Applying online – applicant tracking systems
Most large companies use online job application systems, known as Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), to manage their vacancies and job applications. Many only accept online applications.
Some people may find this quicker and simpler compared to the lengthy process of filling out a paper form by hand. However, you still need to prepare for this just as you would when filling in paper application forms. There are sometimes added extras you might not expect, like online aptitude tests, quizzes or questionnaires.
Don’t worry though - with a bit of preparation you’ll be able to handle it.
Before you apply
- Research both the company and the job well in advance before you log on to the application system.
- Before applying for any part time jobs think in advance which days and times you would be prepared to work.
- Gather together all the information you need to apply. This includes information on the employer, the job description, your National Insurance number, your CV and covering letter.
- Carefully read, and if possible print out, the instructions on how to use the application system.
- You usually need to register and create an account before you apply.
- Keep a note of your registration details – your username (usually your email address) and password.
- Keep a note of your application reference number (if you are given one) – you may need it to track your application.
- Some sites may ask you to upload your CV, and even your covering letter, so have them ready. Check which file formats the system accepts. A standard Word document is usually fine.
- Some systems ask you to create a short online personal profile. Copying and pasting relevant information from your CV and covering letter may help you here.
Key words and phrases
Use the information you have on the employer, and the job, to make a list of key words and phrases to use in your answers. You’ll usually find them in the job description or role profile. Look for words that describe the skills, qualities and experience the employer needs. Try to work these into your answers, but only where it makes sense.
Also note down the company’s values, and any other words or phrases that describe what is important to them as an organisation. Why? Because it helps if you describe yourself in the words they use to describe what’s important to them.
For example, if you’re applying for a ‘customer service assistant’ job and have relevant experience as a ‘sales assistant’ use the job title the employer prefers instead.
Using key words that are listed in the job advert or specification is also very important for another reason. Some application systems use software to scan applicants’ profiles, CVs or application forms, looking for these keywords. Applications including the right keywords are more likely to get through and not be screened out at the first hurdle.
Completing the application
In general, follow the basic rules for filling in any application form. Read Applying online – general information and Application form hints and tips for more information.
But, there are a few extra things to watch out for.
- If you can, view or print out the whole application form before you apply. Use it to help you prepare your answers.
- Keep your text short and to the point; the space for answers can be very limited.
- It can easily take an hour, or more, to complete an online form. So make sure you have enough time.
- Be careful when choosing from drop-down menus. It’s easy to click the wrong option.
- Avoid using the back button on your computer, unless the instructions tell you otherwise, as you might lose your work.
- Remember to save your work as you go along. Some systems save it automatically, but not all.
- Some systems have a time limit or ‘time out’ feature, where the form closes down automatically. This is frustrating to say the least, if you haven’t saved your work.
- Online forms often don’t have a spellchecker so you might want to copy and paste text from a Word document.
- Be careful if, or when, you are copying and pasting text in from your CV or another application form.
- Avoid using symbols other than bullet points, tables (use tabs instead), or using multiple font faces.
- Some online forms may ask you what your salary expectations are. If you are unsure what to put, you could check our job profiles which contain pay information. Go for the entry level rate.
- Finally, many ATS's let you save out a copy of your application once it's finished. The information is handy to use for the basis of any future applications!
Was this article useful?
Please help us improve Planit by rating this article.