If you’re job hunting at the moment you’ve probably completed your fair share of online applications. Most large companies use them and you can’t really avoid or bypass them any more. If you’re filling out countless online application forms, but getting no response, let me help.

I work for a company that uses an online application process and have read dozens of application forms every working day. I’ve seen plenty of rubbish attempts. I’ve seen even more excellent examples, though, so let’s look at some dos and don’ts.

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Don’t use a comedy email address

In the past month, I’ve received applications from people with the following in their email addresses; inebriated, big_knob, sh&gger. Honestly, in any other part of my day I’d applaud you for your excellent and hilarious choice of nom de plume, but not when you’re applying for a job. Keep it professional.

Do pause before you hit next

There’s nothing more disheartening than hitting next, then seeing an obvious mistake dissolve into the next page. If you can’t go back, you’ll hate yourself. Proofread your entry before moving on.

Don’t write in caps lock

Please, don’t, it feels like you’re shouting at me. You might as well come into my office and yell, “GIVE ME A JOB!”. Don’t do that either, that’s not cool.

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Do capitalise proper nouns, postcodes and your National Insurance number

Your name and address are often the first thing on an application form, make sure you start your name, street name and town with a capital letter. It sounds simple, but it’s easy to skip it when you’re in a hurry to meet a closing date. Some HR, payroll and recruitment programmes don’t like it either and some poor personnel clerk will have to correct it before the system will accept your records.

Don’t be vague

You don’t always get a lot of characters (one application I did asked me to say why I thought I should get the job in 100 words or less) so be succinct, but clear. Give as much detail as the space allows, the more the recruiter knows about your experience, the better the picture they have of you. Vaguness , especially when asked your reasons for leaving past employment, tends to raise suspicion.

Do put the correct information in the right boxes

This largely comes down to reading the question properly, but every now and then you find a wanton piece of erroneous information. You might be keen to tell a prospective employer about your excellent skills, but if they don’t ask, don’t try to shoehorn it in somewhere!

Don’t try to outsmart the psychometric tests

You know the ones, those tests that make you rate how strongly you agree with statements like, “I enjoy working with others”, “I am a good team player” and “I prefer to work alone”. They all seem like the same question, but they’re subtly different and your answers tell your employer if you have the right attitude to fit the culture of their organisation. Take your time and answer each question honestly.

Do keep trying

If at first you don’t succeed… and all that. If you really want to work for a particular organisation and don’t hear back after your first application, apply again at the next chance. Sometimes you can’t reapply for certain amount of time so use the space to get some more work experience, life experience or skills.

Don’t take rejection personally

Our last job advert had over 90 responses. There were 6 vacancies to be filled. That’s one job for every 15 applications, which are crappy odds. If you don’t hear back from one application, dust yourself off and get back into the job search.

Be yourself

The best job applications I read give me a sense of what the applicant is like. I love it when their personality and sense of humour shines through. I can tell which people are passionate about their hobbies, the company or role they’re applying for and which ones are going through the job-application motions. Show them a wee bit of your character and you’re much more likely to get a response.

Good luck!

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