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12 tricks for completing online job application forms

applying online, online job application systems, online job application forms,
Carefully complete online job
Many companies insist that you complete an online job application form to apply for their open positions. The trouble is, many such forms are terribly challenging to complete.

To apply online effectively, follow these steps:

1. Allow an hour per online application. Plan to spend 2 hours on the most tedious online forms (The worst offenders: Educational, health care and government/defense industry forms). Work quickly. Some systems “time out” if they are not completed quickly enough.

2. When given the option to upload a resume or complete a form, upload your resume by clicking the “Browse” button to find/upload your resume from your computer. This can save time and ensure your resume looks like you intended.

3. Create a chronological resume (with your most recent job listed first) in plain text (ASCII) format so you can easily copy/paste it into online templates without reformatting problems. Here’s how

4. Keep answers short so you don’t have to edit them to fit particularly short boxes. Also save your most commonly given responses to a Word document so you can quickly paste the same answers into future forms.

5. Prepare a past job history document with the following information to quickly fill in forms when prompted:

  • Your past companies with each address and main phone number
  • Your beginning and ending titles at each place (and dates when you began and ended those positions)
  • Your supervisor’s name, title and contact information (or HR’s contact information)
  • Your beginning and ending salary
  • Duties/accomplishments for each position
  • Your beginning and ending dates (if you don’t know the actual date, put the first of the month)
  • Your reason(s) for leaving the company

Access an application form preparation sheet.

6. Have a list of at least four references ready to paste into a template with the following information:
  • Each reference’s name and title
  • Their company name, address and preferred phone number and email address
  • Your relationship to each reference
Learn more and access a free reference creation sheet.

7. Create a list of proficiencies and certifications. (You may also need the year you attained certain certifications).

8. Be ready to include your educational history including:
  • School names and addresses
  • Grade point average
  • Months/years of attendance
  • Degree(s)/certifications attained / areas of study
  • Additional courses completed since graduation
  • NOTE: You may need to include your student number and transcript information.
The application form preparation sheet mentioned in step 6 includes an option to list your education.

9. Create a short, powerful standard cover letter to paste into their template if prompted. It should include:
  • The position title and company name. “I am very interested in your ABC position at XYZ Corp.”
  • Why you are particularly right for the opening, “I have measurable results in THIS, THAT AND THE OTHER THING which makes me particularly suitable for the position.”
  • Call to action. “Please contact me at your earliest convenience at PHONE NUMBER or email me at EMAIL ADDRESS to discuss the opportunity.”
  • Closing: “Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.” -- NAME
10. Have impressive attachments ready in case you are given the opportunity to include them. These could include:
  • A list of your LinkedIn recommendations. Here’s how
  • A list of references or reference letters or list of testimonials
  • Samples
  • Certifications
  • Your college transcript
11. Be ready to complete online assessment questions. Typically these questions will seek to determine if you have the required experience and skill level for the open position, the right personality to fit into their environment, and/or the correct citizenship documents to be considered. Copy/paste your best answers to such questions into a document for fast retrieval later.

12. Review/improve your submission if provided a summary page.

Other tips
  • Avoid using your computer’s standard back button to return to a previous page. This may cancel out your entire submission. Instead, look for and use the form’s back button.
  • Use the “Save as Draft” button if an online form takes longer to complete than you have time available.
  • Avoid over-clicking buttons on slow-moving systems. This can freeze/cancel your application.
  • Print and/or save the job description. Review it before phone and in-person interviews.
  • Try using the “InApply” feature for job postings on LinkedIn that give you that option. This feature allows you to send your LinkedIn profile instead of completing a form.
  • Keep a log of positions for which you’ve applied. Include the company name, job title, date you applied, source (such as Monster.com), any special username/password required to access their system, and special notes such as, “Yikes! Allow 3 hours for applications to XYZ Corp.”
  • When in doubt, answer as best you can. Some systems simply won’t allow you to answer a question correctly. For example, a system may not allow you to respond “all of the above” so give the best answer you can and move on to the next question. When possible, notify the company’s HR department if its online system is defective (as nicely as you can).

Most importantly … 
After applying online as directed, take active steps to outmaneuver the online application system by influencing the hiring decision

Have an online application form horror story or tip to help others improve their online applications? Share them! --Kathy


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  1. Thanks, John Paul! I'm glad to help. -- Kathy

  2. Look up the Unicru answer sheets. They give the answers to those tedious online applications - and the how-tos of answering them.

  3. I hadn't heard of Unicru answer sheets but I researched Unicru and found a good article on e-How about how to best answer Unicru assessment tests. You can find that e-How article at http://www.ehow.com/how_7191073_pass-unicru-assessment-test.html

    I agree with Anonymous that you should take steps to fill out online tests as quickly and as well as possible. Additionally, here is an article that I wrote about how to outmaneuver online job application systems -- http://getajob-tips-for-getting-hired.blogspot.com/2009/09/applied-online-now-get-your-resume-to.html -- Thanks, Kathy

  4. The only trouble is that it takes a while to fill out so many applications.

  5. This will take time but it's worth it.


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