- They may incorporate a selection test
- Better forms
- Some poorer forms
- Electronically Scanned CVs
- Text-Only Internet CVs
- Web CVs
Increasingly companies are using on-line application forms rather than paper-based forms. This is because they are faster and more efficient - no moving paper documents from Personnel to Line Managers and back again. All applications can be held on a database - a paperless environment. Some firms such as J.P. Morgan, BT, Corus, Cable and Wireless, and Abbey National now have 100% on-line applications. On-line application forms are usually very similar to a companies paper application form: assuming they have one.
- They are fairer and more objective - you won't be judged on your handwriting!
- You can expect a fast response. You should get an automatic acknowledgement that your application has been received and sometimes within 48 hours you will receive an email inviting you to interview.
- They are also faster for you to complete.
- Paper, Braille or audio applications may be available for disabled and some other candidates.
- Some start with a questionnaire asking you about, for example, expected degree class, UCAS points and whether you are eligible to work in the UK. Most systems will explain the reason for these questions and what to do if you believe you are suitable if the questionnaire says that you aren't.
- You can cut and paste from your CV or other applications using the "Edit" menu or using CTRL+C (copy) and CTRL+V (paste) keys. It's a good idea to do this for longer questions, so your work is safe and so you can reuse these answers in other applications.
- Most on-line forms don't have a spelling or grammar checker - you may be able to cut and paste your content to and from your wordprocessor to allow you to do this.
- Don't use the informal English you would use in an email - use the same good quality English you would use on a paper form - concise, to the point, but with lots of evidence to show relevant skills.
They may incorporate a selection test
Although you can change your on-line application as many times as you like before submitting, you normally only get one chance to take a test, so make sure you're relaxed and prepared before you start. The types of test you might come across are.
- Aptitude tests - e.g. multiple choice verbal and numerical reasoning tests
- Personality tests - match your responses with profiles of successful employees
- Cultural fit tests - see if your values match the culture of the organisation
See our aptitude tests section
- Allow you to view the whole without filling it in (cruise mode) and print it off. Remember to take a copy of your form with you to interview to remind you what you wrote.
- Give you instant feedback on your application. Even if you are rejected it should give you more information on why.
- If the computer crashes while you are making your applications, good systems will be saving your answers as you go along, so you don't have to start from the beginning again. They may give you a password so you can return to your form to complete it another day.
Some poorer forms:
- Expect you to complete it in one session - can't save and return don't allow you to progress to next page without having completed previous one so you don't know what you will be asked next.
- May "crash" when you submit them or before so make sure you save your answers!
- Most of the same rules apply as for paper applications - it's only the medium which is different, so learn good paper application skills first.
- You will normally register by making up a password. Applications are usually sent and handled securely, so that only you and the employer have access to your details. Download the form and make a rough draft on paper first, so you can think about your answers.
- Some questions are compulsory, so you may not be able to access the next page until you have filled them in.
- Save your application regularly as you fill it in, so you don't have to start again if your computer crashes.
- If a question specifies a maximum number of words for your answer, do make sure you use your word-processor's word count function: going over the word count suggests you can't follow instructions!
- When you are happy with the form, check it carefully as you will not usually be able to change the form or apply again in the near future, then click on "submit". Your form will be sent almost immediately. If you do accidentally submit an incomplete form, ring or email the company straight away and ask them to delete your application, so you can start again.
- When your form reaches the recruiter it may be scanned into a database or printed off onto paper! You should quickly hear the outcome.
- You can find a practice on-line application form, with advice and explanatory notes, at www.selectsimulator.com
- Prospects On-line applications page www.prospects.ac.uk/links/OnlineApps
Electronically Scanned CVs
- Have been used by Nortel, Ford and others. Resumix is the main package used for this.
- They use electronic applicant tracking using the latest document imaging technology.
- Scans in your application as an image.
- The system has artificial intelligence which reads the text and extracts important information such as work, education, skills.
How to format your CV for scanning
- Typed. Standard fonts 10-14 point. e.g. Arial
- Use bold and or capitals for headings.
- Avoid italics, underlines, graphics, boxes, multiple columns.
- Use dashes - - rather than bullets.
- Concentrate on nouns rather than action verbs e.g. MSc, IBM, manager.
- Describe your experiences with concrete words - managed the football team rather than responsible for running the football team.
Text-only Internet CVs
A few employers are reluctant to accept CVs as attachments due to virus worries, and may specify a CV in the body of your email. They don't look particularly attractive as you can't use interesting fonts or formatting, but have the advantage that they can be read on any computer. One possible solution is to provide a text-only version in the body of your email with an attached version in Rich Text Format (.rtf) - rtf may be preferred to MS Word Format as rtf can't carry viruses, and can be opened by nearly all word-processing packages.
- Same content, just a different format - ASCII only.
- Can't use bold, italic, different fonts or sizes etc.
- Can use CAPITALS for headings
- Careful spacing can enhance clarity and looks.
- Can use asterisk * in place of bullets
- Can use a series of dashes to separate sections of CV
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- Email it back to yourself first as line length can be changed by email - no more than 70 characters per line is wise.
- Remember to enclose a covering letter, in the body of your email before your CV, just as you would in a paper application.
- Ask if they'd like you to post them a printed CV
Example of the beginning of a text CV
JOHN MICHAEL ANDREWS
6 Farthings Court, Parkwood
Canterbury, CT2 8NP
Date of Birth: 5. 11. 1976 Nationality: British
EDUCATION AND QUALIFICATIONS
1995 - 1998 University of Kent at Canterbury
BSc(Hons.) Computer Science
* Software Engineering
* Compiling Techniques
* Computer Networks and Communications
- These use HTML format. You can include the URL in an email or letter to an employer.
- They have the advantage that you can easily use graphics, colour, hyperlinks and even sound, animation and video.
- The basic rules still apply however - make it look professional. Overuse of garish colours or inappropriate fonts will make any employer wonder if you will apply the same standards to your work.
- Be aware also that different web browsers may show your work in different ways and that many of your special effects may not be visible on an older browser.
- These CVs can however be very effective if you are going for multimedia, web design or computer games jobs where they can act as a demonstration of your technical skills. Also HTML/Macromedia Director CVs on personal web pages or floppy disk can demonstrate your skills.