Many employers, such as the federal government, require you to use their online template for job applications. Often, this will involve uploading your resume to their system, which will then take information from your resume and insert it automatically into the required fields of the online application. You will then need to go through the online application and double check all of your information to make sure it was entered properly.
These types of online applications can be time-consuming, tedious, and frustrating. However, once they are completed, you will have an online job profile with that employer that will allow you to quickly apply for new job openings without repeating the process.
When using online applications, make sure you do a spell and grammar check before submitting your application. Sometimes the conversion from your resume to the online application format can cause formatting or other errors that can make you look unprofessional if not corrected.
Online applications can make the application process feel very impersonal. Don't feel, though, that the entire application process must be restricted to online activity. For instance, if you are directed to an online application by someone at a job fair, don't be afraid to ask questions of the person referring you or to e-mail other contacts you have with the company.
Pay close attention to keywords. There may be a computerized screening filter that will essentially ignore your application if it is missing the keywords relevant to the position and the skills required. Use the same terms in your application as you see in the job description or posting.
Many online application systems do not include areas for certain items that you may have on your traditional application. For example, you may wish to highlight your volunteer experience or community involvement but not find a section to include this information. What to do?
Use your resume and/or cover letter to call out these areas, especially if you believe they set you apart from other applicants.
But don't automatically assume that the recruiter or employer will read your paper resume. Many employers simply use the online application to save time.
Use the “comments” section that is included in many online applications to create an “additional skills” or “additional experience” section for your application.
Consider that if the online application does not leave room for certain types of information, it may indicate that the employer simply does not value those skills or experiences as highly as you may. That could be a consideration in terms of your interest in the company.
Use the comments section that you will find on most online applications to reiterate your interest in the position in a way that demonstrates your knowledge of the company and the position.
Fill out every section of the application, even if the application itself says the information is not required. Doing so subtly demonstrates that you have put time and effort into the application and that you are detail oriented and thorough.
Some companies include an optional skills assessment test with their online application. You should always take these tests. Again, this shows that you are committed, interested, and thorough. Additionally, if the test shows you are compatible with the company and/or position, you will be that much more attractive relative to other applicants. If you are not compatible, according to the test, the job might not be a good fit in the long run anyway. There is really no benefit in attempting to hide a potential poor fit for either you or the employer.