When applying for most jobs you will be required to complete an online application. This is usually the employer’s first look at who you are and what you have to offer and  will be most important in determining whether you get to the next stage of the application process, so it is important to know how to get it right.

Here are some tips:

1. Make sure your email address is correct

Your email address is the primary method of contact for online applications, so make sure that it is correct, current and professional. When you are applying for jobs, make sure you check your emails at least a couple of times each day.

2. Research the company

Most organisations include a lot of the information that you should know about them on their website, so before applying make sure that you read it carefully and tailor your application accordingly.

3. Find out the closing time and date

Aim to start and submit your application early. Don’t start the application on the last day as the site is generally slower then because of increased traffic. The application may also be longer and more detailed than you expected, requiring more time and research. Also, if you do encounter any technical difficulties, you may not be able to complete your application by the deadline and you will therefore miss out.

4. Read instructions thoroughly

Does the application have to be completed in one sitting or can it be done over time? Most will allow you to work on the application over time and save it as you go (in a Word document) before you have to submit it, but you do need to check this.

If you are going to have to complete the application in one go, make sure that you have drafted answers in advance AND that you have allowed sufficient time to answer all questions comprehensively.

Read through the form before you start answering questions which are asking for specific examples of your competencies, activities or experiences in certain areas. Some situations will provide better examples for some questions than others.

5. Respond appropriately to behavioural questions

As well as basic biographical information and questions about your academic background, work experience and other activities, application forms usually contain a number of behavioural questions related to the skills that are being sought by the employer.

Behavioural questions can be identified by phrases like “describe a time when you….”, “or provide an example when you…”. These are based on the belief that your past behaviours are good indicators of how you will behave in particular situations in the future.

You need to put time and effort into your answers as they can determine whether you will be offered an interview. Once you get to the interview you can also expect to be probed in more detail about these skills.

To answer behavioural questions, use the ‘STAR’ method.

6. Treat it like a formal document

Just because the application is online, doesn’t mean it can be written like an email to a friend. Make sure your grammar, spelling and punctuation are correct. Don’t use text talk or slang.

7. Attach all documents as requested

Failure to do so can delay or harm your application. Particularly watch the format that attached documents must be in (e.g. Word, text or included in the body of the email) and clearly label any attachments, e.g. ‘Resume – Tom Smith’, ‘Question 6: Career Goals’. If requested to provide a transcript of results, a typed list of subjects and results is usually sufficient at this stage. If you aren’t sure whether or not an official transcript is required, contact the organisation and ask.

8. Make a copy of your application

When you have finished print it out or save it electronically, as you will need to be able to check your answers before the next stage of the process. You may not be able to access your completed application from after submitting it, so make a copy prior to submitting it.

Find out more…

A quick guide to… online applications

A graduate’s guide to online job applications