Online Application: 4 Dos And 4 Don’ts


In 99% of any given application process, the online contact will be step 1 – may it be via email, social media or as a response to a job ad.

What are the absolute MUST criteria of an online application that will get you the first interview?

When I did my research on this topic, the career advice I found says more or less the same. I have a slightly different point of view and structured my posting in “The Art and The Science”. Guess what: the new stuff is rather in “The Art” than in “The Science”…

The Science:

  • Email address: make it professional and traditional. I think there are few alternatives to “firstname.name@provider.com”. You know that you should not use “WannaHaveFun@hotpartiesinvegas.com” and neither your professional email address. Also, do not change the orthography of your name: this week I met a candidate who is called “Francois” yet his email address reads “Fancois”. Of course 8 out of 10 people will get it wrong…
  • Mastering Outlook: The cover letter should be in the email body and not in a Word attachment. I also see over and over again people who put a date and address line on top of the email address which would be the correct place in a letter (in an email, the end is the right place for it). If you are nor sure on how to write an email, google it.
  • Size: Don’t send emails that are bigger than 3 MB.
  • Typos are not acceptalbe and there is no exuse for them. Alwais dubble check.

The Art:

  • Make it short: The cover letter should be short and concise. If your text is longer than one screen shot, it is too long. I read many many many applications and resumes per day and take less than 1 minute for each. Another unbelievable story: one of my fellow recruiters who has been working in this industry for years recently gave an interview in an important French newspaper and said “The cover letter is of utmost importance”. I asked him if he really thinks so and he answered “No, of course not. I don’t read it most of the times” (key learning: don’t believe everything that is written – unless it is on www.kennedyexecutive.com of course…).
  • Make it general: Beware of personalized phrases such as “to work for you, Mr. Stegemann, would be…”, “a role at Kennedy Executive Search & Outplacement means to me” or “I have been passionate about working in the morgue industry since I was a kid”. They do not really sound so personalized and 1 out of 10 applications like this I get, give wrong names or industries…
  • Make it specific: I once read that a good subject line should be a summary of the email. And I agree. Do not use “Stegemann CV” or “As discussed” but at least “Application for the job posting as XYZ, reference 123”. The best would be to outline your Unique Selling Points like “Sales Manager, 10 years international experience in B2B, fluent in English and Hungarian”, may it be for a specific job or not. Preparing your elevator pitch can help you to put into one sentence what makes you special.
  • Make it interactive: we talked about the signature under “The Science”. Why not add links to your LinkedIn and (if you have) Twitter account? We are not there yet but I guess one day we will not send resumes anymore and have all online. Your LinkedIn profile is most likely a shortened version of your resume which shows how you sell yourself and how you manage priorities. If you use Twitter on the job, this is a showcase on your communication skills and priority management.


I think the science part is not where you should prove creativity and the points I mentioned are in my opinion non-negotiable. Be, however, different in the second part and we will be curious to get to know you.

Jorg Stegemann
Jorg Stegemann - Headhunter, Certified Coach and Business Writer - is the CEO of Kennedy Executive Search. Apart from running Kennedy's company blog, he writes for Forbes, BBC and other media.
  1. Perry Reply

    Very helpful comments. As business persons, we are aware of the essence of time when selling our ideas as well as ourselves. Get to the point in clear and concise terms. I am the right person for this assignment. Thank you Mr. Stegemann

  2. Vince Reply

    I agree Jorg!

    I would also add that you must follow the application criteria laid out. To not do so may disqualify you from the next stage.

  3. Jorg Stegemann
    Jorg Stegemann Reply

    Vince, Perry

    Thanks a lot for your comments.

  4. Philippe Reply

    As always excellent comments

    • Jorg Stegemann
      Jorg Stegemann Reply

      Thanks, Philippe!

  5. Michael Reply

    Hi Jorg,

    I don’t know if this was intentional, but you also have a few typos/ spelling mistakes in the article. As we say, practise what you preach. Otherwise, great article! I look forward to receiving more newsletters from you!

    • Jorg Stegemann
      Jorg Stegemann Reply

      Hi Michael,

      Yes, the four typos under “typo” are intentional. Did you spot more?

  6. Daniel Reply

    Thank you for the input. Some of the dos and don’ts are just common sense, while others can be somewhat easily overlooked.

  7. Maher Reply

    I loved your posting, 4 Dos & 4 Don’ts.
    The best part is the way you peppered it with humor. Made it much more interesting and pleasing to read. Will also help one remember your advice.
    You’re a scientist & an artist.

    • Jorg Stegemann
      Jorg Stegemann Reply

      Thanks, Maher!

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