How to make a successful online application

CV Guru Emma Alkirwi has some expert advice on how to ensure your online job application stands out

Woman at her laptop making an online job application


If you’ve been in one job for a long time or risen the ranks internally, job hunting online can feel very daunting when you aren’t used to it.

An online job application could include any of the following:

  • Sending your CV and Cover Letter
  • Bespoke application forms
  • Video answer submissions
  • Aptitude tests for specific skills

With so many potential avenues, you need to know what processes to follow to ensure your application stands out from the crowd.

Here are our top tips to ensure a successful submission when completing an online job application.

Preparation is key

Give yourself plenty of time to prepare to make sure you understand exactly what you need to do. The more of a rush you are in, the more likely you are to make mistakes.

Here are a few key tasks to help you feel fully confident before you begin:

  • Read the instructions carefully – Make sure you understand the format of the applications, the questions being asked, and the deadlines you need to meet.
  • Study the job description – Look for the key skills and experience they are interested in and create a list of bullet points. Have this to hand when completing your answers.
  • Research the company – Their unique selling point (USP), values, and goals, and keep these in mind when completing your application.

Personalise your documents

When all you need to do for an online job application is upload your CV, personalisation is key. As employers have made this such an easy tick-box exercise, a lot of people will click the button and send their documents away without thinking about what they include.

If you don’t put any effort into your application, why should you expect a reply from a recruiter?

Make sure you take the time and effort to tailor your CV to the job description. It will help you stand out in a sea of generic documents.

Use keywords from the job description

Many companies screen online job applications using Applicant Tracking Software (ATS). How does it work? Basically, when you apply for a job and send your documents in, your CV will enter the company’s ATS. The software takes the information from your CV and pre-populates the company’s system with it, based on the keywords that are most important to the role you have applied for. These key terms will include specific skills and experience that are mentioned in the job description.

Once the recruiter is ready to review the CVs they have been sent, they will search for these specific key terms within the ATS. The results that will appear for them – and the ones that will be at the top of the queue – are the CVs that have taken the job description into consideration and included the key terms that the employer is looking for.

Make sure that no matter what form the online application takes, you are including keywords within your answers. If you don’t, you might not make it past the first round of screening for the position. You can check out more tips on making your job application ATS-compliant here.

Work on your application offline

Sometimes, online applications set a time limit for you to answer questions, or they can time out after a period of inactivity – which means you risk losing everything you have written.

Always make sure you have a back-up! Open the application and copy the questions into a Word document and work on your answers there. That way you can edit and refine them until you are happy – without the risk of having to start again.

Fill the space provided

With online applications, you get a character or word count with each answer. This can be frustrating when you have a lot you want to say – but try and look at it positively instead! Laser in on the most specific and relevant experience you have and include results where you have them.

Alternatively, you might feel like you don’t have the experience to write a long enough answer. Write as much as you can, without simply trying to fill the space. Look at the bullet point list you made based on the job description – you will have more to offer than you think.

Don’t miss any questions!

It’s easy to get distracted while completing a long application, and it can become frustrating if the structure of the questions makes you feel you are repeating yourself.

You need to stick with it and make sure you don’t skip any questions. If you do, the recruiter could think you lack attention to detail – a quality an employer is never looking for.

Take some extra help

Don’t feel like you need to do it alone. Get someone you trust to read over your answers to pick up on anything you might have missed. Software like Grammarly will make suggestions to improve conciseness and readability in your answers and will flag spelling errors.

Bonus tip! As with any kind of job application, don’t lie on an online application form. Avoid exaggerating your experience and adding in something that isn’t true. Sooner or later, you will be caught out!

We hope this guide makes you feel more confident about completing an online job application! The most important thing you can do is give yourself plenty of time to prepare and get comfortable with the style of application.

*Emma Alkirwi is the Managing Director of the CV Guru which is the leading service provider of professionally written CVs, LinkedIn Profiles, cover letters in the UK and they also provide specialist consultancy services. She says a great foundation for any online job application is a tailored CV that displays your strengths and experience. CV Guru’s expert writers will work on your documents until you are happy with them and will factor in essential keywords to make sure you get through that first screening. There’s no need to feel any fear about online job applications.

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