Don’t Make These Online Job Application Mistakes


Applying for a job online makes the process seem easier, but it also creates plenty of chances for missteps that take you out of the running, even though you might be a great pick for the position.

My colleague, Human Resources Manager Jenifer Phillips, has some insights into what she’s looking for in those online applications, and what might be sending your app to the back of the (virtual) pile. I sat down with her to discuss how you can make your online job application better.

Rancho Cucamonga has gone to a paperless job application process – how’s that working out?

It’s been very well received. It allows us to communicate with applicants at each stage of the recruitment process by a simple mouse click. We’re a forward-thinking workplace that encourages technology and other tools to increase efficiency, going paperless makes sense for us.

What are some of the most common mistakes job seekers make when applying online?

You may be surprised to find that many job seekers fail to spell the name of the employer correctly, or even worse use another employer’s name altogether. I often see applications that stress the applicants desire to work for the “County of Los Angeles” or the “City of Cucamonga”. It’s fine to cast a wide net as a job seeker, but you have to tailor each resume and application to the specific employer each time, or your materials will likely be placed in the “no thank you” category. Homework and attention to detail are key, and these mistakes can cost you that interview.

Spelling and grammar mistakes go without saying, but I often see them. One last piece of advice – ditch the fun, college-humor email addresses. If I receive a resume from [email protected] it certainly paints a picture, and not a good one. Likewise, be mindful of your social media presence. You should not have anything posted to any profile that you would not want a recruiter to see.

If I fill out the application and it asks for my job history, should I also attach a cover letter and resume, or is that overkill?

If the application asks for something and doesn’t provide adequate space to do so, by all means add your job history. The rule of thumb is to provide what the employer is requesting. Attaching your high school and college diplomas and 10 letters of recommendation out of the gate, when the employer has specified what they expect to receive, is indeed overkill.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen with an online application?

We once had the same person apply for every position that the city had opened over one weekend, literally everything from Maintenance Trainee to Management and Executive Management positions. Know your brand going in, and know the position that you feel you would excel at.

Other than that, often times we may come in on a Monday morning and see over 50 applications for the same position from the same applicant. Trust your send button! Re-applying that many times is just bizarre.

My application will stand out from the rest if I……

Truly research the organization. Know the history, go back to your grad school roots and complete a SWOT analysis on the research that you conduct. I can’t stress this enough…read the job flyer several times. Does it speak to your strengths? Identify this in your application by using specific examples of the how you demonstrate these abilities in your current or prior positions.

Lori Sassoon is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Matthew Garlipp

Great post, Lori & Jenifer! When applicants are worried about big picture things, it’s easy to see how they might overlook simple mistakes.

Lori Latimer

Thank you for this good feedback. I could not help laughing about someone filling out applications for “All” of the jobs. Obviously frustrated or drunk posting. Not a grand idea for a job seeker.