the way use while this article was published.

  7. I found this article very helpful. Did what it said it would, don’t know what you were expecting,.

  8. I think that some of the points made in the article were useful eg. where to put the covering letter and whether to chase or not. Also details like font and attachment size had not occurred to me. Thanks, in spite of some of the other comments above. Robert

  9. I found the negative comments quite funny. No one is going to get you guys a job, Llosers.

  10. If you can get something out of the article, great – if not, stop reading and move on. I once received a CV from someone whose email address was @visiblepantyline – she didn’t get an interview.

  11. I’ve been looking for a job for quite some time now and articles like this are a great tool to double-check your application process. Sure, you may know the stuff already, but what’s the harm in double checking?

    It is also reassuring to know you are actually doing what you are supposed to and not missing out on jobs because of some silly little mistake such as the ones outlined above.

    Also good to see a head hunter’s p.o.v so that you know how to make their job easier and thus make them like you/remember you a little more!

    @Blair : read the article again…what it says about attachments makes perfect sense

  12. @ Cordelia – You made a big mistake. I received an application from the owner of that email address and the applicant got hired: the most productive employee we have ever had. Prejudice is a HUGE mistake.

  13. Can somebody tell me, what is the best entry position into financial service? I have studied towards degree in Business and Management , however, having financial courses I find out that its more interesting as my management study. How can I apply for entry position or what is the best for beginning?

  14. I liked the article, sometimes the most obvious things tend to be overlooked, and not all of them were so obvious anyway…Sarah keep up the good work.

  15. @ cordelia – lolz. btw this article was useful but very basic. Most of us who visit this website past those periods where we needed to think how to make CV or Cover letter.

  16. @ Al Rahim
    So why are you reading the article then and all of the comments?
    Either you are so senior that you have nothing do and can spend all day on this site or you are unemployed.
    I thought the points should be common sense but it does what it says on the tin.

  17. This removes a doubt and is definitely helpful. Thanks to the efinancial careers team.

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