More and more people are using the internet to search for jobs. The number of jobs advertised and the number of jobseekers replying to adverts are increasing by the day.
Many people are now taking the process one step further and actually applying for the advertised job online rather than by post.
Some sites will give you an e-mail link and an online form to fill in, others will steer you to the recruiter's own website where you'll be able to apply.
Either way, there are several key points you need to remember if you are applying online…
What's the difference between an online application and a postal one?
The fundamentals are exactly the same. It may sound obvious, but the most common mistake made by online applicants is to forget this. They are seduced by the seeming informality of e-mail and don't provide all their details, list all their qualifications, or even provide basic contact information.
The format of online applications can make it much harder for you to get noticed, because all the applications will look virtually the same. But a significant number of applications will be automatically discarded, either because the jobseeker is applying from overseas and doesn't have the necessary documentation or work permit, or because they have failed to fill in all their details.
As a result, a well-thought out, thorough application will rise quickly towards the top of the pile.
Always be as meticulous about an online application as you would be when applying by post.
- Top tip: Never start your message to a potential employer with the word "Hi!" This is guaranteed to annoy them.
OK, what should I do first?
When you click the "Respond to this job advert" button or its equivalent you'll probably be faced with a form. Usually, it will have a lot of fields to fill in and only some of them will be compulsory (these will usually be indicated).
This is the first place where you can get one up on your fellow applicants. Make sure you fill in every field. Your name and e-mail address will be compulsory fields, but you should answer any "What part are of the industry do you work in?" type questions as well.
The more detail you give, the more likely you are to get through to the next stage.
The recruiter will use this standard information to filter out a lot of applicants before they even look at any additional material provided. Every question on the application form is there for reason, and you don't know which ones are the most important to the recruiter. Fill them all in truthfully and carefully.
- Top tip: Imagine you're the recruiter and then look at your application, is there enough there to make you want to hire yourself?
What about a CV?
On some sites, such as Caterer-online, you will be given the option of simply attaching your CV to your e-mail in Word, PDF or RTF file format instead of filling out a form.
If this facility isn't available there will be a "free field", a box called something like "additional information" where you're allowed to type whatever you want. It's here that you should add your CV should the attachment option be unavailable. Some sites will have both a CV attachment option and this additional information box. Caterer-online uses a box called "message".
If you're seriously applying for the job, you need to spend some time planning how to add your CV to the additional information box.
The hurried nature of the internet and the usually small-looking box tempt many people into providing only very brief information. Don't worry about the size of the box: that's just to make it fit on the form. Once you start writing it will scroll down.
Ideally, write out a CV beforehand in Word or other word-processing software, and then cut and paste it into the form.
Don't worry too much about the layout or design of the CV if you are pasting it into a form. Different fonts, bolds, italics, bullet points and the like won't show up. Just make sure everything is spelt correctly and that all the relevant information is presented.
- Top tip: Put all the facts in but make sure they are relevant. Include all the dates, the names of places you've worked, and your qualifications.
Do I have to write out a new CV every time I apply for a job?
Once you've filled in the form, it will make up your online CV. If the recruitment site is any good, that CV will be saved and you can attach it to any and every application you make. In many cases that CV will also sit on a database that employers can search for prospective candidates.
It's important here to consider carefully the words you use on your CV.
A recruiter will search his CV database using "keywords" to find the attributes he is looking for. For example, he might be looking to recruit a restaurant manager with experience in recruiting staff, handling money and customer service.
First he will search for candidates whose CV includes the words "restaurant manager". Then the recruiter may narrow down the search further by searching on keywords such as "recruiting", "money" and "customer service".
What you need to do is anticipate the attributes recruiters will be looking for. Then make sure you include those keywords in your online CV.
- Top tip: You should have the option to be able to edit your CV once it's in the database. Tweak it for every application you make to highlight the skills most relevant to that job.
What happens once I've applied?
Once you've sent it off, an application over the internet is exactly the same as a postal one. You just have to sit there and hope you get a reply. The main possible difference is that the reply may come via e-mail, so make sure you check your inbox every day if possible.