July 9, 2008

How to effectively apply for a job by e-mail

It seems like many companies nowadays prefer that applicants apply for a job through e-mail.

And this makes sense. After all, it saves on all the paper wasted by applying via fax. On top of that, applying by e-mail is a more flexible online application than some of the restrictive systems utilized by a growing number of large corporations (e.g. the Taleo system, or Workopolis' application system). While the online application system makes recruiting more streamlined, a common complaint is that qualified applications are "screened out" due to restrictive yes/no questions.

Luckily, some companies still have a general HR e-mail address where all applications are sent to and then someone reviews them online and prints out the ones that will be called in for an interview.

So, here are some things to consider:

1) What format should your resume be in?

While this seems like a no-brainer, some hiring managers/recruiters will only accept resumes in certain file formats. For example, some companies will only accept resumes in PDF format due to fears over viruses.

If that's the case, I checked around, and found some great websites that can help you change the format of a file.

If you need something in .pdf (Adobe) format, click here.

If you need to convert your resume to .doc (MS Word) format, click here.

2) Who do you address your resume to?

In the case of an e-mail application, try and find out the name of the person who will be reviewing the applications. A junior HR clerk always feels happy when s/he comes across a resume that was sent to their attention - it's good for the ego!

If you cannot find out who will be reviewing the resume, you can address your resume to the attention of Human Resources and open with either "Dear Sir/Madam" or "To Whom It May Concern" - I personally prefer the latter phrase because it doesn't sound as pretentious and stuffy as "Sir" and "Madam".

3) Should you attach your cover letter & resume?

This is a tricky question. Should you have your resume and cover letter in a separate attachment or make them part of the body of the e-mail.

There are two different schools of thought on this issue.

On the one hand, some recruiters would say that having a separate document with your cover letter and resume looks more professional and allows you to maintain the formatting and spacing of your resume.

Those on the other side point to "technical glitches" that often appear during recruitment campaigns. There is always the fear that the attachment does not open properly. Those in this camp argue that it's better to copy and paste your resume and cover letter into the body of the e-mail so that you can be sure it arrives.

Personally, I like to fuse both positions and put my cover letter in the body of the e-mail while attaching my resume. That way, a hiring manager can still learn a great deal about my skills and experiences, even if my attached resume does not open. And besides, by doing this, I force myself to write a powerful, hard-hitting cover letter that really highlights what I could offer to the company.

Either way you decide to do it, remember that applying by e-mail is here to stay. It's the new "apply by fax" method.

Just remember to carefully read the job ad, to send your resume in the appropriate format, to address your application to someone, and to consider the merits of attaching your resume versus copying and pasting it into the body of the e-mail.

Whatever you decide, make it your personal style and make it work for the jobs you are applying for.

Good luck!

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