This was originally a blog post but I need to share it so often that I recreated it here so you can use it for your search. Happy online applying! ~ Julie Walraven
Do you hate applying online?
You know, filling out all those fields and hoping that your application actually gets there and they read it?
I haven’t found anyone yet that is in love with using online applications for employment.
I don’t like them either! I have wrestled my way through many of them on behalf of clients who threw in the towel or didn’t even know where to begin.
Mailing a resume or dropping one off seems a lot easier but not many companies let you do that anymore.
To diminish the pain, here is my prescription for greater success with online applications:
Note: I am a PC user. If you use a MAC, you may need different directions.
I find it much easier if you have a text version of your resume (and if you are using a cover letter, a text version of that too). Here’s how!
1. → Create your resume in Microsoft Word format first
(or if you must, other compatible word processing program) even if you are applying online. Some online applications take the Word version easily others don’t.
You want a presentation resume at interviews and networking.
Creating your resume in an eye-appealing layout does something for you psychologically too. It is easier to visualize your talents and remember your accomplishments.
Some people might think all they do is fill in the forms online so they don’t need to write a resume but then you are going to miss keywords and struggle to figure out your accomplishments.
In addition, if you follow this formula, you can use it over and over again with minor changes for other applications. Otherwise, you will be starting from scratch each time.
2. → Convert MS Word document into plain text.
Save the document as a .txt version and select the “allow character substitution this time as you save it. I will give you more instructions later. For this example, I used the Global Marketing Executive Sample which is already fictionalized on my website.
3. → Reopen the document in MS Word, use the “find and replace” function
Replace any odd characters which are probably your bullet points now converted into “?” marks. I use “replace all” and replace the “?” with “+” most of the time.
Double-check to see if anything you didn’t want converted also changed. Lately I find that the em dash “—” that I use between dates also gets changed to a “+” and I don’t want that so I change it back to a “-” hyphen.
4. → Reformat your Keyword section
It will have issues with bullets but is probably all jammed together. I make this into a long list.
5. → Check formatting and remove any “Page Two” information headers
The document becomes one long document at this point.
6. → Set the margins
1 inch top, bottom, and left, and 1.25 on the right which will now paste better.
7. → Save as Plain text one more time.
Select the “insert line breaks” option this time.
8. → Reopen in Notepad.
MS Word will try to use its own formatting if you stay in Word so you need to move to Notepad, the very basic word processor that comes with your laptop or PC.
Yuck, huh? That’s just a snapshot of how the text version looks but this is what you need to get you started on online applications.
9. → Now armed with your new text version of your resume, you start by filling out all of the fields that the application asks for.
Some applications will let you upload early and others will want you to upload your resume later in the process. Using the text version to cut and paste in all the areas of the application. Your formatting will not change.
10. → Answer everything fully.
Make sure you have available information like supervisor names, salary, specific months and years of employment, supervisor phone numbers, and supervisor e-mails before you start.
A few applications let you put the MS Word version into them but often the formatting is destroyed in the upload process. Using the text file will save you headaches.
After you submit the file, follow up by phone. If you are unsure about how to follow up and when to follow up, I covered that in 11 Tips for Your Phone in the Job Search.
This should get you started, but remember I know all that and I get frustrated! Every application format is slightly different and there are areas of customized questions that you need to be ready to answer.