Online Applications – The 3 P’s

CareerPro Inc.Blogging, Individual Services

Last week, Career Pro Inc., John O’Connor, and a few key clients of ours were selected by WRAL’s Here to Help segment to spotlight tips and tricks of submitting your resume through online applications. Brian Shrader, a veteran reporter of the Raleigh area interviewed Jill Jordan and John Domalavage who have both tackled the online application realm and how they have positively taken the challenge. To read the article, click here. We were happy to help and I thought our clients John and Jill were the real stars as they calmly handled the camera. I did say to Brian Shrader and John (camera guy) that I can come across well if you have a really good editor!


1. Preparation – With online application systems, or applicant tracking systems (ATS), it seems very mechanical and clinical. To gain an edge on other applicants, find out about what the company values in terms of new employees for the specific position that you’re applying for. That means before you even start adding your resume online, you should find out if you’re connected to or can have a conversation with any current or past employee. If you can, find out what they did to get hired. Did they do an online application alone? Did they put an online application in and also add an employee referral? Even a nearly perfect online application may miss the mark if you don’t add networking fuel to the fire.

2. Powerful Writing – Don’t just mimic add key words or phrases indiscriminately to your online application. Be willing to rewrite both your cover letter and your resume in Microsoft Word before turning it into a scannable document. While writing your resume, add keywords or phrases but support them with specific examples and metrics that backup your persuasive written argument. If you prepared properly, you could pre-write some of the questions that these online applications ask for as you’re going through the application. You’re not done yet! You may be able to upload your resume as a Word document and add your cover letter to the application, but you also need to know another critical step of converting your resume to a more computer friendly format that’s called ASCII.

3. Patience – These applications can be so frustrating that people give up before they certainly complete them properly. Don’t do that! You’ll need a great deal of patience as you go through online applications and applicant tracking systems. Be aware of quizzes, redundant questions, Q&A/Questions and Answers. Don’t loose your cool and fly through seemingly small items. Do you know the months and years of your employments? Have you studied up on the latest software that they’re looking for? Have you allotted enough time to complete the application? Many online applications can be so cumbersome and frustrating that candidates rush through it and never give it enough time to complete it in the level of detail that will help the computer and ultimately a human being invite you in for the interview.



First: Save Your MS Word Resume as Plain Text.

1. Start by opening the MS Word document that contains your resume.

2. Next, click the Office button (the logo in the upper left corner of your MS Word window).

3. Click Save As and select Other Formats.

4. At the bottom of the window, type in a new name for this document in the File Name field, such as V1PlainText.

5. Under this is the Save As Type pull-down menu. Scroll down this list to select Plain Text (*.txt).

6. Click Save to perform the conversion.

7. The File Conversion window should appear then click OK without changing any of the settings.

After changing your resume to Plain Text, your resume will look, well, plain. It won’t have any MS Word based formatting and ‘the look will be gone. You still need to do a couple more things to clean it up before posting online.

Second: There are no page numbers or lines to delineate pages so clean up or delete references to page two. This includes notes such as Page 1 of 2, Continued, and your name or header on page 2.

Third: Think about using all CAPS for words that need special emphasis.  This helps the plain text stand out but don’t overdo this step. Some guides suggest to do this for words that were bold, underlined, or in italics on your hard copy version.

Fourth: Replace each bullet point with a standard keyboard symbol. Replacements include:Dashes (-) Plus signs (+) Asterisks (*) Double asterisks (**) Greater than (>) Dash and greater than (->).