Make Your Online Application Stand Out!

You’ve made a connection with an employer, and you are ready to take it to the next level.  You eagerly await their instructions, and they tell you to...apply online.

It feels like a brush off.  What was the point in going through all of this effort to connect with the employer, just to be relegated to the black hole of the online application?

Wait!  Don’t give up yet.  Many companies use online applications as an affordable way to streamline their recruitment process.  If you handle the online application effectively, you can still make sure that you get noticed.

Here are ten tips to help you make your online applications stand out:

1.  Take the time to customize your application.  Don’t just cut and paste points from your resume and cover letter. Read through the application, the job description, and the web site to identify the organization’s priorities.  Make sure that all of your answers are specific to the position and the organization.  Since most applicants don’t customize their online applications, it is an effective way to make your profile stand out.

2.  Answer all of the questions completely.  Make sure that you answer every question, and that your answers are complete.  Some employers automatically discard any incomplete applications.  If you can’t be bothered to finish the application, why would they want you as an employee?

3.  Use the keywords from the job description in your application.  Since many first screenings are done by a computer, it is important to include keywords in your application.  It is best to use the same language that is used in the job description, as the screening may only match the exact words.  However, it is important to remember that people will also be reviewing your resume.  Therefore, keywords must be used in context, and not just included in a keyword list.

4.  Have all of the information that you will need on hand.  If you have all of your information on your job history, education, and certifications easily accessible, it will be much easier for you to complete the application.  You will become quickly frustrated if you have to run around searching for information to answer every question.

5.  Set aside enough time to complete the application.  Online applications can be long and tedious.  If you expect it to take a half an hour, you will likely be disappointed with your progress.  It is best to put aside a morning or an afternoon to complete it.  This will allow you to do it properly, and to take breaks as needed.  If possible, it is best to complete the application in one session, as you may forget to come back to it later.  Since online applications are so time consuming, it is important to be selective about which ones you submit.

6.  Upload a resume and cover letter if possible.  If the system allows it, take the opportunity to upload your own resume and cover letter.  They are your strongest marketing tools, because they allow you to showcase your skills and experiences in your own way.

7.  Proofread your answers.  Since many of your answers will be unique, there is an increased risk of making errors.  For this reason, it is particularly important for you to carefully proofread your answers.  It is even better if you can get someone else to proofread your application.  Remember that the employer can see everything that you do on their online system.  Make sure that everything is appropriate (including usernames and e-mail addresses).

8.  Keep your answers focused.  When completing an online application, it is easy to lose focus.  However, it is essential that you keep your answers on point.  Have a clear idea of what you want to communicate with each question, and make sure that every sentence demonstrates that you are a strong fit for the role.

 9.  Ask the employer for tips.  When an employer refers you to their online application, ask if they have any advice on using their online system.  They may be able to give you a tip that will make the difference in getting your profile noticed.   

10.  Follow up on your application.  Make sure that your application doesn’t end up in a black hole by following up.  When you follow up, you have the opportunity to speak to a live person, and you bring their attention to your profile.

Many of us have had bad experiences with online applications.  You may have even decided that you will no longer waste your time filling them out.  Don’t let yourself get discouraged.  Just because an organization’s online application is not user friendly, it doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be a good place to work.  Consider the online application as an obstacle that you need to overcome in order to prove that you are motivated to get this job.  The online system will screen out the applicants who are not that interested, and will identify those who are.  Do your best within the system and your application will stand out.


(Written by:  Karen Bivand)

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