Chances are good – great, even – that you will not be mailing in a resume for a new job any time soon.  That’s because the application process is almost completely online for most employment opportunities, and this means that you had better bring your “A Game” in a completely new way.  Before you think that applying online is just the electronic version of doing it in person, think again.  Then follow these simple, often-overlooked, and essential tips.

Photo: Robert S. Donovan

Follow Directions

This is something we were supposed to have learned in kindergarten, but you’d be surprised at how many people start off the application process by NOT following instructions.  If the directions say to email your resume in plain text copy, do so.  If they say that you need a cover letter, include one.  If they say to leave out any attachments, you had better not try to sneak any in.  Bottom Line: Any deviation from the instructions will likely end up sending your app to the virtual trash bin.


Yes, I have a generic resume, CV, and cover letter for new jobs and consulting opportunities.  I always, however, ALWAYS switch them up a bit, depending on the position I’m applying for.  Make sure that your supporting documents actually address the position you’re vying for, and never use a one-size-fits-all resume.  (If you can’t find anything at all that could be changed to seem personal, your resume is that bad.)

Save a Copy

Nothing is worse than spending over an hour filling out an online app and then hitting send – only to find that your application got lost in “404 error” land.  If the form requires quite a bit of typing that’s outside of the information contained in your CV or resume, type it out on a separate word processing document and then copy it over when you’re done.  Applying for jobs is frustrating enough without these additional technical hassles.

Understand the Requirements

While there is nothing wrong with applying for a job that is a bit vague on the prerequisites (not specifically mentioning a Master’s degree, for example), putting in your name for something that is outside of your expertise can come off as wasting the company’s time.  Occasionally, well-qualified individuals that don’t match up on a single technical requirement can slip through and turn out to be good hires.  More than likely, however, this competitive job market will favor those who appear to be the best fit on paper first, and will choose from the most qualified applicants from there.  If you are less than one step away from the ideal candidate (and you don’t know the hiring manager in person or have a great inside referral), your time may be spent on a position more suitable for your qualifications.

Even if you seem to have your head in the game, it can be tempting to commit a major faux pas on your next application.  Remember that needing a job badly can translate into filling out the application in a desperate manner – something that can cause you to mess up your chances of getting hired. 

What errors in judgment have you experienced while looking for jobs online?

Linsey Knerl

Linsey Knerl

Linsey Knerl is a homeschooling mom of 5 and a freelance blogger and writer. You can read more about her at