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How to Master Online Applications

Q. My level of frustration with the stupid online computer forms is off the charts especially because I have spent the last 4+ years living and working abroad and there are NEVER any categories on the stupid online computer forms that even consider there is life/work outside the U.S. How do I "beat" the stupid online computer form when I cannot fill out information that it won't even accept? If I enter a false answer, I am accused of lying and never get to the interview stage. Any thoughts?

A. Online applications offer great frustration and huge challenges to many applicants, but they are not going away. Companies have streamlined the application process to minimize the cost of talent acquisition and many times, even if you network into a company, you will be asked to fill out an online application. Rather than trying to beat the system, get to know how applications work and what information you need to input to get the positive reaction you are looking for.

There are many generic versions of online applications available. You can go to several different company sites, download and print out the online applications. The information asked is similar for most organizations and completing the dummy application in hard copy may make it easier for you to transfer the information to the online version. Gather the specific dates and data you need. In hard copy, highlight the key words you believe the organization will be screening for. Make sure you have high impact words specific to the role you are looking at, so that you will rise to the top of the search criteria.

Locations outside the U.S. may not be accepted into drop down menus. Not all companies have globalized their online applications. Call Human Resources to speak to someone in recruiting and ask for advice. Let he or she know you are very interested in the organization and have some issues with entering global information. This won’t be the first time they have heard the issue and may be able to suggest a work around.

All you can do is enter what most closely answers the question. How you respond to questions that suggest there is different information in your online application than your resume will determine how companies react. 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 further with you and clarify. I am so pleased to have that opportunity.”

The most important advice from people who have completed many online applications is to SAVE your data, do not use the back arrow and use key words from the job description.

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