Mastering the Mechanics of Online Job Applications

Applying for jobs has become a complex process, because the Internet and email have revolutionized the ways we communicate. In the past, you would mail or hand-deliver your credentials to targeted employers. Now, you’re required to complete online applications and post electronic copies of your résumé and cover letter to company websites and job boards. In theory, technology should make the application process easier; but to many folks, it adds a confusing piece the mix.

You may not know this but some online applications are disguised as “computer literacy” tests. According to an article, “Beyond the Three R’s”, written by by Jim Pawlak: “online applications aren’t just ‘applications’ – they are designed as ‘computer literacy’ tests.”  He says that many companies will evaluate candidates on how long they took to accurately and completely finish their applications.

Follow these tips, to complete applications correctly and quickly, the first time:  

1) Scan through the application after you register on the site, so you know exactly what information is required.  It’s okay to register first, logout, gather required information, and complete the application later.

2) Have copies of your résumé and cover letter open on your computer, for quick posting (uploading to the server) or pasting to required sections on the application.

3) Be sure you have a strong Internet connection to avoid unplanned “timeouts” which could erase your work. Save your work frequently, as you complete each section.

4) Use correct résumé and cover letter formatting. The requirements for online applications vary for each company, especially when you have to upload your résumé and cover letter.

5) Follow these guidelines to translate the format requirements from website instructions:

* Attach / upload your résumé and cover letterThis means that the only acceptable formats are Microsoft Word or PDF (sorry, WordPerfect or Microsoft Works users). Each company or job board may stipulate limitations about how many kilobytes for MS Word documents or megabytes for PDF documents, so check your document properties before you upload; otherwise your documents will be rejected by the server. When creating PDF documents, don’t use security features; otherwise, your documents can be opened, but not saved.

* Copy and paste your résumé and cover letter: These instructions provide a box to copy and paste documents. Don’t copy and paste Word documents here, because they’ll be stripped of all formatting.  Instead use a plain text format (with line breaks) so your documents will be visible within the screen frame, instead of having lines wrapping beyond the margins.

* Create an online résumé: This means you’ll be copying and pasting sections of your résumé (and/or cover letter) into sections specified by the website.  What you need here is a plain text format (without line breaks). 

Download this quick tutorial for creating Plain Text résumés:

If you’ve done everything correctly, you’ll receive a confirmation email to acknowledge that the company received your application. Then, you can either sit tight until hearing back; or you can take the initiative to  find an inside contact to check the status of your application. I’ll vote for the latter because the squeaky wheel usually gets the most attention!  

©  2014, The Career Success Coach. All Rights Reserved.

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    OMG, There’s A Mistake on my Resume!

    You’ve worked hard on your resume, from writing, rewriting and editing, through proofreading and a final spell-check. You’ve even had others review it and give the “OK” to send it out. Then – <gasp> -you discover a glaring typo on your resume, which you didn’t catch before sending it to recruiters and posting it several job boards! 

    Your biggest fear is that hiring managers will find this error and discard your resume, based on this common premise: “If you make a mistake on your résumé, you’ll probably make mistakes on the job.” Before you chastise yourself for this oversight, you may be surprised to know that minor typos aren’t always noticed or viewed as disqualifiers by hiring managers.

    “You can’t avoid every mistake and recruiters do make allowances under certain circumstances,” says Kris Maher in the article “Strategies for Avoiding Common Resume Errors.”  Besides this, a survey by Career Directors International revealed that only 50% of the respondents said that typos can ruin your chances [at getting the job] and the other 50% said that one or two small typos typically do not matter. Even so, the survey’s final comments stated: “Because you never know how an employer may take an error as a reflection of the candidate, it’s always best to proofread not once but two or three times!”

    For an error-free resume, follow these proofreading tips: 1) Print out your resume and read it out loud; 2) Read each line backwards (right to left); 3) Scan it diagonally (like an X) from both directions. You’ll be amazed at how many mistakes you don’t catch (including words that are spelled correctly but used in a grammatically incorrect context) by simply reading it silently from left to right. 

    Two more critical proofreading hints: 1) Don’t rely on a spell-checker to proofread for you; 2) Be sure your contact information is 100% correct–including your email address and phone numbers! 

    As for resumes with errors which you’ve already sent out, use these damage control strategies to get corrected copies to hiring managers and boost your candidacy:  

    1) Resend a corrected version to target recipients; but don’t point out the error. If you’ve kept good records about where you’ve sent your resume, it will be easy to recall who to send it to. Include a short note that you can edit for each situation:

    “Dear Recruiter: Earlier this month, I emailed you a copy of my resume in consideration of career opportunities that might be available within your client companies. Attached is an updated copy, so please discard the earlier version. Thank you.”

    2) Refresh your resume on job boards, online applications and social networking sites. Besides providing the corrected resume, you’ll get higher rankings in the search engines, because they will treat the update as fresh content.

    3) Reframe the situation from a “sales” standpoint. Resending or reposting your resume can work to your advantage. Salespeople know that it takes six or more attempts to reach prospects before getting an appointment. Since job searching can be likened to “selling your skills” to employers, another “ping” of your resume presents another opportunity to connect.

    You should always proofread your resume carefully before sending it out. If you implement the strategies above, you’ll avoid embarrassing mistakes and keep your job search on-course.

    © 2012 Joellyn Wittenstein Schwerdlin, The Career Success Coach. All Rights Reserved

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      Handling Salary History and Requirements in Online Job Applications

      Clients frequently ask me how soon they should disclose their salary requirements or histories. Typically, I advise them to hold off on revealing these numbers and to postpone discussions about compensation, until there’s a job offer on the table. This guidance is “Salary Negotiation Rule #1″ advocated by one of my mentors, veteran career coach Jack Chapman and author of Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1000 a Minute.

      Jack’s declares that it’s in candidates’ best interest to avoid talking about money too soon, because it can weaken bargaining power in negotiating a fair compensation package. He says that if you talk money first and if the number you quote is too high, you may be disqualified; if you quote a number that is too low, you’ll run the risk of settling for the lower end of the salary range of the job, if offered to you.

      Despite these wise words, jobseekers are stumped about how to handle this issue when completing online job applications. “Current Salary” and “Desired Salary” are required fields in most cases; and there’s usually no option to quote a salary range or to select “Negotiable.” If these fields are left blank, the application can’t be submitted. So you are either forced to put in these numbers or forgo the opportunity.

      The question is: how can you apply for the job as a qualified candidate without putting yourself at a disadvantage by talking money first? Here are some ideas:  

      • Determine if the job is the right fit before you apply. The salary might be attractive, but if the job would not be the best use of your strongest skill sets, you are better off passing up the opportunity.
      • Submit a well-researched “desired salary” figure for the job. Some excellent resources for salary research are, and
      • Factor your “ideal range” into your “desired salary”. In his book, Jack Chapman talks about the importance of knowing your Ideal (highest), Satisfactory (acceptable) and No-Go (unacceptable) salary numbers; your “ideal range figure” should be the average of the “Ideal” and “Satisfactory” number, leaving room to negotiate up.
      • Be truthful about your salary history because these figures can be easily verified for accuracy. Employers disqualify applicants who submit falsified information, which is a far more serious issue than quoting a desired salary that may be too high.
      • Look for additional ways to communicate. If the application allows you to submit a cover letter or commentary, you can explain that your “desired salary” is negotiable, which you’ll be glad to discuss further when appropriate.

      Nick Corcodilos, a.k.a. “Ask the Headhunter” has other insights about handling salary info online. In a recent blog post, he said: “Ignore the application and “find a better way in the door…” He also cautions that companies who want salary figures upfront may be reflective of a “herd mentality” culture. “If you don’t cooperate [by refusing to submit your salary info online] the company has plenty of other applicants who will do what they’re told, and destroy their ability to negotiate… It wants cows, not people who think and act outside the box. Join a company like that…and soon you’ll be looking for yet another job.”

      Salary negotiations can be tricky, especially if you have to reveal your salary history and requirements when applying online. If you skillfully use the strategies above, you’ll get your foot in the door and be able to negotiate your best compensation package – after you get the interview and are offered the job. 

      © 2012 Joellyn Wittenstein Schwerdlin, The Career Success Coach. All Rights Reserved

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