Finding a Job

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Applying online – general information

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The number of companies using online application forms just keeps on growing.

For big companies it’s an efficient way to handle a long and expensive recruitment process. Smaller companies still tend to use traditional application forms, or request that you send in your CV and covering letter.        

Many large companies, organisations and recruitment agencies now only accept online applications. So, even if you’re still at school, and looking for part time work, you will need to know how to complete them.

But don’t worry – with a little practice you’ll soon get the hang of it.  

What types of online applications are there?

The term ‘online applications’ can refer to a number of different methods, including:

Some of the companies that use these methods include: BAE Systems, Rolls Royce, Boots, Debenhams, Greggs, House of Fraser, Marks and Spencer, Next, Sainsbury, Subway, Tesco, Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Banking, Aviva and RBS.

Online applicant tracking systems (ATS)

You usually apply through the company’s main website, although some have career microsites. You need to register or create an account before you can apply, and can usually track your application online. 

Some employers may also have you upload your CV and/or covering letter in addition to the application form.

Some of the systems are easy to use; the screen layouts are well-designed and there are clear instructions for every step in the process. Others can be more challenging to use if the onscreen instructions are less than clear! 

Some systems use software to scan application forms or CVs for keywords. The keywords they scan for are often the names of skills, qualities or tasks mentioned in the job description. So, read those descriptions with care and use those buzz-words. 

Others include online aptitude tests, or even quizzes to help you decide which job opportunities might suit you best.

However, be aware that some companies use online questionnaires or personality assessments to determine your suitability for the job, which can serve as an early screening process.

Every system is slightly different. It can take anything from around 30 minutes to an hour to complete an online form. 

You will never, ever be asked for money to apply for jobs online!  If you are, it’s a scam and you should report it immediately to the company and/or the police.    

Online application forms

Some companies put downloadable application forms on their websites. You can usually:

One advantage of downloadable application forms is that you have plenty of time to practise filling in the form until you have a final copy you feel is good enough to send.

If you are sending the form back by email make sure you have the correct email address, and remember to attach the completed form. 

Uploading your CV and covering letter

Employers usually advise the file format they prefer you to save your documents as, and how to upload them to the system or where to send them by email.

Almost all employers accept Microsoft Word files. Follow their instructions to the letter.

Make sure your email address, the subject title of your email, and the title of the file, is clear and includes your name. For example:

Subject: Customer Assistant Vacancy (Ref. CS12) Applicant Docs Amy McDonald
Attach File: amymcdonaldCV.doc
Email address:

Suggested activities

Take a look at the information and advice one or two companies provide on applying online.  What do they have in common? What are the main differences? 

Practise emailing your CV and covering letter to someone you trust. Check that the content of your CV is still in the original format, and that it’s still easy to read.

Read the articles Online application forms – applicant tracking systems, Applying by email and Application form hints and tips for advice on preparing your application, and completing the forms.

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