Perfecting The Job Application: Do’s and Dont’s

I’ve received many job applications over the years and while I appreciate every single one of them, some are far below par. In fact, I’m often surprised how many mistakes some people make, how little research they do about the company, its products and the job offer, and how little love they put into their resumes and cover letters.

All of these mistakes can be spotted very easily which is a shame because after all, you’ll be working many hours every day for that company and you’ll probably do it for several years. So why not invest a little more time into finding and applying for that job which you really want? If you’re currently looking to apply for a new job, take a minute to browse the following list of do’s and don’ts.

DON’T

  • Don’t send to the wrong email address. Most companies have set up processes to review applications. They usually state the email address in the job offer. Send to that email address. Don’t send to info@ or to another employee, unless you know them and they agreed to recommend you.
  • Don’t address the wrong person. Some job offers state a contact person. Address that person in your cover letter. I’ve received cover letters addressed to a “Mr. Miller” more than once. Miller who?
  • Don’t make spelling and grammar errors. I see this all too often. People forget commas and words or misspell them. Having spelling errors and bad grammar in your cover letter and resume implies that the work you will later deliver for the company (if you get the job) will be less than perfect. You strive for excellence. Show it. Be diligent.
  • Don’t mention the wrong company name. I know that some applicants use some kind of template for their cover letter – and then just change the contact person, address, and a name. Some even make these bold! “Dear Sir/Madam: I am writing to express my interest in the position at Microsoft”. That’s nice but if you’re really interested in a position at Microsoft, why did you send your application to me?
  • Don’t send your application/CV in a strange file format. Make it easy for your recipients who need to review your application. Send your documents in PDF format.
  • Don’t send huge attachments. I’ve received applications with 20MB attachments, password-protected ZIP files (with the password mentioned in the email), strange file formats I could not open easily, links to websites where I was expected to download stuff, etc. Please keep it simple.
  • Don’t bullsh@t. “I would like to work for your esteemed corporation, a global leader in the software industry. Your business and consumers products are well known and respected all over the world.” When I read such universal bullsh@t, I’m tempted to hit the delete button right away. Such applicants are relying on big buzz words to sound impressive but really they have clearly not done any research about our business, our market, or our products. They don’t show any genuine interest. This application has probably been sent to a few dozen or even hundreds of companies. Ever wondered why so few reply? You’ve no doubt heard about the terrifying efficiency cover letter that went viral around Wall Street. This is of course an extreme example but it shows how transparent such bullshit is and how much of a joke your application quickly becomes.

DO

  • Explain why you love the company/product. Tell them about your experience using their products; tell them what you like about their company. Check the latest news and press releases about the company and its products.
  • Explain why you would like to work with this company. Yes, this requires research. It’s an investment. But sending 2 or 3 well-researched applications to companies in which you are truly interested, will pay off much more than sending a generic application to two dozen companies which you know nothing about. And, above all, you should convince yourself first if and why you’d like to join that company.
  • Know the people. Using today’s social networks will give you great insight into many companies. It’s good to know the people, what they do, and what they have to say. Check them out before they interview you.
  • Explain how you fit in; and if you don’t have the right skills, sell your attitude. If you show how interested you are in the company and how determined you are to succeed in the position, that is worth far more. Skills can be developed over time and hence many will hire for attitude not for skills. Again, don’t bullshit or mislead – they will find out very soon.

If you have any of your own do’s and dont’s for job applications, perhaps based on your own applications or perhaps as an employer who has received applications, please feel free to share your experiences and feedback in the comments below. Good luck with your next application!

Andrew Donnelly is the Online Marketing Manager for BeamYourScreen. Founded in 2005, the German-based company is now a major international provider of online collaboration solutions for thousands of companies worldwide. Andrew comes from a background of Business Administration, having studied in Australia, Denmark as well as Sweden, in conjunction with his experience in sales and marketing. Today Andrew leads BeamYourScreen’s international online marketing operations, primarily for one of the company’s main products for Web conferencing and remote support – Mikogo.