How to Fill Out Online Job Applications

As a college student looking for your college internship or full time job, probably the worst words you want to hear at a career fair are "Please apply online." You know you've heard it. I've heard it.

We both dislike it because it implies a lack of action and a "cattle herding" of sorts. The thing you may not realize is that each company is required by the Federal government to track their applicants (specifically to ensure that the company's hiring practices are not discriminating or doing otherwise illegal things). So the next time a company recruiter says this to you, understand that it is for legal reasons, not because they want to herd you.

The exception to the cattle herding that I've seen is actually by Boeing. At my career fair, they actually did not accept any resumes in hand, they required all applications, resumes, etc to go online. More specifically, they required that you do a job search on their website and apply directly to positions you were interested in.

I honestly didn't apply because I didn't want to spend 5 hours of my valuable time applying to 20 different jobs for one company. You may have a different opinion on that (or you may really want to work for Boeing); To each his or her own. Now that we're past the cattle herding, let's talk about actually applying online. There are some secrets to filling out the application that will make it stand out, while saving you time in the process (remember, time is vital here, since you have multiple companies to apply to!).

One point is to make sure that you fill in all the sections as completely as possible, with job dates, supervisors and all other pertinent information. Make sure that this information matches the information on your resume - exactly. Have a text document (yes, I mean text editor, not Word) of this information so that you can copy and paste it right into the online forms. You also want to have a text (again, .txt) version of your resume available for easy copy and pasting.

Some companies still don't have the ability for you to upload a Word or PDF version of your resume. The final secret to this game is that you have to realize that some companies search through the "database of resumes" by using keywords. If you are only applying for a specific job, then you want to make sure you tailor your resume for this so that your resume has those keywords they are searching for.

Take a look at the job description on the website and ask yourself "Self, if I were the hiring manager here, what keywords would I use?" See how you can bend your resume to make those keywords fit, it shouldn't be that difficult. Worst comes to worse, you can probably fit them into your objective. As you become more familiar with online applications it will be easier for you to fill them out correctly and efficiently. One of the best suggestions to filling out a great job application - especially online - is to make sure you have all your information and that it is accurate and concise. Be succinct - don't use more words than you have to, as there is usually limited room on the application. When you fill out the application, use the essential points.

Your resume will contribute additional information.

This article was written by Bob Halgren, an expert in educating college students in how to get college internships and full time positions. For more information and articles, please visit

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