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In this day of high technology, many employers accept employment only via the Internet. Savvy job candidates must understand the ins and outs of this process. Online applications won't go away, employers say. An increasing number of employers want candidates to find job openings on company web sites or Internet job boards; they require online applications; they prefer to communicate with potential hires via e-mail.

Employers say that using their company's own online application system is the fastest way to get your resume into the right hands. Your focus should be on making your application unique; to avoid its being swallowed up in the technology abyss.

Typically, applications submitted online go directly into the employer's applicant data base. Paper resumes are scanned or keyed into the data base (where a scanner or data processor may add errors to your resume).

A hiring manager who needs to fill a position enters keywords to search the data base and find the applications of the people who are the best fit for the job. Those results become the candidate pool. Key words are more likely to be nouns and noun phrases than verbs and verb phrases. Action verb phrases are used to describe your duties and responsibilities or what you have learned or accomplished in a particular position. Key words, on the other hand, are nouns which name positions, things, and places. Most professions and positions have sets of keywords specific to the field. Several books have been published outlining key words for resume use. An Internet search may also uncover possible key words to use. Listed below are some keyword suggestions that are field-specific:

Arts & Letters

Layout & Design; Typography; Visual Media; Brand Building; Illustrator; Promotional Programs; Marketing Strategy & Communications; Publicity; Strategic Planning; Writing Skills; Proofreading; Electronic Publishing; Creativity; Photojournalism; Market Research; Advertising Communications; Grassroots Campaign; Press Release


Accounts Receivable/Payable; Expense Tracking; Project Management; Financial Audits; Cost Reduction; Statistical Data; Member-Driven Organization; Grant-Writing; Fund-Raising; Special Events Management; Branch Sales Action Plan; Deposit/Loan Production; Tax Analysis & Planning; Revenue Apportionment


Lifelong Learning; Educational Administration; Cooperative Learning; Curriculum Planning; Classroom Management; Student Advocate; Textbook Review; Evaluation of Learning Goals & Objectives; Teamwork; Hands-on Learning; Developing Themes Across the Curriculum; Internet/Computer Learning Games; Performance Based; Thematic Units

Natural Sciences

Organic; Research; Synthetics/Polymer; Analytical; Clinical Data Processing; Medical Laboratory Procedures; Specimen; Urinalysis; Venipuncture; Registered Nurse (RN); Patient Admissions & Discharge; Resident Assessment Instrument (RAI); Treatment Plans; Client Consultation/Analysis; SAP; Systems Analysis; Technology Infrastructure; C++; Pascal; Programming

Social Sciences

Crisis Intervention; Adult Services; Casework; Community Outreach; Youth Training Program; Vocational Rehabilitation; Facilitating Support Groups; Public & Private Partnerships; Safety Training; Law Enforcement; Investigations Management; Interviewing; Meets Deadlines; Proofreading; Editing; Agency Relations; Health & Safety; Regulatory Compliance

What does it take to have your online application stand out amidst all others in a candidate search?

Here's what some employers recommend:

  • Tailor your application information to the position. Don't copy and paste text from your generic resume.
  • Use key words, buzz words, and industry verbiage. Use the verbiage in the job ad as your model. Employers search on key words when they're looking for people to fill specific positions.
  • Complete all fields—even those that aren't required.
  • If possible, spell check and grammar check your application before submitting it. Have an error-free application because this application serves as the employer's first impression of you.
  • Follow up your electronic application with a personal e-mail to the recruiter. A follow-up phone call is acceptable if the ad does not say, "No phone calls."

As more and more companies tap technology to find new employees quickly and efficiently, you'll need to find new methods to draw attention to your application.

So, why bother with job/career fairs, if they want me to apply online?

"Many students no longer attend career fairs because some employers just drive the students to their web site to apply," Mike Mrozowski, recruiting coordinator for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (which does not use an automated screening process), says. "I understand their frustration in that part of the process so we encourage paper resumes and rely heavily on the notes that our recruiters record on the back of the resume from their brief booth chats. However, astute job seekers can gather some great information from those employers that don't collect paper resumes."

Mrozowski says that if he were interested in an employer that told him to go online to apply, he would ask:

  • What happens to the resume after I click "send?"
  • Who reviews it and how?
  • What format will work the best with your current system?
  • When should I follow up?
  • Which department has the current openings?
  • Which department is anticipating future openings?

The online application process is becoming more and more common, and your willingness to tailor your application to get you noticed may separate you from other applicants. With some research and thought, you can make your online application stand out, or rise to the top of resume scans. As with any job application, always be prepared before beginning an online application, as you would with any step in the job search process.

Sources: – Career development and job-search advice for new college graduates. Copyright © National Association of Colleges and Employers / – Real opportunities across all industries. Copyright ©