So let's start. If you're applying for an online job, it's pretty likely that you won't be getting a face-to-face interview, so your application letter and resume are your first and last chances to impress your employer.
The application letter
As mentioned in the Five Big No-No's When Submitting a Job Application, you should never, never send in your resume without a cover letter, also known as the application letter. It's just plain bad manners.
Besides, the resume simply lists your credentials. Employers knows (or should know) that they will be working with real people, so they want to see your personality as well. A lot of personality can be seen through the application letter.
Application letters are, in fact, pretty simple. Here's a quick rundown on what you should put in:
- Salutation: As much as possible, find out the name of the person you are applying to and his/her title, if any. Write "Dear Mr. Cruz" or "Dear Ms. Cruz" or "Dear Atty. Cruz" with a colon at the end. Remember, you are writing a business letter, not a personal one.
Do not write "Dear Juan" or "Hi, Mr. Cruz." If you don't know the name of the person, write, "Dear Sir/Madam." Do not write "To whom it may concern"!
- Paragraph 1: Mention what job you are applying for, and when and where you found the job ad. If you have any attachments to your e-mail, list them down here too.
- Paragraphs 2 to 3: Explain what makes you a good fit for the job without going into too much detail. You can say, for instance, that you have been designing Web sites for top companies for five years and you've never missed a deadline in your entire career. Let your resume list down the names of the companies for you.
List down, too, what makes you want to work with this company. This is a good way to show off your research skills, which is always a valued thing among online workers. If you know anything good about the company, mention it here in your application letter.
Remember to keep your paragraphs short, three sentences maximum. If you need to use bullet points, do so, but it should be a maximum of five bullet points.
- Paragraph 4: Let them know that you are looking forward to hearing from them. Also give your contact details, in case they would like to interview you via e-mail, IM, or phone even before they open your resume.
Note that a Skype account tends to give a better impression than Yahoo Messenger (YM), as the latter could make your prospective employer wonder how much time you spend chatting with your friends on YM (as if people do not have friends on Skype). Be prepared for a Skype call. For this, you will need a microphone and speakers, or a headset. Video interviews are very seldom done, so you don't need a Web cam.
A word about e-mails: use a professional sounding one. For heaven's sake, do not use your firstname.lastname@example.org account. If you're applying as a individual freelances, a Yahoo or Gmail account is fine, but stick to the email@example.com format.
If you're applying as a company, you'd best have a company domain name in your e-mail. Mycompany@gmail.com simply lacks the credibility (and impressiveness) of firstname.lastname@example.org. I mean, really, in this day and age, what kind of company are you if you don't even have a domain name?
A word of caution: use your company e-mail only if you are applying in behalf of your company. If you are applying as an individual, do not use your company email. Your bosses can probably access your work email, and they will not be happy to see that you are applying to other jobs, even part-time ones.
- Closing. I tend to favor "Respectfully yours" and use that closing in all my application letters. It is formal, and it shows proper respect. You can use whatever closing you are comfortable with, as long as you keep it formal and respectful. Write your complete name at the end, not your nickname.
- Attachments. If your prospective employer did not specify a work sample in the job ad, find your best work that you think is closest to the kind of output this job you are applying to might want from you. I repeat: choose your best work, and make sure it is relevant to the job. You may send one or two samples, but make sure they are in just one file. Don't expect the person doing the screening to open two files of sample work. PDF files are great because they ensure that the file looks exactly the same in the receiver's computer as it did in yours.
If the job ad contained instructions on what work you should submit and how many, follow those instructions carefully. If you can't follow instructions during the application process, how much less will you be able to follow instructions afterward?
In part II, we'll talk about how to write a winning resume, what to include, and what to not include.