You will be asked to complete an online job application as part of the hiring process. Don’t make these three mistakes.
You are forced to use an online job application because makes life easier for recruiters. And because they won’t need to pay someone to do data entry, you’ve done it for them.
The application is a weeding out tool. Perhaps employers won’t admit it, but, they are looking for certain things that would result in your elimination from the pack.
Before I list those three traps, remember that your online job application must contain the right “buzz words” or “keywords.”
There is no dictionary or thesaurus for these words. The words the employer searches for are generally the words used in the job posting. Simple. Just as you are entering in keywords or job titles into a job board to search for jobs, so are recruiters entering in keywords to find the best applicants.
This is what you need to know about applicant tracking systems.
This also means you will want to type in as much quality stuff as possible. Don’t take short cuts.
OK, so you are entering the easy stuff: name, address, telephone, email address… and then you come to:
ONE: “What are your salary requirements?”
You may try in vain to skip the salary requirement question on the online application, but it won’t let you. Darn, you’ll have to put a number in. What number do you put?
Do you enter what you really want, how much you were paid in your last job, a low-ball number?
There isn’t an easy answer to this. The answer depends on many things. Industry, occupation, competition in both, company and the alignment of the moon and stars.
The answer will require that you step back and do some research. Talk to people in your occupation, ideally, in that company, use salary calculators and talk to recruiters in that field. Ask for advice from people.
With this information in hand, pick a mid-point. The mid point would be a salary you would accept for this job plus some. You want to put a number in there that you would be ok with and that the employer finds within their range.
All this is predicated on the skills and requirements of the job. It isn’t about you.
Find out how many years of experience the job posting requires. That’s the biggest clue as to the level of salary the employer expects to pay.
With this question answered, you move onto the Work History section.
Read the instructions carefully. Employers and jobs are not the same. If the instructions state: “List Employers” that is what you need to do. So list the employers you have had within the last 10-15 years. Remember, the instructions didn’t specify how far back to go. This is your choice. If the instructions state: “List every position”, then list each job you had with each employer. Be sure to break down employment by different jobs within a large company to show adaptability and ability to change.
But then the application asks for
TWO: Salary information for previous jobs
Why do some employers ask for this? Because they can. Truly, it is none of their business how much you were paid before. That is between you and the IRS.
NOTE: In many cities and states it is no longer legal to ask what you made in your previous/past jobs.
But being a good “instruction follower” you’ll provide a number for them if it doesn’t hurt your chances. If the number is too high, you could be out. How can you downplay this number? You could put your starting salary in that position/job assuming that you received raises and made more at the end. Whatever you do, do NOT lie. That will not work.
Now it is on to the question
THREE: “Reason for leaving”
Sometimes you’ll have pull down options to select for the reason for leaving past jobs. Sometimes you’ll type it in. Remember to always keep it positive and short.
Select the most positive response, not the absolute truth. If you were fired, but it was due to a difference of opinion when new management took over, would you choose:
c) Position eliminated
d) Change in management
The answer could be… c) Position eliminated or d) Change in management.
BONUS: Get Referred
Applications will ask if you know someone in the company. Make sure this person knows you are applying before you include their name.
Also, make sure the employee name you use is someone in good standing with the company. Name dropping can be a real plus.
As always, if you can find someone inside the company to send your resume to or who is willing to be a “champion” for you, use them too!
Filling out hundreds of online job applications tends to result in a lack-luster response.
Take the extra step and get the resume to the right person. Better yet, you should have identified this employer as a target and been in contact BEFORE the job was posted.
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.