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5 tips for an efficient online application

online applicationAre you sending tons of CVs to employers, but you don’t even get an answer? Guest author and recruiter Jorg Stegemann explains here why this may be.

Recruiters, both in HR departments or recruitment agencies, receive a large number of CVs every day and we have to decide within 5-10 seconds if we call up the candidate or not. The key note of my job – professional recruitment – is to find similarities between the job and the applicant, the skills of the person in front of me and the job responsibilities.

Here are 5 tips for targeted applications that are more likely to bring you to the interview:

Only apply if you match 75% of the job ad: This ratio will give you a) confidence to succeed in the job and b) enough room to grow, learn and stay motivated for the next years. 75% is not only a good indicator for the recruiter – who will weed out those candidates who fall short – but it is also important for your personal risk management: You want to be sure the next step will be the right one and you will stay and evolve within the new organization, right?

Only apply if you cover 99% of the K.O. criteria: When it says “fluent German is a must”, this means that you cannot do the job unless you are fluent in German. You could apply when you give yourself a “very good”, but don’t apply if you only have basic knowledge. Be prepared that everything you put on your CV will be double-checked – and in 80% of the cases I correct the language level stated. I had candidates that put “fluent” on their CV yet were not able to communicate at all in the stated language

Do not apply when you are clearly over- or under-qualified: If you read in a job ad “7 years relevant experience”, you can be sure to get a negative response if you have 2 or 20 years of experience as we consider that the job is either under or over your competencies or not in line with the salary range for this level. We understand that you might be willing to go down on salary and responsibilities if you are highly qualified, but you might create an internal disequilibrium. We might furthermore assume that stepping down in terms of responsibilities, title and salary as well as reporting to someone potentially less qualified than you is neither good for your morale nor for your career management. We would also fear that you will not stay, but continue looking for a “better” job. If you do not have the experience required and do not meet the 75% above, we might assume that you won’t make it…

Only apply when you live close-by: You should live in the area where the job is located or have a very good reason why you apply: I get CVs from Australia for jobs in France. Even though the credentials may be flawless, these candidate can unfortunately not be priority A as they cannot be in my office e.g. Monday at 5pm for a first interview and meet my client on Thursday. Furthermore, moving to another city and leaving family and friends behind may sound easier than it is in reality and in the end we often hear “Well, I underestimated this. Sorry but I have to turn down the offer”. If this is true for different cities, it becomes even truer across borders when a work permit is required. Unless you are a super-specialist, most employers will not be ready to engage themselves as they cannot be sure that you will really get the permit.

Only apply if your gut feeling is right: Don’t ask me why, but I have candidates who tell me “Yeah, I had a doubt and actually, I don’t like the industry”. Do not apply when you are not convinced of the job content, the industry or other parameters you cannot change. Choosing a new job is about the question where you want to spend 40 or more hours per week – ideally for the next years. A doubt at the beginning will most likely result in a refusal, from the candidate or the employer. This is like a hole in a boat when you leave the harbour: Don’t think it will go well or there will be happy surprises – in 99 out of 100 cases this will not happen.


People tell me I am often too direct and I am sorry if this is what you think after reading this post. I do not mean to destroy hopes and perfectly understand that we currently live in a difficult economic context with many candidates desperately looking for a new job. I agree that you should do a maximum to increase chances to find a new job. Yet it is all about efficiency and the aim of my writing is to increase the positive returns on your efforts.

About the author:
Jorg Stegemann has been working in professional recruitment since 2001, has coached thousands of professionals from entry to C-level and found a new job for hundreds of candidates. In the past, he has held various managerial and corporate functions with three major players in this industry and with a pan-European scope. Jorg blogs on My Job Thoughts | Career advice from a headhunter.

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