Many employers and recruiters encourage you to apply for jobs online, either through their own websites or through a job search website.
This can make applying for a job a little easier, but if you want your application to succeed, you have to work just as hard on an online application as you would on a job application that you'd submit via email or post.
It's important to make sure your application provides all of the information that you're asked for. Some organisations only let you apply for jobs with them every six months, which means if you get it wrong - or don't provide the right information - you may not be able to fix this mistake for a long time.
Here's a few things to think about, both before you start on your online application and while you're submitting it.
Before You Apply
Before you put your online application together you need to know as much as you can about the company you're applying to work with, and what they're looking for.
Do Some Research
Check out the company's website and read over it carefully. Make sure you visit more than just the homepage! You need to be able to show you know a lot about the organisation and explain why you want to work for them.
Read Things Over Carefully
Read the job's selection criteria carefully. Look out for any key skills or words that are mentioned. Lots of companies use software to scan your application for certain words or phrases, and if you don't mention these your application won't get very far.
Print out the application form and read over it carefully. Write down your answers using pen and paper, or type them out on a word processor, before you start filling in the online form.
This can help you write your application in a more thoughtful way. It also means that there's no way you can accidentally submit your application when it's not ready.
Follow the Instructions
Read the instructions on the application form carefully. If you don't follow the instructions, your application could be chucked before someone ever gets to read it.
Completing an Online Application Form
Here are some things to keep in mind when you get down to actually filling out the form.
Tailor Your Application
Whatever you do, you should never submit a generic resume or cover letter as part of any job application, online or not. It's important tailor each job application to the job that you're applying for. One tailored application equals a hundred generic ones.
Answer All of the Questions
This might sound obvious, but make sure you answer all of the questions on the form before submitting it.
Once you've finished filling in the form, take a quick break and then come back and read over it again - you might notice something that you've missed or overlooked.
Give As Much Information As Possible
When responding to questions or selection criteria, your answers shouldn't be a simple yes or no. They should give as much detail as possible, including examples of how you meet the requirements of the job.
Don't go over any word limits and don't pad out your answers - make them short and sharp, but still as informative as you can.
Use the S.T.A.R. Approach
When responding to selection criteria, use the S.T.A.R. approach to put together your answers. This involves describing:
- The Situation you were in
- The Task you were given
- The Approach you took
- The Result of that approach
Double-Check the Instructions
Make sure you've followed all of the instructions carefully. Once you think everything's ready to go, read over the instructions one last time before sending, just in case you missed something.
Leave Enough Time to Meet the Deadline
It goes without saying that you have to make sure you get your application in on time, but you also need to leave yourself enough time to do a good job. If you start working on your application early enough, you won't have to rush things to get it in on time, and your application will be all the better for it.
Check Spelling and Grammar
Before sending it in, you should always check your application for spelling and grammar. Ask a friend, family member or teacher to look over your application.
At the very least, you should type your answers into a word processing program and run a spellcheck before cutting and pasting them into the online form.
Unless instructions specifically advise you not to, you should always include a cover letter with an online job application. Make sure that you address the selection criteria in your cover letter as well as in your resume and the application form.
Remember that e-recruitment scanning software is often used on cover letters as well as resumes, and if your cover letter doesn't tick enough boxes, your entire application may not make it.
Depending on the application, you might need to either attach the cover letter as a separate document, or you might have to type a cover letter into the application form. Either way, it's best to write your cover letter in a word processor, then cut and paste it into the form if you need to.
For tips on writing a cover letter, check out our How to Write a Cover Letter page.
File Formats for Resumes and Cover Letters
It's important to find out what format the employer wants your resume and cover letter to be in, then make sure that you submit them in that file format.
Common file formats include:
- Word documents (.doc)
- Rich Text documents (.rtf)
- Text documents (.txt)
If a file format isn't specified, normally it's best to provide a .doc or .docx file. - most e-recruitment tools work best with Word.
Generally speaking it's best to avoid submitting documents as .pdfs - some e-recruitment software can have trouble reading .pdfs.
Before you submit your application, get yourself a professional-sounding address. For example, your first name and last name with an "@gmail.com" tacked on at the end is far more professional than something like firstname.lastname@example.org.
Little details like this can make a difference and set you apart from other applicants. A playful email address is fine for friends, but for a potential employer, it doesn't create the image of a professional person.
After You've Applied
It may take a while for you to hear back about a job application. In the meantime you should keep on looking and applying for other jobs.
If you do hear back, you may get asked to come in for an interview. To find out more about job interviews, check out our Job Interviews pages.
There's also a chance that you may either get a response simply saying that you didn't get the job. Sometimes you might not even hear back at all.
If this happens, it's important to remember that it's normal to apply for a job and not get it. The best thing to do is to keep on searching and applying for jobs online, but also to remember that there are other ways to find work, including:
Check out the links in the list above for more information about these approaches to job hunting, and visit our How to Find a Job section for even more tips and information.
Good luck, and happy job hunting!