Career Development Series: Online Job Applications

It is affectionately referred to as the “black hole,” making it only slightly more popular than the flu. If you guessed the online job application process, you are correct. In the last ten years, the first step to almost any full-time position involves completing an online application. As with all things related to the era of the Internet, there are myths and truths.

Myth: All online applications are scanned and are never reviewed by a human. In most cases, there is human contact with your application. In many cases, especially in situations where an employer may receive thousands of applications for a position, scanners are first used to look at word content/connections, before being reviewed by a set of human eyes. Using a tool like a word cloud can give you some guidance on key words that an employer may be looking for in your application, cover letter, and resume. Check out is a free word cloud.

Truth: A cover letter that gets to the point in the first sentence, gets noticed. If your online applications aren’t getting noticed, maybe it’s time to change the rules. Instead of a traditional cover letter that starts with what you do and where you are, start with three or four bullets that match your skills, expertise, and experience, to fit exact requirements in the job description/requirements. Companies are trying to fill openings with people who match the requirements-make it easier for them.

Myth: If it’s online, it doesn’t matter if words are misspelled or my grammar isn’t that good, because they probably don’t care. Wrong. Playing fast and loose with the English language tells a potential employer that you you are sloppy and have an aversion to details.

Truth: It’s okay to contact the company to see where they are in the hiring process. If you can find someone to update you on the status of your application, it shows you are industrious and are willing to take initiative, both qualities of successful employees.

Myth: Companies don’t ever look at my application again once a position has been filled. There is too much anecdotal information out there that indicates companies do keep and recheck their electronic files as positions open.

Truth: It’s a very competitive job market and the slightest thing can make a difference. Your resume and cover letter can set you apart, but don’t forget to manage your image when it comes to social media. The “slightest thing” can be only one negative post on a social media site. Diligence, Diligence, Diligence.


Gary Ward, Director of Graduate Career Services for Manderson Graduate School of Business at The University of Alabama

Online applications are here to stay. Analytics will continue to grow and assist companies use to determine what makes for a “successful” employee. Online applications will morph into being more detailed. It will always come back to what you can do to set yourself apart from the crowd.

For more information on Manderson Graduate School of Business academic programs, EMBA, M.B.A., online and specialty Masters programs, visit our Web site at

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