What We Learned by Completing Hundreds of Online Job Applications, Part 2

For Part 1 of this two-part article, please click here.

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 2):

Tricky Application Questions

  • Be cautious about auto-filling the application. Some applications will let you use your resume or social media accounts to create a profile and fill in the application. But there are good and bad shortcuts here. Using your resume or LinkedIn profile can be a great shortcut – as long as you double-check that the application auto-filled correctly. But do not use any other social media account, such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, to fill in the application. It’s an unprofessional look (and an invasion of your privacy).
  • Some questions are optional. For many applications, mandatory questions — those you must answer — are marked with a red asterisk or something similar. If a question doesn’t have a red asterisk, you can skip it.
  • There are certain questions you want to skip if possible. If you can, skip any questions that ask about your salary history or requirements – that’s something best discussed once they offer you the job. Also, skip any questions that might make you look bad, like “Why did you leave this job?”
  • If you have to tell them your salary requirements, prepare first. You don’t want to price yourself out of the running, but don’t undervalue yourself either. Do research to find out how much this position usually pays. Check glassdoor.com, salary.com, payscale.com, and/or the US Department of Labor.
  • If you have to tell them why you left a job, choose your words carefully. Negative-sounding answers (“I got fired,” “The management sucked,” “Too stressful,” etc.) will make you look bad. Some answers will indicate that you’re not a good fit for the new job — for example, don’t say “Left for more money” if the new job pays the same. Instead, try to give a neutral answer such as “Seeking career progression” or “Changing careers” or “Looking for a better fit for my skills.”
  • If they ask, “May we contact this employer?”, you should probably say yes unless it’s your current job. It’s completely understandable if you don’t want your current boss to know that you’re looking for a new job, so you can say no. But if you don’t want the new company to contact your previous employers, they’re going to wonder what you’re hiding.
  • “Are you eligible to work in the US?” The answer to this question is always yes if you were born in the US, if you have become a US citizen, or if you have a green card. If not, you may want to talk to an immigration professional to make sure of your status.
  • “Have you ever been fired?” You have to answer this question honestly. But if they give you a chance to explain, do so. Tell the story in a way that explains your extenuating circumstances, what you learned from the situation, etc.


  • Expect it to take some time. There’s a lot more to an application than just your work history. Usually there’s a section asking for demographic information and Work Opportunity Tax Credit eligibility. There may be online skills tests or personality assessments. Don’t be in a hurry; this is important stuff. Take the time to do it right.
  • If you can, use a computer. Many applications won’t work right on phones or tablets. And some applications won’t work in certain browsers, so if it doesn’t work in Edge, try Chrome or Firefox.
  • The library can help! If you don’t have a computer or the right browser at home, go use the computers at the library. It’s free, and the staff can help you.

Please contact us at 225-231-3733 if you have any further questions about job applications.

Written by Lynnette Lee