Q & A Time: Resume Writing for Online Job Applications | Career Training | The Salter School
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Q & A Time: Resume Writing for Online Job Applications

Category(ies): Job Search Tips

resume writing for online job applicationsTips to make your resume stand out

Everyone comes to a point in their lives when they are searching for a job. Writing a resume is often the first step in this process. How do you write a strong resume? Where should you begin? For the basics of writing a resume, try Resume Writing Tips and Resume Examples. Once you’ve gotten a draft written, it’s time to optimize your resume for an online format. How do you optimize a resume? Here are some Q and A’s to help you get started.

Q: What are keywords and why should I care?
A: You may have heard that you should optimize your resume by inserting keywords. The use of keywords first arose when employers began using Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to scan the hundreds of resumes they receive every day. This means that a computer sorts through the resumes before a hiring manager does, and weeds out the resumes that aren’t a good match. The ATS is programmed to look at the resumes for certain keywords, such as the job title, relevant job-related skills, and other terms associated with the job.

To optimize your resume with keywords, be sure to look closely at the job posting. What are the main job-related terms in the posting? Try to repeat back the same terms used in the posting wherever possible. You don’t want to overdo it or “overstuff” the words. Just use the words naturally in your resume.

Q: Do I have to write a new resume and cover letter for each job application?
A: Yes and no. Each job application should be customized to the job posting, so that it shows the employer how your skills match the skills they are looking for. But you don’t need to completely re-write your resume and cover letter. You simply need to alter the wording or the order of some of the items so they more closely align with what the employer wants.

Q: Do I have to remove all formatting?
A: No. Some basic formatting is okay, such as boldface and basic bullets. And if the application asks for a PDF, then you can format the document however you’d like. However, if you are submitting your resume in Word, you should avoid anything complicated that may trip up the ATS. This could include indents, tabs, headers and footers, lines, templates, logos, graphs, columns, tables, unusual fonts, and so forth. When in doubt, keep it simple!

Q: Do I still have to write a cover letter?
A: Not all online job applications require you to write a cover letter. Should you still write one? The general consensus among most career services professionals is that yes, you should still write a cover letter. It shows the employer that you put effort into your application. It shows that you are serious about the job. And it also gives you another opportunity to market yourself. So why not do it?

Q: Do I have to fill out every field in the application?
A: All online applications are different. Some fields may be mandatory fields, and others may be optional. Whether a field is mandatory or not, it’s a good idea to fill out as many fields as you can. It shows the employer that you were willing to put the time and effort into their application.  

Q: How do I follow up if there is no contact information?
A: Because of the large number of resumes submitted online, employers seem to hide their contact information, making it virtually impossible to follow up with a hiring manager. Many job postings specifically say, “No Calls.” If that is the case, don’t follow up. But other times, you may want to go the extra mile to follow up. Through web searching, you may be able to find who the hiring manager is and send them a polite email. Or better yet, if you know someone who works at the company, perhaps they can put in a good word for you with the hiring manager.

Q: What if I keep submitting resumes and never hear back?
A: Online job searching is very competitive. If you are submitting lots of resumes and getting no response, it may be time to change your approach. It could be that the job positions are not a good match with your skills and experience. It could be that the employers are simply so large that they are receiving hundreds of applications for each position. Spend some time researching specific employers in your area, talking with people in your career network, talking with career services professional, getting your resume reviewed, and revising your job search to find the right job fit for you. Most of all, try not to get discouraged!


With these tips, you should be more prepared to navigate the world of online job searching. Remember, online searches should only be one small part of your job search strategy. Networking and making person-to-person contacts are often the most effective ways to move your job search forward. Best of luck!


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