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Goin' down electric avenue

Your career Online applications

Faced with an electronic form to complete for that dream job?

Gill Buckling advises on how to overcome online application angst.

The aim of graduate recruitment, whatever the form of application, is always to get the most suitable graduates into an organisation. Although the majority of employers still use paper methods to recruit, the use of online applications is increasing at a dramatic rate. It is a trend that is reflected in the civil engineering sector and illustrated in the graduate careers publication Target Civil & Structural Engineering where the number of companies using online applications doubled between 2001 and 2002.

For the recruiter, the advantages of an online application system are obvious. A computer sorts data according to selection criteria more quickly than a human ever could. The data is more easily comparable and ultimately for the applicant, this should mean a quicker response from the organisation, and a fairer one to boot. And, handwriting does not have to be revealed until much later in the recruitment process!

Whether it is a paper or online form, filling in an application is not a pleasurable experience. So for those suffering online application angst and a sudden manifestation of technophobia, the following are some tips to allay fears and to help net that job.

First, when going to the form, resist the temptation to dash it off like an online quiz or questionnaire. If it can be downloaded, print it off. Some systems will let users log in and select a password so they can go away and come back at a later point. It's important not to rush.

Ideally, write longer paragraphs in a word processor to be able use the spelling and grammar checker (online forms frustratingly do not usually include these facilities). Answers can then be cut and pasted into the form. Make language direct, accurate and factual and do not lapse into informal 'e-mail speak' just because it is online.

Once happy with the longer answers and all the information is included, it is time to go to the point of no return - press submit.

The form should arrive at the organisation seconds later and receipt be immediately acknowledged. Whether it is automatically scanned or printed off, a quick check will determine a sufficient match of the organisation's initial selection criteria, whether more information is needed or a 'thanks for applying and good luck with your other applications'. Stunned by the impersonality of it all?

Even though the data is initially sorted by a machine, a member of the recruitment team will nearly always read the longer, prose bits of an application and ultimately, the invitation to an interview will be made by a human, avoiding having to face IBM's Deep Blue or a Cray at the assessment centre.

Dr Gillian Buckling edits Target Engineering and Target Civil & Structural Engineering. For copies, call GTI Specialist Publishers on 01491 826262.

Key points

Always download or print off the form lPrepare longer answers on a word processor

Do not bring slack e-mail habits to the application form

Check spelling and grammar carefully

Print out the completed form and keep a copy for future reference

Never hit the submit button until ready to send

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