Passing the Test: Online Job Applications

Online Job Applications: Passing the Test

Rarely a day goes by in our IowaWORKS office that a patron doesn’t grumble at the phrase “That application is online only.”  Applying to jobs on the internet is a hassle to even a skilled web surfer. But with so many employers moving to online applications, a job seeker isn’t going to make it far with pen and paper anymore.  The first thing to know before you start any online job application is that the application is a test.  It’s a test of your work experience, it’s a test of your computer skills, and it’s a test of your desire for the job.

Let’s start with the way they’re testing your basic work skills.  Any job you’re applying for online is going to come with a job description.  That description is going to address the minimum requirements for the job.  Your job application MUST reflect that you meet these requirements.  If it says that a candidate must have a High School Diploma and three years working in an office setting, make sure that the application shows that you have a High School Diploma and that you have three years experience working in an office.  The job description will also have keywords that are important for the position.  The employer expects that somewhere in your application you can show experience with those keywords.  Because a computer is typically the first thing to read your application, don’t use flowery language like “Fundamentally sound speaker who has a gift for public oration”.  Computers are only going to give you points for the keywords they understand and are looking for, for instance “Communication”.  So find the keywords in the job description and use them liberally through your prior work history.

The next test is a test of your computer skills.  Online job applications aren’t easy because they want to know if you can handle a computer.  Some applications give you a time limit in which you have to complete the application.  Some clock how long it takes you to complete the application.  Some even keep time on how long it takes you to answer each question.  If you are comfortable on a computer, just be prepared when you sit down with a quiet space and as much time as you’ll need.  If you aren’t good with a computer, it might be a good idea to viit our Skills Floor at IowaWORKS to have assistance from a Workforce Professional or take a computer class to get more comfortable.

The last test is a test of your desire for the job.  Online job applications are difficult for a simple reason: if you aren’t persistent enough to complete the application, what will you be like on an eight hour day at work?  The end goal of a job application is finding employment, and you’re likely going to get frustrated there occasionally.  Employers want to find applicants that are willing to put up with a little bit of hard time on an application because they want the position, because those applicants are willing to put up with a hard time at the job because they want to be employed.

We’re going to talk about online job applications a lot of times on this blog, but the real key to an online job application is just like any other test, be prepared when you start.  Be prepared with a resume that’s tailored to the job.  Be prepared with references.  Be prepared with a detailed work history including dates of employment, addresses and phone numbers of prior employers.  Be prepared for it to take more time than you want it to.  If you follow these simple rules, you’ll do fine with online job applications.


2 thoughts on “Passing the Test: Online Job Applications

  1. So true. I facilitate an introductory workshop explaining our services. I give them nightmare examples about application errors, explain the importance of computer skills, and tailoring your resume to the job, etc. With my customers, I also use Tagcrowd or Wordle because a picture is worth a thousand words. You stated these concerns so well, thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mauree –
      Sorry the delay in response, we’re still new to this blogging thing! Thanks for the kind words. Over the coming months we hope to provide several bits of information you might use as a facilitator in terms of what to do and what not to do while Job Seeking. I personally haven’t tried Tagcrowd or Wordle yet, but I’m going to look at them as I finish this post.


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