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How to succeed with online application forms - 11/2001

Some advice from gradunet.co.uk - the virtual careers office

Applying for jobs using the Internet has become increasingly popular with recruiters and applicants alike. Filling out an online application form is relatively simple, but there are hazards.

It is always important to realise that applying through the net is not that different to applying through the post. One medium does not necessarily mean an opportunity to push your grades up a notch, so what are the benefits? Naturally, you will save on stamps and paperwork and trips to the post box. It is probably less time consuming than filling out an actual application form by hand and less embarrassing if youíve got the handwriting of a serial killer. New innovations in online application forms have now meant that you will be able to fill out the easy bits and return to those tricky ëWhat unpopular team decisions have you decided to implement at work?í type questions later.

Although applying online has a new and shiny feel to it, any attempts to gloss over hard facts will catch up with you. It may be tempting to lie or exaggerate when in the virtual climate, but putting down that you were once assistant to the head of fundraising when all you did was collect some coppers on a Saturday afternoon six years ago will be swiftly discovered.

It sounds obvious but make sure that you hit ësaveí regularly unless, of course, you particularly like typing. Completing application forms in any format can be confusing so make sure to give your eyes a break every 15 minutes to reduce the risk of submitting a form that indicates that you have been at university for 13 years. By some unkind anomaly, all this techie progress has, in some instances, cancelled out the spell check option. Be sure that you check all your spelling (yes, this will involve a dictionary) and if possible, print a copy out before you submit.

With any fresh and successful innovation, some will want to use it for their own ends. There are hundreds of new sites begging jobseekers for their contact details and whilst many are reputable, some are not. Make sure that they are not trying to sell you something or are trying to make their market research easy. If their questions arenít relevant to a job search, donít answer them. Donít hand over credit card details or agree to part with any cash. Thereís no way that youíd agree to pay a high street recruitment agency to find you a job and a reputable site wouldnít even ask.

So, now that you know what to do, position yourself carefully in front of your PC with your CV in hand and type away! Some applicants paste their responses onto an online form by using the cut, copy and paste facility taken from a set document with generic answers on it. Be warned, however, companies like to see individual responses for subjective questions and not set answers.

The continuing success of applying online could eventually kill the mail method of applying for jobs. It used to be that most jobs advertised on the net were IT related. Now everything from vacancies for ceramic potters to jobs with animals are lurking somewhere in cyberspace so there will be something out there for you if you look hard enough. The best thing about applying online is that you wonít get off to a bad start by being forced to submit a form full of crossed out mistakes and smudged pen.