American Job Centers


Effective Online Job Applications - Brochures - Job Search - One-Stop Career Centers


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  • Why do companies use online applications instead of paper applications?
  • What's the difference between an online application and a paper application?
  • What kinds of information do I need to complete an online application?
  • Can I complete an online application if I don't have computer or keyboarding skills?
  • What do I need to know to be more successful with online applications?

Going Online to Apply for Jobs?

Why do companies use online applications?
Efficiency. Companies choose to use online applications as a means to screen applicants, match applicants to openings, and store information. It is seen as quicker, cheaper, and more efficient to rely on search engines and database systems. For example, online applications allow employers to store applications and résumés electronically rather than in bulky file cabinets, hence eliminating the need for opening and sorting mail. Next, having résumés in a database provides a means to quickly sort and retrieve information with the click of a mouse.

What's the difference between online and paper applications?
The essential difference is how the application information is delivered to the Human Resources Department and how they are screened. Both ask applicants to provide information about their background, education, skills, work history, references, etc. One is delivered by mail, fax, or in person. The other is entered and delivered electronically via the Internet. The paper application must be reviewed by a person; the online application uses software to compare your application to a set of skill words and qualifications.

What kinds of information do I need to complete an online application?
The same information you need for a paper application.
More detailed online applications, however, may allow you to attach, email, or cut and paste your résumé to the basic application. Some employer job sites may also allow you to submit a cover letter.

Can I complete an online application if I don't have computer or keyboarding skills?
A determined job seeker can complete an online application using the "hunt and peck" method. Keyboarding speed is a bigger factor. It is the difference between finishing the application in 30 minutes and, say, 60 minutes.

What do I need to know to be more successful with online applications?
Study job descriptions and employers' web sites to identify the skills, experience and qualities the employer is looking for. Focus on keywords. Keywords can help your application get past the computer to an HR person.

The Western Maryland One-Stop Job Centers have these suggestions for learning about and completing online applications:

  • If computers and keyboarding skills are not one of your strengths, explore opportunities to get training or investigate free, online, computer tutorials.
  • If you are interested in a particular Employer, investigate the Employer's web site. Become familiar with the web site and how to apply online. Find out as much information as possible about the online process before you begin.
  • Be ready. Have with you any information you would need to complete a paper application.
  • Allow enough time to complete your work. If the web site says it may take 30 to 60 minutes to complete the process, make sure you've allowed sufficient time. Factor in any inexperience with computers or a slower keyboarding speed.
  • Many online application programs do not allow you to save a partial application. Be sure you have the information you need and a sufficient amount of time to enter it before starting.
  • Understand the various methods used in attaching, emailing, or cutting and pasting a résumé into an online application.
  • Write down any logon and password you create at the employer's website. Generally speaking, you will have to create a "Profile" with personal contact information and some background information before entering any work history. It is 99% likely the web site will not keep track of this information, so be prepared to WRITE IT DOWN. Knowing your logon is important in case you have to revisit the site to check the status of an application, make changes to your Profile, or follow a directive from the Employer.
  • Most online applications require you to give an email address. If you don't already have an email account, set up a free one through Yahoo or Google before you begin the online application process.
  • Persevere. Working with a computer can sometimes be a frustrating experience - even for a computer savvy person. Stay calm, cool, and collected.

The online application has become a standard feature for large and mid-sized companies alike. It doesn't really matter why companies choose this application process. Many do and many more will.

This brochure was developed by the Washington County One-Stop Job Center.

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