Get a Federal Job: The Schedule A Hiring Process for Individuals with Disabilities

Getting a federal job is usually a lengthy and complicated process. But for workers with disabilities, there is a program which may allow you to cut through some of the red tape and get assistance and accommodation with the application process.

what is it?

  • Schedule A is “a special hiring authority that provides federal agencies an optional, and potentially quicker, way to hire individuals with disabilities.”
  • This process is a non-competitive hiring process, meaning that it is not open to the public or current employees unless they have a disability.
  • Schedule A positions do come with a probationary period that can last up to two years before being converted into a competitive position.
  • You can identify the positions that have a specific hiring path for those with disabilities by seeing this icon:  

how to qualify for schedule A

You are able to apply to positions under Schedule A if you “have an intellectual, severe physical, or psychiatric disability” and it affects one or more major life activities.

You do have to submit proof in the form of a disability letter that states that you have a disability. This letter can be obtained from:

  • Your doctor
  • A licensed medical professional
  • A licensed vocational rehabilitation specialist, or
  • Any federal, state or local agency that provides disability benefits.

This letter does not require:

  • Details about your disability
  • Detailed medical history or records
  • Information about necessary accommodations

This letter does not have any expiration date or date of renewal once it has been submitted and accepted. You do not have to obtain a new letter for a change in position or location. You will still need to obtain and submit this letter even if you currently qualify for disability benefits; however, the agency providing you the benefits can supply that letter for you.

other requirements

You are required to be qualified for the position that you are applying to, as well as the pay grade required for the position. You must provide the standard documentation about your qualifications including, but not limited to:

  • Resume
  • Cover letter
  • Writing sample
  • Transcripts
  • Professional certifications or licenses

Applications that do not include everything required in the job listing will be labeled as “incomplete” and will be rejected.

how to apply

You will find all government positions available on USAjobs. This website will also be where you upload required documentation and Schedule A proof of disability documentation. You are also able to list your resume as searchable to those looking for Schedule A applicants.

You can apply online through the USAJobs website using Schedule A if the listing indicates that there is a hiring path for those with disabilities or it specifically states, “Schedule A”. Alternately, most federal agencies have a Disability Program Manager (DPM) or Selective Placement Program Coordinator (SPPC) whose role is to help the agency recruit workers with disabilities. You can reach out to that person directly, and they will provide guidance on the best way to apply.

The general recommendation is to apply through the competitive, or regular, application process and then either submit your resume to a specific federal agency’s resume bank (such as with the IRS) or contact the DPM/SPPM for that agency to determine the best way to apply under Schedule A. Another option is to reach out to the HR professional within the agency and explain that you are looking to apply under Schedule A for persons with disabilities.

keep in mind

It is also important to keep deadlines or cutoff dates in mind when applying, as the exact time can vary depending on your time zone. There are also some long-lasting openings, such as 6 months or more, where hiring can be done on a rolling basis. Generally, it is best to apply as early as possible because the entire process can take several months.

There can be seasonal or telework only positions, depending on the agency. Seasonal positions are full time, but you do not work the entire 12 months. Telework can be temporary until you move or can be permanent. You will likely have a distance requirement from the location in order to come into the office occasionally.

Hiring Process

Once the application has been submitted, you will typically see its status change to “referred”. This means that the application and resume are being reviewed to determine whether they match the required qualifications for the position. If there are any required assessments, that information will be provided after you have applied. You can request accommodations for these assessments.

The next step would be interviews; however, sometimes this step can be skipped depending on the agency, position, and hiring manager. The interview will be followed by the tentative job offer and then background checks along with fingerprinting. Once the agency has decided to hire you, they will give you a firm job offer with all of the information necessary to proceed to the next step. Then it’s time for onboarding or orientation along with whatever training is necessary for the position.

This entire hiring process can take anywhere from 2 to 6 months depending on the agency and the position. Accommodations work much like they do anywhere else, and you can get further information about accommodations in our previous blog post.

Written by Kathryn Cusimano

BR Works: A Local, Helpful, Free Job Board – and More

For those who currently live in Baton Rouge, or are looking to move to Baton Rouge, BRWorks has provided a full job board which gathers information from over 55,000 websites including Indeed. This site’s goal is to show local openings in order to encourage people to seek jobs in Baton Rouge rather than outside of the city or even the state. This website is an initiative of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber created in response to drastic changes during the COVID-19 pandemic. This website has evolved into providing information on job opportunities, educational advancement, training, and local resources for job seekers and employers.

Job Openings

There are several starting points on this website when it comes to looking for a job. The first option is to simply look at the job openings, which can be sorted by industry, city, company and full or part time. Each listing will have the job title, the company, the median salary, and the posted salary for most positions. This is a very useful piece of information to be able to see how the posted salary matches up with the median salary. There will also be a percentage listed on each position which will indicate how well your skills match up with the skills required for the position. In order to determine your match, you will have to input your skills into their matching system.

Get Matched

This is another starting point for finding a job on this website. You are able to answer several questions about your interests as well as any skills you have obtained. The first step is to answer a short series of questions about various tasks and indicating how much you would or would not like to do that task. This is a much simpler version of other career exploration questionnaires that are available and listed on our website if you would like more information on your interests and how they tie into job searching. You will then manually add your skills, and the skills list is searchable by job title, which can be very helpful. This can also be a very useful tool when creating your own resume! Once you have added your skills to your profile, you will see changes in the match percentage listed on the job openings, as well as a change in the types of job listings being suggested to you. This will allow you to then select jobs that you already have the skill set for or see which skills you still need to learn for your dream job which you will be able to indicate that you want to learn them by selecting the star next to the specific skill.


This leads us to the upskilling portion of the website, where you can see various different avenues to learn various skills. When you have chosen the skills you want to learn from the job listings, you will then be able to see specific courses and programs associated with those skills. These courses could be associated with Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) such as Udemy or with local colleges which have relevant degrees and coursework. This website will tell you the average cost of the course or program when that information is available. Most of the courses recommended by BR Works do cost money, so before you commit to that, investigate whether there’s a way to get that training for free. We would like to encourage our readers to double check with the EBR Parish Library digital education offerings, as you will have access to free courses with various MOOCs using your library card number. There are also free Coursera courses offered through the LAworks website. This post will detail the process of signing up for that program. However, the BR Works site does allow you to have a more tailored view of the various course offerings as well as local college course/program offerings which is a very useful tool in advancing your professional enrichment.

Job Seeker Resources

This page provides information about local resources associated with job seeking such as Employ BR, HOPE ministries, local job fairs and a link to our website which is also full of valuable information! They also offer information on financial resources such as the GO Grant, LSU career change scholarship, and MJ Foster Promise project.

This website provides a lot of valuable information tailored to the residents of EBR Parish and could be very helpful in your job search. Please check this website out and feel free to also explore the resources available through our website and department at the Career Center located in the Main library on Goodwood. We provide information and assistance in job searching, career coaching, resume creation and interview preparation. If you have any further questions, you can reach out to us via email, phone or in-person or reach out to your local branch and ask for assistance.

Written by Kathryn Cusimano

A Guide to the Rights of a Jobseeker with a Disability: Overview

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted July 26th, 1990, over 30 years ago. This law was designed to increase accessibility for people with disabilities. The ADA is enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). While the ADA covers every aspect of society from employment to public services and accommodations to telecommunications, this post will focus on the employment rights provided by this act.


The ADA defines what qualifies as a disability. A disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that limits one or more major life activities. This definition also applies to a person who has a record of a disability. Finally, a person who is regarded as having an impairment, meaning a person that is discriminated against because someone thinks that their impairment (or perceived impairment) is limiting is also protected by the ADA. A major life activity can include, but is not limited to, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, speaking, learning, reading and working. This is by no means a comprehensive list, nor does one exist.

Some disabilities are obvious, such as visibility impairments, mobility disabilities (using a wheelchair or other mobility aids), and deafness. There are also other disabilities that are not as obvious, such as learning disabilities and psychological/psychiatric disabilities. The ADA can apply to various learning disabilities such as Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia if the symptoms are enough to limit the person’s major life activities. Psychiatric disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or schizophrenia also can be considered disabilities, as long as the symptoms are limiting in some capacity. It is important to point out that regardless of the disability, active self-advocacy is the best way to ensure your protections under the ADA.


In order to be protected under the ADA, you must have a disability as defined above. You must also be a qualified individual, which means that you can perform the essential functions of the employment position with or without accommodation. The employer is the one that defines the essential functions either verbally or with a written description. You also have to meet any other defined criteria such as education and work experience requirements. If you are a qualified individual, then you must be considered for the position along with any other applicants.

All of these rights are also afforded to anyone who is directly related to or a caretaker of someone who is defined as having a disability. So, you can be protected against discrimination if your child, spouse, or parent is someone who has a disability.


A person who is protected under the ADA cannot be discriminated against during the job application process. Discrimination can include limiting or classifying a job applicant or employee in a way that affects the applicant’s job prospects or opportunities. This can be as overt as refusing to finish an interview with that person or refusing to hire them on the basis of their disability. It can also be as subtle as not having an accessible flyer with easy-to-read wording placed in a location that is accessible. Inaccessible application processes or websites are also prohibited. Testing also cannot include any criteria that may identify disabilities unless that job requires the ability to do a certain task. For example, unless the job requires 20/20 vision, a test that excludes applicants based on their visual acuity is not legal.

Employers are also not able to ask whether you have a disability during the application process, but they can ask whether you need an accommodation in order to complete the application or interview. These points will be discussed in further detail on in future posts which will detail how and when to request accommodations during the application process as well as how to prepare for an interview as a person with a disability.

Written by Kathryn Cusimano

DISCLAIMER: The Career Center is not engaged in rendering legal or other professional advice. The general information on our site is for basic informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for legal advice of any kind.

Gearing Up for Your Job Search


You’ve  just (re-)entered the job market and are ready to get started and find that next job. Before you call everybody in your network, scan all the ads, and send out an email blast with your resume, stop, step back, and get organized.

before activating your job search: The Checklist

What kind of job do you want?

The clearer you are about what you want, the easier it will be to find it. Clearly define what your strengths are, what contributions you can make to an employer, and what your job search goals are.

Are your resume and LinkedIn profile up-to-date, up-to-standards, and in sync?

Don’t just add your last job to the same old resume you’ve been using for years. Brush it up, do some research into prevalent resume styles, and get input from others. Resume styles and technical requirements — such as applicant tracking systems — change! Make sure your resume and your LinkedIn profile convey the same message. If you’d like expert help, contact us at the Career Center.

Is your online and phone presence free of incriminating evidence?

Google yourself to be aware of what pops up if a potential employer googles you (most of them will). Check the photos on your social media accounts. Check your voicemail message. It should be short and crisp, along the lines of “You have reached Jane Smith. I can’t come to the phone right now, please leave a message.” No music and positively nothing like “Yo, I’m too hung over to answer the phone right now, leave a message”.

Is your email address professional?

If you have an email address like or, don’t use it for your job search. Create a new professional sounding email address like that you only use while job searching.

Last but not least, be organized.

When you are out of work, it is easy to lose track of time and just go with the flow. Give yourself a daily schedule. Keep track of all your calls, contacts you made, and applications submitted. Schedule hours for job searching and schedule time for self-care. Looking for a job can be lonesome and easily veer into negativity. Make sure you have a support system in place, carve out enough time to meet with friends, exercise, and do other things that make you feel good!

Written by Anne Nowak, Certified Job and Career Development Coach.

If you’d like expert help with you job search, contact the Career Center for assistance.

Note: This article was originally published in January 2017, and has been re-posted with updates to reach a new audience.

3 Tech Hacks for the Job Search

Technology can definitely make the job search more complicated. . .but occasionally, technology is there to bail you out as well. Here are 3 tech-based quick fixes we recently discovered that we think you’ll find useful in your job search:

Situation 1: You need to update your PDF resume

We sometimes see patrons who need to update or revise their resume but it is in PDF format. Many computers (including library computers) do not have the software necessary to edit PDF files. What can you do?

Sometimes that resume was originally in another format such as Microsoft Word and was exported as a PDF file. If you can track down the original file and open that in Microsoft Word and update or revise it with no problem. However, if all you have is the PDF, try this:


  • Convert it using Word. Newer editions of MS Word (2013 and beyond) are able to open a PDF and convert it to Word format. This is the most effective and hassle-free option. Here is a step-by-step guide from Microsoft. However it will not work with a scan. This works best with files that were created in Word and exported as PDFs. If the resume was originally created as a PDF, some of the formatting (such as font size and style) will be lost, but you can restore or modify that in Word.
  • Use This website converts PDFs to Word documents and produced excellent results when we tested it. It even does a great job converting fancy resumes formatted with tables. However it will not work with a scan.
  • Use Google Drive to convert it. Obviously this one only works if you have a Google account. Upload the PDF to your Drive and open the file as a Google Doc. Then, in the menu bar, go to File -> Download as -> Microsoft Word (docx). Again this technique does not work with scans.
  • If your resume is a scan, none of the above options will work very well. If that is the case, we have another blog post that explains what you can do.

Situation 2: Your employer sent you a packet of forms to fill out, but they are in PDF format

In the last few months we have worked with several patrons who found a new job, and their (new) employer needed them to complete several forms that are in PDF format. Some PDF forms are designed to be filled out electronically but this is uncommon. As in (1) above most computers (including library computers) do not have the software to edit PDF files and so completing these forms is inconvenient. Usually people must (a) print the forms, (b) fill them out by hand, (c) scan them, and (d) email them back to the employer. There is however a simpler way:


You can type in PDF files electronically using the website Kami at To use Kami you need an account but a basic account is free. The way Kami works is, you do not fill in the PDF form electronically so much as you create text boxes and type over those spaces in the form where you need to add information. It is very much like using a typewriter to complete a form except you are using a website on a computer.

Situation 3: You want to make sure your resume uses key words that match the job description

An important part of putting together an effective resume is using keywords that line up with a job description. That potential employer is looking for someone who has certain specific skills, and they use something called Automated Tracking Software (ATS) to look for those skills and keywords in resumes they receive. The bad news is, if your resume doesn’t contain the right keywords, it could be rejected by the ATS before it gets seen by a person. The good news is, there are websites that scan your resume and let you know how well your resume lines up with a job description. Try these websites to help you beat the ATS:


  • Skillsyncer at You can try it for free and can use it for free once per week. You can also subscribe for a monthly or quarterly fee, and this allows you to use it as much as you like, and you receive more thorough feedback. Upload your resume, search the web for a job that interests you, paste the job listings description into the Skillsyncer platform. Your resume receives feedback within seconds. Your match report includes a Job Match Score, Keyword Analysis, and Common Resume Checks for you to review.
  • Jobscan at It is more expensive than Skillsyncer although the feedback and recommendations you receive (include cover letter templates) are more extensive.

Written by Richard Wright

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,,, 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

What We Learned by Completing Hundreds of Online Job Applications, Part 1

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.

Creating/Accessing Account

  • 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

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.

Written by Case Duckworth

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