Thursday, January 28, 2010

Online Job Apps: Applying Yourself to the Task at Hand

Information to Have on Hand before Applying: If you’ve filled in paper job applications, you’re bound to see many similarities in the information you’re asked for when you fill in an online application. Without a doubt, the process of filling in an online application goes much faster if you have certain information available before you start:

  • A valid, professional-sounding e-mail address (not:
  • Employment Information
    • Company names/locations/phone numbers (including new info if a company has merged or moved)
    • Employment dates (month/year)
    • Your job title or role at that company
    • Supervisor names/contact info
    • Salary history
  • Education Information
    • School names/locations
    • Dates attended
    • Degree(s) earned
    • GPAs
  • Salary requirement: While you most likely prefer to leave a salary discussion for a face-to-face meeting, some applications will ask you to designate a desired salary, so be prepared to fill in a desired range (if possible) or an amount. Leaving the field blank could result in your application being ignored.
  • Passport and visa information (if applying abroad)
  • References: Not all online applications will ask for references, but if they do, it’s best to have the information available. Most will be looking for business references, but some will also ask for personal references. Be prepared with:
    • Reference names/phone numbers
    • Current company/title
    • Title at the time you worked together
  • Your resume: Some online applications allow you to upload your resume as an adjunct to the application (not in place of). Since different websites require different formats, it’s best to have your resume available in the following formats:
    • Microsoft Word (.doc or, in some cases, .docx files) or Rich Text Format (.rtf files)
    • Adobe Acrobat (.pdf file)
    • Text files with no formatting (.txt file)
  • Cover letter: Online applications frequently have a free-form area for comments. Use this area to insert your cover letter, making a strong case for why your skills and experience leave you well suited for the position for which you’re applying.

Filling in the Online Job Application: Some online application processes begin by requesting that you upload your resume. While uploading a resume can be a topic by itself, the important thing to remember is to upload it in a format the website will accept. If you get to upload your resume first, chances are, the system will attempt to use the information in the resume to auto-populate some of the fields in the online job application (for example, name, street address, etc.). Even so, it’s critical that you proofread these auto-populated fields to make sure the conversion didn’t result in errors. For those fields that are not automatically populated, it’s a real timesaver to have a version of your resume open on the computer so you can copy/paste information from your resume into the appropriate fields of the job application.

Following are some additional tips for ensuring you provide a polished and complete online job application:

  • Be sure to keep track of your username and password for each job application you fill out.
  • Fields that appear with an asterisk next to the field name or in a different color (red is common) often denote “required fields,” meaning, you cannot continue in the online job application process until these fields are filled in.
  • Allow ample time for filling in online job applications. Some provide you with a Save option so you can go back and finish it later before you Submit, but not all of them have this option.
  • If possible, provide a value in every field of the application. Some employers will pass over applications submitted with blank fields.
  • No legitimate job application should be asking for information like your driver’s license number in combination with your social security number, mother’s maiden name, etc. A combination like this is a red flag that the application is most likely a scam and someone could be trying to steal your identity.
  • Make sure the information in your job application is consistent with the information in your resume, especially if you have loaded your resume onto the same website.
  • Spell check your job application if this feature is available. Proofread each field carefully. (Some errors won’t get caught by a spell check; for example, accidentally typing “Line” instead of “Lane” or “an” instead of “and.”)
  • Read the fine print to know whether you’re agreeing to reference checks, credit checks, or hidden fees for placement services.
  • If there’s a Save button and a Submit button, click the Save button periodically to save your work in case the system crashes. Don’t forget to Submit the application when you’re all finished.

Once your job application is submitted, you should proceed as you would after filling in any job application, by periodically checking on the status of the job or contacting the company, if this is allowed. Remember three things when you’re filling in online job applications: patience, persistence, and proofreading. The process may get tedious after a while, but you just can’t afford to be careless. After all, you never know which application could be the application that lands you a job.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Applying at Internet Job Boards and Company Websites

There are benefits to monitoring both Internet job boards and individual company websites throughout a job search. Internet job boards generate lists of open positions across many companies and provide easy access to online applications for those jobs. Company websites are more targeted and often provide links like “Careers” or “Employment Opportunities” to list open positions at the company and to allow individuals to apply for those positions.

Job Boards: You can visit any number of online job boards to assist in generating lists of open positions that meet specific category/location criteria. To find online job boards, simply type “job boards” or “top 10 job boards” into an Internet search engine like Google or Yahoo. Or, go directly to the “Find Jobs” tab in Career Transitions to access a comprehensive list of job postings. After selecting a particular job board, specify your job category (or keyword) and location criteria to see a list of job openings. When you select a particular job on the list, you’ll have the opportunity to click an Apply button, which leads to an online job application. Some job boards link you directly to the application on the company website, but more often than not, the application you fill in is job-board specific and then forwarded to the employer by the job board company. Many job boards also offer the convenient service of alerting you when new jobs that meet your criteria become available. Be sure to take advantage of this service.

Company Websites: If you’ve targeted specific companies as being a perfect fit in your new career or job search, it’s a good idea to go directly to those company websites to apply for work, instead of going through the job boards. After all, if a company is able to find suitable candidates from a smaller pool of applicants who apply directly on the company website, that company is less apt to post the job(s) on a job board and risk the deluge of applications that can frequently result from one job board posting.

In addition to accepting job applications, most job boards and some company websites provide an area where you can upload an electronic version of your resume. The uploaded resume typically serves as an adjunct to the online job application; it’s not a replacement for the job application. Many companies require a completed application, so skipping this step could keep you out of the running for an open position.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Sign of the Times: APPLY ONLINE

As you forge ahead on your plans for pursuing a new career, you’ll undoubtedly be faced with the challenge of filling out many online job applications. It’s true that accessibility to the Internet broadens the field of candidates competing for a particular position. At the same time though, the electronic nature of these online applications increases the chances of your application making it into a company hiring database, where your skills and experience will be more readily accessible to human resources and hiring managers.

Whether you access online job applications through our "Find Jobs" section of Career Transitions, go out direct to Internet job boards or apply directly through a company website, the good news is, many companies have finessed their online job applications to make the process easier and more consistent. The not-so-good news is that, over the course of a job search, you fill out so many online applications that you’re bound to encounter both good and bad experiences. But it’s important not to skip the application process, even if the job board or company website provides an area where you can upload an electronic version of your resume. An uploaded resume typically serves as an adjunct to the online job application. It would be a mistake for you to assume that because you’ve provided a company with your resume, you shouldn’t go through the additional step of filling in a job application. In fact, many companies require you to fill in a job application to be considered for any position, so be aware that neglecting this step could result in you NOT being considered for the position.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Web Resumes: A Tool that Helps You Stand Out from the Competition

Transforming your resume into its own unique web page creates a more aesthetically pleasing resume, one that uses graphics and other media forms to stand out. A web resume also offers other benefits.

You can password protect your site. Password protecting specific pages, or your entire site, allows you to control how much of your web resume various people can view.

You can have a potential employer access your web page during an interview. An employer who has access to the Web can open your portfolio during the interview, and you can conduct a tour that highlights your skills and accomplishments. Thus, you are actually using your web site as a portfolio.

You can interview with a potential employer on the phone. You can show an employer around your web site as he or she talks to you from their office and views your web page on a monitor.

You can download your web page onto a CD and send it to a potential employer. You can do this either before or after the interview. The employer will have something to review even after you have left the interview. It also allows the employer to show your work to other colleagues who may be involved in the hiring process. Additionally, downloading your web page portfolio to a CD is an inexpensive alternative to sending costly portfolios to each employer.

Motivated to create your personal resume web site? Check out the popular Web 2.0 and Social Media News site, Mashable, for their "How to: Build the Ultimate Social Media Resume."

Friday, January 15, 2010

Job Seekers Check Out Microsoft’s Elevate America

There is no doubt that technology is changing the way we live and work. As a means of providing the opportunity for individuals to thrive in today's technology-driven environment, Microsoft launched the Elevate America initiative back in 2009. Through partnerships with a designated agency in each state, Microsoft offers free and low-cost training to help people expand and enhance their technology skill sets. Microsoft’s programs are tailored to meet the needs of four distinct groups: 1) students, 2) entrepreneurs, 3) technology professionals, and 4) individuals new to technology. As for job seekers, it is extremely important to sharpen your technology skills and highlight this on your resume and when speaking to prospective employers.

A primary focus of the Elevate America initiative is to help those new to technology become confident, proficient computer users. Through Microsoft’s Digital Learning Curriculum and Unlimited Potential Community Learning Curriculum, individuals can access programs that enable them to develop basic computer skills, including navigating the Internet and using e-mail. These curricula also include courses covering the fundamentals of word-processing, spreadsheets, databases, and web design.

To find out more about Elevate America and to learn about how it is working in your community, click here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Resolve to Switch Your Career through Small Steps

It’s the start of a new year, and many people have committed to making significant changes in their lives. Get physically fit. Save more money. And yes, even change careers. Given the uncertainties of the economy, though, a career makeover at this time may seem daunting and impractical. However, a realistic approach towards that career resolution is to take smaller steps—beginning with an honest self-evaluation. To learn more, click on this link.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Job Growth Numbers and Trends

Job Growth Numbers and Trends

The recent article on job growth is a mixed bag of news. To take a look at the numbers and see what some of the experts are saying about 2010, click here.

Monday, January 4, 2010

U.S. News 2010 Career Picks

U.S. News & World Report ranks the top 50 careers using the criteria of growth opportunity, pay, and varied educational requirements. Plus, they list their choices for the best careers by field. To see their picks, click here.