December 1, 2007

Tips for applying for a job online

It seems that the majority of people these days have to apply for a job online, using some sort of application program that makes screening much easier for recruiters.

Long gone are the days of mailing, faxing, or e-mailing your resume and having a real person look it over - that function has been outsourced to computer programs that compare a person's resume against established criteria.

Although many career-type jobs have been using these online application forms for years (pretty much since Workopolis came into being), jobs that students and youth are more likely to go into are also moving to an online world.

Take for example Old Navy. Rather than apply in-store, you fill out their application form and submit your resume online - face-to-face contact only happens when they want to interview you.

Even McDonald's is jumping on the bandwagon now - and when major corporations sense a trend, they jump at the chance to be the first company that now offers ______ ... and in this case, the latest rage happens to be online applications.

So, knowing that you'll eventually have to submit a resume online, what are some basic things to keep in mind?

1) Forget formatting - many of the programs used work better on plain text resumes (e.g. no weird fonts, no bold, dashes as bullets, etc.). In fact, some formatting can actually cause the program to misread your resume. If you are going to apply online, create a special, online only resume where you can eliminate the formatting and make your resume easier to read/scan.

2) Remember that computer programs don't understand sentences. Often, recruiters enter in keywords or phrases that the program should flag in resumes. Make sure you use phrases and nouns that relate to the job. For example, if you are applying for a graphic design job, don't try and make all the programs you know sound fancy - just simply list "Experienced in Dreamweaver, MS Office, etc." Check out this link ( for a list of keywords, power words, and phrases that online recruiters look for.

3) Spell check at least 10 times - same thing with your grammar. These programs are designed to weed out those of us that cannot spell. Don't become an immediate member of the "NO" pile - review your resume and get someone else to review it too. And if you are uploading an MS Word version of your resume, before you save it, make sure you go into the Tools - Options - Spelling & Grammar and checkmark the boxes saying "Hide spelling errors in document" and "Hide grammar errors in document". I've personally found that sometimes, your resume isn't even reviewed because the red or green line that is part of the spellcheck program is showing - I always make sure it's disabled

4) Doing followups can be hard, if not downright impossible. However, if there is any information on the job posting about who to apply to, or where applications are being sent, make sure you take the information down and follow-up a few days after you apply. As a general rule of thumb, if you are applying online, I'd follow-up online. But use your discretion - if you decide to call the employer, make sure you do your background research and know who to speak to and what to say (e.g. "I'm just calling to follow-up with my application for the ______ job I saw advertised _______ ...).

Applying online doesn't have to be hard. And contrary to what people might think, you can actually get hired by companies who do their recruiting through the Internet - in fact, that's how I started with Service Canada.

The key is to know that there are differences between and online and hard-copy resume. But if you can capitalize on these differences and create two distinct resumes, you'll be ready to apply for anything - be it in-store, or online!

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