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Job Doc

Finessing the online application process

Q. My level of frustration with stupid online computer forms is off the charts especially because I have spent the last four-plus years living and working abroad and there are never any categories in online computer forms that even consider there is life/work outside the US. How do I “beat” the online computer form? If I enter a false answer, I am accused of lying and never get to the interview stage. Any thoughts?

A. Online applications offer frustration and challenges to many applicants, but they are not going away. Companies have streamlined the application process to minimize costs and many times, even if you have an employee referral, you will be asked to fill out an online application. Rather than trying to beat the system, get to know how applications work.

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You can go to several different company sites, download, and print online applications. The required information is similar for most organizations and completing a dummy application in hard copy may make it easier to transfer the information online.

Gather the specific dates and data you need. Highlight the key words you believe the organization is screening for to help you rise to the top of the search criteria.

Locations outside the United States may not be accepted into drop down menus. Not all companies have globalized online applications. Call human resources to ask for advice. Let them know you are very interested in the organization, but have some issues entering global information. They should be able to suggest a work-around.

All you can do is enter what most closely answers the question. If you are angry and defensive, you will not go further. You might say, “The options I saw were ‘x’ and ‘y.’ Y was most accurate online, so that is what I chose hoping I’d get the opportunity to discuss my capabilities and clarify.”

The most important advice from people who have completed many online applications is to save your data and use key words from the job description. Avoid the back arrow.

Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
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