What You Should Know about Online Job Applications, Part II

More and more employers are moving their application process entirely online, so it’s important that you know the basics of filling out online applications. While every job application is a little different, there are a few things that are basically the same across most of them. In this thrilling conclusion to the blog series, we’ll discuss which documents to include with your online application, and the assessments you’ll have to take.

If you missed Part I, you can read it here.

1 Documents to include

Most online applications will allow you to upload supporting documents with your application. We recommend including at least a Resumé, though a Cover letter, and a list of References are also helpful, especially if the employer asks for them.

1.1 Resumé

A resumé is a short overview of your professional history and qualifications. Employers use resumés to quickly filter through candidates to narrow down the applicant pool. Since a resumé is so short, and so important, it should be your top priority. If you can only work on one of these documents, work on your resumé.

1.1.1 Structure

Your resumé needs three main sections: a header with your name and contact information, an education section, and an experience section. In addition, you might want to include other sections for job-relevant certifications, skills, extracurriculars, classes, or volunteer work. You can also check out our YouTube videos Creating a Winning Resumé or Creating Your First Resumé for more information.

1.1.2 Formatting

Your resume should be typeset in an easy-to-read font – think Times New Roman, Cousine, or Helvetica – at a standard size, like 10, 11, or 12 pt. The margins should be comfortable, around 1 inch from each side. While it is your resumé, so you can format it how you like, it’s also a representation of your personality, style, and qualifications. We suggest you make it easy to read.

Some resumé templates online or in resumé builders have colors, backgrounds, images, or fancy formatting. Our resumé templates don’t include any of those, but again, it’s your personal choice. Make sure the formatting fits the job you’re applying for, however – you wouldn’t want to apply to a bank with a four-color resumé in Comic Sans, for example.

1.1.3 Further reading

1.2 Cover letter

A cover letter is almost as important to include as a resumé. A cover letter is your opportunity to explain why you’re applying for this job, with this company, and why they should want to hire you. It’s an act of salesmanship, so you should take the time to write a fresh one with each new application.

Cover letters become more important the higher-paying or more-specialized the job is. While it might not be super important to write a full cover letter for a minimum-wage or entry-level position, it’s vitally important to write one for any job with a salary.

For more information on cover letter writing, including tips on what to write, and how to format it, see our blog posts Structuring and Formatting a Cover Letter and When and Why Do I Need a Cover Letter?, as well as our YouTube videos Introduction to Cover Letters and Cover Letters 2.0.

1.3 References

References are professional contacts that can speak to your efficacy as an employee. Many employers will contact references in the late stages of the hiring process, when they’ve narrowed the list of applicants down to two or three. Because of this, you shouldn’t include your references with your resumé, but as a separate document that you might even send later.

Make sure to ask your references before you write them down, and let them know when you’re using them. Include their name, business phone number and email address, and their relationship to you.

For more information, see our YouTube video Reference Ready.

2 Assessment

It’s important to remember that every aspect of an online application serves a screening purpose: employers use the data they glean about you to determine whether they’ll bring you along to the next round of hiring, and possibly to a job. Skills and Personality Assessments are an important tool for employers to narrow their hiring pool, so it’s important to take them seriously.

2.1 Personality Assessments

Employers use personality assessments to see if you’d be a good fit to the culture of their company, or if you’ll tend to act according to their policies in various situations. They’ll ask questions relating to interactions with troublesome customers or coworkers, and various others designed to determine whether you’re honest, hardworking, open to criticism, a team player, and self-sufficient. They’ll ask the same question with different wordings multiple times, to see if you’re paying attention or just clicking buttons.

Make sure to read through each question fully, and consider your answer before marking it. Some personality assessments let you go back and change answers, and some don’t – so be prepared.

2.2 Skills Assessments

A good number of employers, especially those looking for entry-level positions, use skills assessments to screen for applicants who can do the basic requirements of the job. As an example, Wal-Mart’s assessment has you make change for a customer using the fewest number of coins. Others include logic puzzles, scheduling problems, and computer skills.

When working through a skills assessment, make sure to read each question fully, and consider your answer. However, be wary of taking too long – many skills assessments are also timed. Good luck!

3 Conclusion

Part II concludes our series on What You Should Know about Online Job Applications. We at the Career Center wish you the best of luck on your job search! If you have any other questions or ideas for another blog post, feel free to contact us by email or phone: (225) 231-3733.

We also have a number of Online Application walkthroughs on our YouTube channel, and we’re adding more all the time.