Here in the Career Center, one of the services we offer is one-on-one assistance with filling out job applications on the computer. Over the years we’ve helped hundreds of people apply for jobs online, and more recently we’ve filmed step-by-step walkthroughs for many common applications. During the course of all this, we noticed certain common threads: confusing features that kept coming up on applications, tricky questions, common mistakes, etc. We decided to create a guide to assist jobseekers with this process. Here then, is the accumulation of our wisdom (Part 1):
- Know your employment history, including dates. If the work history you provide is incomplete or incorrect, that will be a major strike against you. If you’re uncertain of your starting or ending dates, find out before you start applying — call the company or your state employment office.
- Keep track of things with a Job Search Notebook. This will contain all the information you need to complete applications, such as your work history, references, supervisors’ contact info, etc. It will also contain the list of what jobs you’ve applied for where and when, your usernames and passwords, and the other details you’ll need to keep straight. It can be a physical notebook, or a computerized database such as MS Excel or Google Sheets.
- Have all documents saved on a USB drive or in the cloud. Scan any documents you may need, such as transcripts, certifications, letters of recommendation, etc., and upload them onto a USB drive. Save your resumes and cover letters on this device as well. Alternately, you can upload all of these documents onto Google Drive, MS OneDrive, iCloud, etc.
- Every jobseeker should have a resume. Some applications cannot be completed without a resume. Others will use your resume to auto-fill the application so that you don’t have to do everything manually. Take the extra time and effort to make a resume first, and it will save you time and effort down the road.
- Keep your resume in both PDF and Word format. The MS Word version is for you, so that you can make changes to the document and update it as needed. The Adobe PDF version, which is much harder to make changes to, is the one that you will upload to job applications.
- Keep the formatting pretty simple. Try to avoid using tables, text boxes, and graphics. They may make your resume look beautiful, but the online application may have trouble reading them, which means your application may not be completed properly.
- You need a functioning email address. Email is the primary method by which employers will contact you, so make sure yours is easily accessible. Make sure you know your password and can check your email anywhere, not just on your phone. (What if the phone breaks?) Do not use someone else’s email address.
- You have to create a new account for every single company. The application will start by asking you to sign in, which can be confusing – because until you’ve registered with this company, you can’t sign in. If this is your first time applying for that company, look for something that says “Create Account,” “New User,”, etc.
- Keep track of your login information. Different applications have different security requirements, so you may end up with lots of user ids and passwords. If you don’t remember which password you used for which application, you can’t sign back in, which means you can’t apply for more jobs with that company. So every time you create an account, write it down in your Job Search Notebook, or on your phone’s Notes section.
Stay tuned for Part 2!
Written by Lynnette Lee