What You Should Know About Online Job Applications: Part I

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 blog series, we’ll discuss some of those similarities.

Before you start

Before you start on your online job search, you need some information handy to make applying easier. We recommend keeping a job search notebook, where you can jot down information like what jobs you’ve already applied for and whether you’ve heard back from them; usernames, emails, and passwords for various job search and application websites; and lists of your professional experience, as well as possible references and their contact information.


One of the first things a new job application will ask you to do is create an account. I like to think of passwords as a sort of “magic key” to websites that you can make yourself. They’re much easier to copy than a regular key though – and in fact, they can even be guessed! Here at the Career Center, we encourage patrons to think of a password that’s easy for you to remember but hard for others to guess. Ideally, you’ll have a separate password for each website you use, and that includes job search websites, too. You can write down your passwords, along with other information about each website, in your job search notebook.

If you want to know more about good passwords and how to make them, watch our video on the subject.

Legal mumbo jumbo

Almost all employment portals have a legal disclaimer or Terms of Service page that you need to agree to continue. We always recommend reading, or at least skimming, through the Terms of Service, and making sure you agree with how they’ll use your information, before continuing.

However, the fact of the matter is that you won’t be able to apply for the position without indicating that you agree to their terms (usually there’s a check box you can click) and clicking Continue. So read through the Terms, think about it, and make your own decision.

Required fields

This is generally-applicable advice for almost any web forms you fill out, not just online applications. Some web form fields are required, meaning they must be filled out to continue in the form. Most application forms we’ve come across have marked those with an asterisk, like this: *. Much of the time, that asterisk is red, as well. However, these are conventions, and some websites might indicate required elements differently! Be on the look out for instructions that let you know how the employer has marked required fields, and make sure to answer those. Otherwise, the application won’t let you continue.

If a field isn’t required, you don’t have to fill it out – and in fact, for some fields it’s better not to. These include questions like these:

  • What do you expect to be paid for this position?
  • What were you paid in your previous position?
  • May we contact your current employer? (See below for more information on this question and the next one.)
  • Why did you leave a previous position?

Personal questions

Demographic information

Demographic information includes data like your age, sex, and ethnicity. It is illegal to discriminate against these parts of your identity, and in many cases, for the actual employers to even see the data before making a hiring decision. Most of the time, when employers ask you for demographic information, it’s actually a third party they hire to compile that information for later analysis, or more recently, to apply for a federal tax break. You should never be required to input demographic data in a job application form.

Legal authorization to work in the U.S.

While companies can get in trouble for discriminating based on demographic information such as ethnicity, they can also get in trouble for employing someone without the authorization to work in the United States – so while this question may seem personal, they need to ask it. However, it can be confusing to know for sure if you are authorized to work in the U.S. Here are a few tips.

  • If you were born in the United States, you are legally authorized to work in the U.S. You can answer Yes.
  • If you were not born in the United States, but you are a permanent resident – that is, you have a green card – you are legally authorized to work in the U.S. You can answer Yes.
  • If neither of the above are true: you should (hopefully) know about your immigration or naturalization status.

Previous employers

Companies love to ask about your previous employers and whether they can contact them. Unless you were fired for gross misbehavior from a previous job, it’s fine to put the employers’ number down here. Usually, prospective employers are routed to HR, where they’re only told that you did work there and your dates of employment.

Reason for leaving

Especially with your most recent employer, you might get asked about why you left. If you can leave this blank, we recommend it. Otherwise, try to think of the most neutral- or positive-sounding, while still being honest, version of why you left the company. An answer like, “I wanted more money,” is not a good answer, no matter how true it is. Try an answer more along the lines of, “A better opportunity presented itself.”

Criminal record

If you have a criminal record, it can be especially hard to get a job. Check out our video Special Resumé Rules for Ex-Offenders for some resumé tips.

Social Media

Make any social media your employer may see as private as you can, or keep your feed as professional as possible. Imagine your boss (or prospective boss) is standing behind you and can see the posts you make and reply to. While it’s a breach of privacy, in our opinion, for employers to comb through applicants’ social media, they do and they’re completely allowed to. Plan accordingly. For more detailed information on this topic, check out our video Social Media Etiquette for the Job Search.

Make sure to keep an eye out for Part II of this series, where we’ll discuss which documents you should attach to online applications, as well as the dreaded Assessments!

Written by Case Duckworth

Monday Motivation

It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

July 2021 YouTube Video Roundup

Welcome to the dog days of summer, replete with sweltering temperatures and sticky humid air. If you’d like a respite from the fun in the sun, why not find a nice shady spot to cool down with some YouTube videos? We can heartily recommend the following:

Small business services

Introduction to Data Axle

If you’re starting a business, you need information about your competition and your consumer base. Data Axle (formerly called Reference USA) can be a great resource for finding that information. In this video, Career Specialist Case Duckworth demonstrates how to use the Data Axle database, available for free to East Baton Rouge Parish Library cardholders.

job search websites

how to Use ziprecruiter for the job search

ZipRecruiter offers a streamlined approach to the job search. In this video, Case Duckworth demonstrates how to build a profile and apply for jobs on ZipRecruiter.

job interview questions

how teens can answer “tell me about yourself”

The job interview can be especially challenging for teenagers, who may not have much experience speaking about themselves in a professional setting. In this video, Certified Resume Writer Lynnette Lee and special guest Jessica Budd demonstrate ways that teens can handle the first and most important interview question.

Common Job Application Tutorials

how to apply for a job at wendy’s

If you’ve always dreamed of saying, “Sir, this is a Wendy’s,” here’s your chance. In this video, Career Specialist Cynthia Payton walks you step-by-step through the process of applying for a job at fast-food chain Wendy’s.

Written by Lynnette Lee

Monday Motivation

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.

Marianne Williamson

Book Review: Stillness Is the Key

Maybe the pandemic forced you to rethink your life or career. Maybe you had arrived at the point of change regardless. But how to let go of the old and focus on and strategize about the new? According to Ryan Holiday, Stillness is the Key.

distracted and distressed

This book echoes similar sentiments to those of a popular Rascal Flatts’ song: “Sunday was a day of rest, Now, it’s one more day for progress.”  The author states that we “are pulled in countless directions by competing priorities and beliefs.  In those battles, in that war, stillness is the river and the railroad junction through which so much depends.  It is the key…”  Holiday gives several obstacles that present us with so many distractions.  For instance: “We are afraid of the silence.  We are afraid of looking stupid.  We are afraid of missing out. We are afraid of being the bad guy who says, “Nope, not interested.”  The author adds a quote from John Cage: “If the mind is disciplined, the heart turns quickly from fear to love.”

finding peace through stillness

Holiday divides the book into three domains: The Mind, Spirit, and Body. The head, the heart and the flesh.  It is in these three areas the author encourages us to focus and develop methods for stillness.  The author references a wide range of the world’s greatest thinkers to show us what stillness is and how we can achieve it.  The objective is to reduce the disturbances that make stillness impossible. To be at peace within ourselves, and to establish a lasting inner and outer peace.

It is critical that the mind domain is mastered in order to find success in stillness.  That will involve managing the amount and type of information you allow in and to properly appreciate being present in the moment. Protect yourself and your mind by managing your thoughts.  Invest time and mental energy to find truth and solution to problems you face.

tips and techniques

One effective method for stillness is to journal.  Journaling allows you to transfer some of the thoughts that are floating around in your head to another medium and to clarify your thoughts. Seeking wise counsel is another proven method for gaining stillness along with receiving constructive criticism.  Cultivating a flexible attitude will allow you to grow and experience situations in a whole new light.

Holiday gives a laundry list of goals one must meet in order to find stillness, some of which include…

  • Developing a strong moral compass,
  • Steering clear of envy and jealousy and harmful desires, and
  • Coming to terms with the painful wounds of childhood.

The author instructs us to take responsibility for our own emotions and impulses.  To strengthen our bodies as the physical vessel of our minds and spirit by developing a routine and investing in ourselves through personal hobbies.  Holiday states that “when the body is busy with the familiar, the mind can relax.  The monotony becomes muscle memory.”

Holiday insists that we “Get out from under all your stuff.  Get rid of it.  Give away what you don’t need.  Declutter.

In the midst of stillness, you can find peace. And with peace of mind you can better find your new career or life’s purpose.

This book can be placed on hold from the East Baton Rouge Parish Library website.

Written by Cynthia Payton

June 2021 YouTube Video Roundup

This month marks the one-year anniversary of the Career Center’s YouTube account. What began as a desperate attempt to find a way to help people while socially distancing has now evolved into a channel with more than 90 videos, over 400 subscribers, hundreds of comments, and tens of thousands of views across the globe. We are profoundly moved by this success and truly proud to think that we have helped so many people.
And to continue in that proud tradition, here are the latest videos from our YouTube channel:

Resumés and Cover Letters

cold call and pain letters: get a job when they’re not hiring

How do you apply for a job that doesn’t exist? A well-written cold call or pain letter could potentially convince employers to make room for you and your unique skillset. In this video, Certified Professional Resume Writer Lynnette Lee explains cold call and pain letters, including how to format them, what content to include, and when they’re appropriate.

Common Job Application Tutorials

how to apply for a job at raising canes

Raising Cane’s is a Louisiana-based fast-food chain which is quickly expanding. In this video, Career Specialist Cynthia Payton demonstrates the online application process to work at Raising Cane’s.

how to apply for a job at autozone

In this video, Career Specialist Rick Wright demonstrates the process of applying for a job with AutoZone, a retail chain specializing in automotive equipment.

Job Search Websites

How to use snagajob for the job search

SnagaJob is a job-search website which focuses solely on hourly positions. In this video, Lynnette Lee takes a look at how to find jobs and build a profile with SnagaJob.

Seven deadly sins of the job search

part v: the job interview

Getting invited to an interview is an achievement to be proud of – but don’t let that achievement lull you into overconfidence. It’s critical that you prepare and practice for these tricky high-pressure situations. In this video, Certified Career Coach Anne Nowak recommends smart ways to prepare for the interview.

Written by Lynnette Lee

Workplace Survival Guide, Part 2

This article is a follow-up to Workplace Survival Guide Part 1. This series is designed to help workers make good impression on bosses, fit in with co-workers, and succeed in their careers.

communication dos and don’ts

Communication is one of the most important skills you’ll need on the job. A large percentage of the interpersonal problems that happen in the workplace boil down to communication problems. If you don’t communicate clearly, you may give people the wrong impression – they may feel that you’re insulting them or not taking them seriously, when that was not your intention. Everyone thinks and speaks a little differently, so often, we aren’t aware of how we come across to others. Keep these techniques in mind.

Do: mind the gap – the generation gap. Older workers tend to prefer face-to-face conversations, finding that they express themselves better that way. Younger employees tend to prefer email, text, or DMs, finding in-person meetings to be too time-consuming. Be aware of your audience, and if a certain method of communication doesn’t seem to be working, try a different one.

Don’t: get mean, angry, or insulting. Never lose your temper, even if you are provoked – keep to the high road and maintain your professionalism. Do not talk to another employee as if they’re the problem. Talk to them about how you can work together to fix the problem. If you create a “me vs. you” dynamic, the other person is going to become defensive. But if you can create an “us vs. the problem” mentality, you can move forward.

Do: think about their perspective. As the adage goes, walk a mile in the other person’s shoes. Before you express yourself to a colleague, stop and think: How is the other person going to feel about what you’re saying? Be aware of what your colleagues are feeling and thinking. And if you don’t know, ask. If someone seems to be upset/angry for no good reason. . .there probably is a reason that you don’t know about.  Give them the benefit of the doubt.

Don’t: tune out what others are saying. Do you really listen when other people are talking, or are you waiting for your own turn to speak? If you have a tendency to tune people out, ask yourself: how does it make you feel when other people treat you that way? Active listening is a key part of good communication. Give your co-workers your attention and respect.

Do: pay attention to your tone of voice. It’s not just what you say that matters, it’s how you say it. When speaking with a colleague, keep some energy and enthusiasm in your voice. That will make the other person feel that you’re enjoying the conversation. Tone of voice is especially important when you’re having a difficult conversation – for example, correcting a colleague’s error or reminding them about an uncompleted task. If your voice is friendly, calm, and patient, you can avoid making the other person feel as though you’re attacking them.

Don’t: let your body language sabotage you. A large percentage of communication is non-verbal. Even if you say the right things, the way you carry yourself may make you look hostile or distracted. Make sure you maintain eye contact with the other person, as well as a friendly facial expression. Avoid sullen-looking gestures such as crossed arms or slouching.

Do: recognize your bad habits and work to change them. Nobody’s perfect. We all have bad habits when it comes to communication. The key to being successful at workplace communication is to realize your weak spots and work to improve or overcome them.

If you would like further assistance with these soft skills, please call us at 225-231-3733, email our Career Coach at anowak@ebrpl.com, or visit our YouTube channel.

Written by Lynnette Lee