Questions and answers

Should I handwrite or type my letter?

Although a handwritten letter of application is appreciated, it is no longer expected. If you decide to type your letter and will be sending it electronically, scan your signature and paste it into your letter as a sign of courtesy and consideration.

How long should my letter be - a page or longer?

It is best to keep to one page. Don't put too much in your letter or paraphrase your CV.  Keep it short and concise, or your key points will get lost. 

Who should I send my application to?

It is always best to send it to a named person but, if you are sending a speculative letter of application, address it to the Human Resources manager or manager of a specific department.  It's worth phoning the organisation to obtain a specific name.

Should I make speculative applications or apply only in response to job advertisements?

If you are making an unsolicited application, you must prepare it well so it gets noticed.  Large employers receive dozens of speculative applications every day, and most end up in the bin.   Make sure your application is targeted, with a focus on quality rather than quantity. 

Responding to an ad is easier as the content of the job ad and the job description will help you decide what to put in your letter. 

It's worth sending both speculative applications as well as those in response to job ads.

Should I indicate my salary expectations?

No, and this is especially true for speculative applications.  Salary is usally discussed later in the recruitment process.  However, this does not apply to all trades, eg sales.  If the organisation asks you about this, then give it as gross annual salary.  If you really feel you need to state your expecations, then put them in a footnoote.  

When should I follow up with the recruiter?

Recruiters normally wait a few days before processing applications, so it is best to be patient and wait two to three weeks before following up.

If you are sending speculative applications, following up demonstrates your motivation  and interest, but don't overdo it.

How do I interpret the reply / no response?

Processing an application can take several months.  Keep a copy of your application and check your application has arrived (expecially if you get no response).

There are three kinds of response:

  • Negative
  • Negative but with a request to keep your details on file
  • Intermediate response to let you know they have received your application and are processing it or have passed it on to a departmental manager

Post, Internet or fax?

Nowadays, most applications are sent by email and/or by post when requested by the employer. You can double up (eg email and fax) to ensure receipt.  Applications can get lost in the post, and email messages can be ignored or missed.