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Become Proficient with Online Applications

Most employers who post vacancies ask jobseekers to apply online. When applicants go through a computerized application system, the employer specifies the information applicants must provide, and can require applicants to answer questions related to the job opening. 

Computerized "applicant tracking systems" can screen online applications and reject any that do not meet the qualifications.

Step one

If you are applying for a specific position, download and save the job posting. Read it carefully to verify that your skills and experience match what the employer needs. 

Highlight or underline the key duties, responsibilities, and other requirements in the job description to ensure that you include the relevant information in your online application, customized resume, and cover letter.

Step two

Most job sites require you to create an account before you can apply for a position. If you can't use your email address as an account name, you'll have to create a username. In either case, you'll also need to create a password. We recommend that you create a different username and password than the one you use for your email, social media sites, and other online accounts. Use your newly created username and password when applying for jobs online. Make a record of the new username and password and keep it secure and readily available.

Step three

It's a good idea to preview all the information you will need to provide and all of the questions you will need to answer during the application process. Print or electronically copy and paste the entire online application form. If this isn't possible, write down each of the questions and note of any other information you'll need to apply.

Step four

Gather or create the information you'll need to answer each question. A lot of this information may already be part of your existing master or generic resume, but the online form will probably include questions or sections that require additional information. We recommend that you type and save this information in a word processing document before filling out the online form. This permits you or a friend to carefully proofread everything in advance. You can then quickly copy and paste your pre-written answers into the online application and minimize the chance of typing errors.

Nearly every application will require some basic information (such as shown below), and it makes sense to create an electronic record of this information to speed up the process of filling out applications.

Your work history

  • your previous employers, including addresses and main phone numbers
  • start and end date of each position held at each company
  • your past supervisors' names, titles, and contact information (or contact information for the HR department)
  • your main responsibilities and major accomplishments for each position
  • the reason(s) you left the company

Your education

  • school names and addresses
  • dates attended
  • degrees or certificates you received and your fields of study
  • additional courses or training you've completed since graduation

Three or four professional references

  • name, position, and company name
  • address, phone number, and email address
  • your relationship with each contact

Step five

Some online applications require that you answer the questions in a provided form and attach a resume. In some cases, they also look for a cover letter. If this is the case, and you already have a resume saved, we encourage you to customize a version for this position.

Step six

Here are some tips for completing an online job application:

Don’t leave any questions unanswered. The employer has included each field on the form for a reason, and many online application systems automatically reject incomplete applications.

Avoid using your browser’s back button. This can sometimes cause lost data, or even close the entire application. Always use each form's built-in navigation.

Periodically save a draft of your application. Check to see if the form has a "save" feature.

Review all application materials before submission. Proofread the entire application before clicking "submit."