Job application is a process with its rules and etiquette. Follow the key job application rules to master the process, make a memorable first impression, and get the job.

What job application etiquette is

Job application etiquette is the set of rules to maintain appropriate behavior during the job application process. Such rules include:

  • Understanding the right role to apply.
  • How to prepare a job application.
  • The job application mistakes to avoid.
  • How to improve during the process.

As a job seeker, you should respect job application etiquette to appropriately manage the process and deal with recruiters.

Job application rules. How to apply for a job.

Best tips to write a cover letter and an effective job application.

Job application etiquette rules

1) Keep in mind that job application is a process

Job application is a process. Nobody gets it right at the first attempt. Nobody gets it right without planning or structure.

Be ready for several rejections. They are a necessary and normal element of the process. Do not give up. However, do not repeat the same mistakes.

If you got rejected, something was not right. Maybe you applied for a company or role that did not fit your profile. Maybe the application was not great. Or there are typos in your resume. Or the company filled the role before they read your application.

Use each rejection as a data point. It is an opportunity to keep improving your job application process.

Job application mistakes. Do not apply to roles you are not a good git for. Change only one factor. Seniority. Geography. Role. Industry.

How to make job applications for the correct roles

Apply to roles that are a good fit for you. Recruiters reject applications if the applicant is too senior or too junior for the role. Thus, you should aim high but be reasonable. You should have around 80% of the years of experience and skills required for the role. 

Avoid applying to roles too different from your current one. Usually, it is possible to change 1 factor out of these 3:

  • Geography.
  • Role.
  • Industry. 

Changing 2 or 3 factors at the same time is a stretch.

2) Understand recruiters and their process to review job applications

The target company is your customer. They have their needs. They want to:

  • Fill the role fast. 
  • Find the right fit for it.

Before you apply for a job, empathize with the target company. In their shoes, what would you look for in a candidate? What do you think are the keywords they are looking for?

Job application keywords etiquette

Several companies receive hundreds of job applications for the same role. Thus, recruiters do not have time to read applications. They skim them. They look for keywords. Some of them use applicant tracking system software (ATS) to screen and weed out applications without the right keywords. 

Do the same. Read the job description and look for keywords. Identify the most crucial keywords for that role. Then, make sure to include them in your job application.

3) Adapt your resume to the job application

Adapt your resume to the job application. Use synonyms. Reword your resume to match the keywords in the job description. 

Similarly, reword your experience. Stress your experiences and activities that match the requirements in the job description. 

Copycat job applications are against etiquette

Do not send the same application over and over. Adapt your resume and cover letter to each role. Include the most important keywords. Mirror the language and the vocabulary of the job description. 

4) Write an effective cover letter

Few people read cover letters. Still, it is good etiquette to write one. Do not send your resume alone. 

Keep the cover letter short. A few lines work. Match the tone and communication style of your target company. Do not write a long formal letter to a start-up. Or a two-line informal email to a traditional law firm. 

Write your application in business language. Do not be too informal. Be clear and concise and follow the crucial business writing rules.

State clearly why you are applying. 

  • What do you like about the role and the company? Make them feel unique.
  • How you can help in the role? Base this section on your resume and factual experience.
  • How will the role be an advancement for you? What do you hope to learn from it?

Finally, you can use the cover letter to address any relevant shortcomings in your resume. Such as a long employment gap.

5) Send that job application and move on

Do not spend too much time on one single application. Some preparation work is necessary. However, do not over-invest. 

Send that job application. Then, move on to the next one.  

Typos are bad job application etiquette

You should not over-invest on a single job application. However, you should still take the time to check the quality of your application. Typos are one of the most common job application mistakes. Recruiters reject an application right away if it contains typos. 

Check the spelling of your application. Read each word individually. Pay special attention to the names:

  • Name of the recruiter.
  • Name of the company you are applying to.
  • Job title.

6) Keep improving your job applications

Send job applications in waves. Apply to 5 or 10 jobs at a time. Then, take some time to observe the results. Did anyone respond? What went well or bad? 

Make assumptions. If something did not work, what could it be? Review the key job application rules. Change something in your process. Send another wave of job applications. Repeat.

Do not get too stressed or negative. Often, companies reject candidates for reasons that are independent of the candidate and their applications. Maybe they filled the role internally or changed their hiring plans.

In any case, avoid including your dream companies in the first waves. Start with companies that are not your first choice. Do some practice first. Improve your job application skills. When you feel ready, go for your dream companies.

Do not send too few job applications

Job application is a process. Nobody gets it right at the first attempt. We get it right after several trials and errors. The only way to improve is to learn during the process. Make mistakes. Learn from them. Adjust.

A common job application mistake is to make too few applications. Too few job applications do not provide you with enough data to improve. 

Do not send too many job applications

Too many job applications are a mistake too. In the job application process, you need time to learn and improve. If you make too many applications, too soon, you risk repeating the same mistakes repeatedly. Thus, you risk burning too many options at the same time.

Allow yourself some time to learn from your past applications. A good solution is to send job applications in waves of 5-10. You make enough experience to improve, but you do not burn too many options.

Job application mistakes. How to avoid the worst don'ts. Avoid these errors in your job application process.

Job application etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. More about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

job application etiquette mistakes

Avoid the worst job application etiquette mistakes. 

  • 9/10. Writing typos in your job application.
  • 7/10. Sending copycat job applications.
  • 7/10. Writing in an unprofessional style.
  • 5/10. Not including the right keywords.