You find a job ad online. It sounds amazing and you really are a match. You know there are probably hundreds of other people reading the same ad and thinking the same thing. What can you do to set your application apart, catch the eye of the recruiter and get a call back?

Your Cover Letter

cover letter writing tips

The first thing an employer is likely to do is open your cover letter, right? I wish I could tell you that the answer is yes. I wish I could promise you that even if other recruiters and hiring managers don’t, I do. I know you put a lot of work into it.But I’m not going to lie to you.

Hiring managers and recruiters just don’t read that cover letters all that thoroughly. We often skim them, usually trying to get a general idea of your overall communication style and skills. Unfortunately, cover letters are often to be full of overused buzzwords. Many sound the same no matter who’s written them, tell the story already told on your resume, and don’t do you justice.

There are exceptions, but I’m talking about the average cover letter; the majority of them. The good news is that on lots of online applications, cover letters are an option.

Many online job apps include customized questions that are specific to the role you’re applying for. Your answers to those questions are the best way to tell your story. From what’s being asked you’ll also know if the opportunity is really a fit for you, and you’ll get a picture that of from the tone and details in the questions.

One exception we can consider is when a cover letter is required. A good example of when this would happen is when you’re asked to write one and are given guidelines or you’re asked to copy and paste one into a field on your application.  Similar to your resume, here are a few things you should avoid:

  1. Praising yourself. Self promotion is one thing, but anything other than stating the facts may make you sound like a bragger.
  2. Sharing personal info. It’s normal to look for a job and you don’t have explain yourself by oversharing. If you wonder what oversharing might be, it’s sharing anything not related to the position,company or your professional qualifications. E.g., your marital status, sexual preference, parenting situation, or health conditions. People may actually discriminate against you based on personal information you share so protect yourself by leaving it out.
  3. Writing more than one paragraph. Be concise. If the person going through your profile is also reading through one hundred others, they just don’t have the time or attention span to focus on too much text.
  4. Using a generic cover letter. Create a fresh new one that’s for the job and company you’re applying to.

Take Your Time

slow down and take your time when filling out a job application

Filling out an online application is not a race. Yes It’s a huge pain and you want to get it over with, but shouldn’t be rushed.

Have you made sure your resume is 100% perfect and error-free? If not, go do that, too. Know that your online application is an extension of your resume and it should also be perfect,. If you’re carefully filling out a job application online, answering detailed questions, providing work samples etc. it should take you while. Read about this subject more in detail in an older article I posted on how to improve your job search results. Your care will shine through in the quality.

Other things you can do to avoid application errors:

  1. Proofread. Make sure your submission is free from grammatical, spelling and typo errors If you can, save your application and walk away from your computer and all screens for an hour. Or sleep if it’s late at night and submit your application after reviewing it in the morning.
  2. Ensure you’re following the instructions to “T” and not missing any steps. If all of the instructions are given at the beginning of the application, review them with each step to make sure you thoroughly completing each part. Read them once again when you’re done to be 100% sure you’ve covered everything.

Google Yourself

have you ever googled yourself

Chances are that if your resume or application is being reviewed online, so are your social media profiles. On some applications, links to your social media accounts are actually requested.

Have a nice, clean, online presence that would make you appear like the kind of person anyone would want to hire. Keep in mind appropriateness will vary based on what kind of job you’re going for, but here are some tips related to your appearance online:

  1. LinkedIn – Ensure your picture is set to public so that it can be viewed by everyone or it will seem that your profile doesn’t include a picture. You don’t have to have a professional head shot but your pic should be clear, centered, and of you, wearing business attire.
  2. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, & Snapchat – On your personal pages, your pic can be of you and a family member or a friend. If you use your social page for work, too, consider using a more casual head shot. You can inject a little more personality into your social media pages but anything that isn’t PG, or controversial like posts about religion or politics are best avoided.
  3. Be Yourself – Share your creativity, hobbies, and talents on social media. Hiring managers love to see that you’re interesting and interactive. If you must be a little crass, sexy or whatever on social media set your page and pictures to private so that only people you want to can see your activity. And regardless of precautions you take, things you post online can come back to haunt you.
  4. Search Engine Checks – What happens when you simply type your name and location into any search engine? I’m talking about the major ones like Google, Bing, and even YouTube. Have a look and get rid of any results that may give a wrong impression. This could literally be anything from tax liens, mugshots, posts on forums you don’t want the public to see, and more!

You deserve a chance at landing that job of your dreams. Make it possible and put your best virtual foot forward. By knowing how to use your online tools the right way, the tedious task of applying for jobs on the internet will no longer be fruitless.

At minimum follow the first two parts of this post and you should start getting responses to your applications. If done properly, you should see results that yield about a 15-20% response rate, or get a reply on 1:5 applications. Of course, I can’t guarantee anything, but that’s what’s happened for me.

If you incorporate the last part, too, you can create more opportunities than you expected, and might actually start getting approached for opportunities you haven’t even applied for!

If you have any questions or suggestions about online applications, don’t be afraid to ask in the comments. Last but not least, good luck!