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How to Apply Online

Just as there are thousands of jobs to search through when deciding on your next career move, so too are there numerous application processes. Knowing how to navigate the online application systems will make the difference between getting lost in cyberspace and being seen by the hiring manager. Your resume, which was once considered the most important piece of paper in the application process, has taken on a new role. In addition to helping you stand out among the competition, it also acts as the content to fill in the online application. What does this mean for you? Once you submit that polished, perfectly formatted resume to an online portal, it’s man vs. machine. And if your resume isn’t written for the applicant tracking system (ATS) to read, it won’t make it to the hiring manager.

Here are some tips for a successful journey through the online application process:

Make your keywords match the job description

Each job is coded in the application system for certain keywords. What this means is if you submit the same resume for each job, chances are you’re going to miss out on more than a few opportunities. Sites such as Jobscan will do this for you for a fee. Or, you can go old-school and highlight the keywords, including your skills and expertise, and match them yourself.

Show your accomplishments

As artificial intelligence gets smarter, so too does the ATS software. It knows how to read your experience and detect a job description from an accomplishment. What the ATS, as well as the hiring manager, are looking for is what you actually did in your job and how you contributed to the company. To tell your story, list three to five accomplishments for each position and use numbers, percentages, and action verbs that show gains, savings, improvements, and changes.

Format your resume for the reader

Don’t make assumptions. The first rule of submitting a resume is to follow the instructions. If the online application says Word, then use a version with a .docx file extension. What this means is the software can only read that language for it to scan the information. To help this process along, your safest option is to submit a simple document, one without columns, images, and non-standard bullets.

Understanding the ATS software

Once your resume is scanned, if you see that you can edit the information, especially if it got scanned incorrectly, you can submit your PDF resume and go back and edit the work. This is actually a bonus, as now you can get past the ATS and stand out from the other resumes too.

Also, you may be prompted to download your information from LinkedIn or the job board that you’re applying through. As long as your information is up to date and matches your resume, you can choose this option and still submit your PDF resume.

PDF vs Word

Some documents can only be PDFs, but word documents can be saved either way. However, word documents that are saved as .docx run the risk of getting reformatted on different platforms and software versions so, unless directed otherwise, you can save the word doc as a PDF for submission. The slick, eye-catching resumes? They are usually PDF-only with "locked down" text that won’t translate in the ATS. You'll know this is the case if you can't copy the text to cut and paste into another document. The good news is you can still use the fancy PDF-only version:

  • If you are meeting in person and handing over your resume.

  • If you are emailing your resume directly to a person.

  • If someone is referring you and emailing it for you.

You’ve spent years creating the content for your resume. Don’t let it get lost in the cloud. Take just a little more time when submitting your online application to be sure you get the attention you deserve.

Lisa Dubino helps job seekers and career changers create their future with resumes that stand out, LinkedIn profiles that get noticed, and interviews that nail it. Find out more at Pro Resume Works.


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