Here’s our guide for those who are struggling with the difficult and often frustrating process of applying for jobs online.
Applying for jobs online can be a daunting process, regardless of whether you’ve done so before.
Deciding how often to respond to listings, which ones are worth your time, and exactly how much time it’s worth spending on each individual application can take a lot of research and planning — not to mention how discouraging it can feel when the length of your application process moves from days to weeks, to even months at a time.
To that end, we at Zippia put together a few online application tips and tricks in the hope that we can make the process a little easier and a bit less intimidating for you.
It can be very discouraging to apply online sometimes, given the repetitive and often labor-intensive process that filling out online resumes can be. Here are a few basic tips that can help you apply faster and keep your spirits up:
Let’s take these items one-by-one and dig into them bit.
It’s tougher some days than others, to be sure, but you should try to apply to at least one job posting per day — and remember that if nothing looks relevant to your experience, it’s okay to go a day or two without applying somewhere.
Some places will tell you to apply to as many listings as possible in order to make getting hired a numbers game. While this might work for certain industries, for the most part this kind of spray-and-pray approach to job applying can sometimes have the opposite effect on your prospects.
The more applications you send out per day, the less time you spend on them, and the amount of time you spend working on an application will be noticeable to any good hiring manager. That being said, when you’re out of work, you should be treating your application process as your job — get started early in the morning, and make sure to keep going for hours. Once you’ve got a good process, you should try to apply to more and more everyday, but if you’re having trouble getting started, taking each day one listing at a time is a good way to keep yourself moving while adjusting to the job-hunting process.
We have more advice on the application process below, including how to improve your resume through things like keyword research, but for now it should suffice to say that you should tailor your resume and cover letter to each individual listing, which is difficult to do unless you’ve really taken the chance to do your research for a job.
Form-saving software like Autofill, LastPass, and RoboForm can all save certain information and act as automatic application fillers, which can help save time on the parts of your online applications that are the most tedious. Things like your employment history, education, contact information — all the pieces of your resume that rarely change with individual listings — can often be put into form-saving programs like the ones above.
In addition to saving you time, these kind of programs can help give you hope — filling out the same information every time can be a real drag on your psyche, especially if your job hunt takes more than a few weeks. Spending your time tailoring your resume or cover letter lets you focus on what’s new and exciting about each new job posting rather than forcing you to wallow in what’s come before.
Not every website works perfectly with form-filler programs, however, and certain online application programs will make it all but impossible for you to use autofill for anything. For this reason it’s also a good idea to set aside information in an unofficial, non-resume format, perhaps in a text document or Excel spreadsheet. You don’t need to show this information to anyone — it’s just for you, a place where all of your job information is in an easily accessible (not to mention copy-and-pastable) format.
For many employers these days, LinkedIn is the only thing that matters. Some hiring managers will barely even look at your resume, preferring to look primarily at your LinkedIn page to see what connections you have, what skills you’ve listed, and who’s chosen to endorse those skills.
There are a lot of things you can do to make your profile stand out in more advanced ways, but for now, we’ll stick to some of the simpler ones. The simplest thing you can do to start cleaning up your LinkedIn page is, perhaps unsurprisingly, to actually fill everything out. List your education, your skillsets, and try to come up with a simple but comprehensive summary of yourself — this is one of the first things employers will look at if they’re trying to get a sense of who you are and how capable you are of talking about yourself.
Make sure that the picture you’ve got is professional and clearly shows your face — it shouldn’t look like a picture for Facebook or Tinder, though. That means no abs, no quirky graffiti on the wall behind you, and no holding up a fish you just caught. Just yourself, looking as professional as you can, giving a nice smile to the camera. Imagine the smile you’d have while giving someone a professional handshake. That’s the smile you want in the picture.
Lastly, make sure to utilize the skills section appropriately. You should list ones that are most relevant to the jobs that you’re looking for, but that aren’t so hyperspecific that you won’t be able to reach the full range of positions to which you’re applying. Look up some of the skills that people in these positions tend to list, and think about yourself critically: do you feel comfortable telling people you have those skills?
If you don’t feel comfortable saying all the skills that come to mind, then you should pick only those that you do, as LinkedIn is different from a traditional resume in that the skills you list are only as good as the people you get to endorse them. You see, after you list your skills, your next step is to reach out to former employers and ask them to endorse one or more of the skills you claim to have.
The more endorsements, the better, but given that these are former employers of yours, you want to be as sure as you can be that they’ll put their names on the line by endorsing you. Most will out of courtesy, if nothing else, but this should still keep you from making any strange or unusual claims about your capacity. Save that for the resume itself, which nobody reads for more than six seconds anyway.
Keywords can help if your resume is going through any kind of program, which is more or less likely depending on the size of company you’re applying to — more likely if the company is large, less if it’s small. But one way or another that resume is still going to get itself into human hands, so you want to make sure that the use of these buzzwords isn’t too blatant or distracting. This is part of the way that you can alter your resume to appeal to a number of different job types, by simply switching out the words you’re using to describe the same skills with synonyms or by making other small sentence-level changes.
To find out what keywords you should be using in your resume, you’ll need to do a little bit of research. These keywords are occupation-specific, after all, and on top of that, they often change depending on what’s in vogue — so do a little digging and find out what some good ones are that you can try incorporating before you send your resume out into the world.
And above all, remember to use action words to describe your proficiencies. That is, rather than simply saying “Microsoft Word,” mention in what way you’re proficient in Word, or talk about a specific project or responsibility that you accomplished by using it.
Lastly, once you’ve sent out your application, don’t just sit on your hands. Many potential employers don’t simply see a follow up as being a nice bonus to a good-looking resume, but instead see it as a necessary step to making sure a potential employee is really interested in the gig. By following up with an employer, you increase the chance that they’ll remember your name, making it that much more likely that they’ll take the time to think about how you’ll fit into their team overall.
The follow up doesn’t need to be long. A short email stating how happy you’d be to talk and answer any additional questions is perfectly serviceable, and if you can bring up some kind of personal info or shared interest of the employer or hiring manager, then all the better. Whatever you do, make sure the email is professional, contains no spelling errors, and remains to the point. No need to meander — you’re just trying to keep your name in the hiring manager’s mind as much as possible.
Make sure to wait at least a few days before you follow up, but don’t wait too long — after two weeks or more have passed, it becomes likely that not only will they have a few good candidates picked out, but they might even have already filled the position.
To conclude, you want to take your time with each resume when you’re first getting started, as job-hunting can be an intimidating and debilitating process if you’re not careful. Spend a lot of time developing your resume, and save time for yourself later by making as many versions as you can early on. Stack your deck by building out relevant social media like your LinkedIn profile, and remember the importance of keywords and following up.
Last, but not least, take a breath. Job-hunting is a stressful and frustrating process, but it’s all worth it to get that final acceptance call. So make sure to take care of yourself as you’re going through your resume-writing and interviewing — in the end, you’ll be glad you did.
Zippia empowers you to make the correct career decisions, not just find your next job.
You can access millions of others' career paths with the Career Graph to help you identify what skills and experiences you need to achieve your career goals. And when you're ready to take the next step in your career, you can research jobs and really understand the implications for your career aspirations.