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How to Fill out a Job Application Online

Although plenty of employers still use paper, many organizations find that technology simplifies and streamlines the job application process. Applying for a job online isn’t difficult. Just keep a few tips in mind to be successful.

Why Use Online Applications?

Companies use online job applications for a variety of reasons. Allowing applicants to apply online broadens their reach to potential employees. Electronic applications are easier to read and store than paper versions. If multiple people are going to read applications during the screening process, they can do so without taking the time and expense of making photocopies. Depending on the type of software they use, employers also can scan online applications quickly for specific information, such as “years of experience” or “number of words typed per minute.”

Gather Your Documents

Prepare to fill out an application online by gathering relevant documents.

Employers typically request identifying information beyond name, address and phone number. You may have to provide a driver’s license number and either a complete social security number or the last four digits. Ensure the site encrypts these numbers when you enter them; if not, it could make your personal information vulnerable to scammers and hackers. Never supply bank account numbers or credit card numbers. Reputable employers will not ask for this information during the application process.

Have a list prepared of previous employers, including names, addresses and phone numbers, along with the names and titles of your supervisors. You probably will be asked to provide start and end dates. Month and year are usually sufficient.

Collect your school records. Employers will ask for names, attendance dates and completion dates (if applicable) of all the schools you’ve attended, including high school, general education diploma (GED) program, and any college or relevant training program.

Be prepared to list relevant certificates and awards with name, date and a brief description of purpose. A certificate earned for “Employee of the Month” is significant on any job application, as is making the Dean’s List or other academic award. An award for “Most Valuable Player” from a local softball league, on the other hand, won’t mean much to a prospective employer unless you’re applying for a coaching job or other sports-related position.

Read the Application and Job Announcement Carefully

Be prepared to complete all sections of an application when applying for a job online. Leaving a section blank may automatically disqualify you. Look for keywords in the job announcement and be sure to include them in the descriptions of your skills and experience. Some online applications are screened by algorithms set to look for certain words and phrases.

Complete a Practice Application

Many job sites require that you register before you’re allowed to complete an application, even if it’s just a “rehearsal” application. If you want to get some practice filling out online job applications before sharing any personal information, look for a practice application online. Minnesota State University’s career center has job application templates available for practice that do not store any of your personal data.

If you’re sure about submitting an application to a company or job search site, it’s still a good idea to fill out a practice application first. Some sites allow you to print a blank application. You can use this to write out answers in longhand or as a guide if you compose answers in a word processing software application such as MS Word.

Before Submitting Your Application

Preparing your answers ahead of actual applying for a job online will help clarify your thoughts so you can complete each section of the application concisely and correctly. Using a word processing software to compose a short answer or essay section gives you time to compose a thoughtful answer.

Before hitting the “Submit” button, take time to carefully proofread all your entries. Don’t assume you’ve spelled everything correctly. It would be embarrassing to realize you made a typo in your own name.

Spell check, though it can be handy, does not always distinguish between words such as “their,” “they’re” and “there” when you want to use them in the right context. Autocorrect sometimes substitutes words or phrases with incorrect or even inappropriate choices. It can be funny when texting a friend, but not at all funny if you hope to get hired through an online application.

Following Up Your Application

In most cases, electronic applications do not have a provision for applicants to follow up on their submission. After you click “Submit,” you’ll probably get a confirmation email from an address that does not accept replies. Employers use online applications to streamline the process. If they need more information or want to schedule an interview, they will contact you. Depending on the employer and the type of position, it could take a month or six weeks to get a response. Be patient, and continue submitting applications until you get the job offer you want.


Denise Dayton is a a freelance writer who specializes in business, education and technology. She has written for, Library Journal, The Searcher, Bureau of Education and Research, and corporate clients.