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Online application: 14 effective tips for forms

The online application is increasingly replacing the classic application folder on paper. A few clicks after the job search - and a cover letter, résumé and attachments land with the HR manager and dream job. Companies can easily process the data, evaluate or sort out applicants. Both companies and applicants save time and money when applying online. But this is exactly where dangers lurk: The forms lead to careless mistakes. There is also a risk of formal errors. We'll show you how to avoid common pitfalls and give you tips for a successful online application ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

What is an online application?

When applying online, applicants fill out a form provided by the employer on the employer's homepage. In addition, relevant application documents are uploaded as PDF documents. In contrast to e-mail applications, applicants do not need a personal contact person when applying online. The company's own software automatically sends the completed form to the responsible personnel decision maker and contact person.

How do you write a good online application?

Get to the job with just one click: that sounds easy. But the medium of the Internet seduces with its casual, fast communication to sloppy formulations, to Duke and sloppiness, which one would never allow oneself with a classic application. The same applies to online applications as to any official correspondence: quality over quantity and the utmost care. After all, the application documents are something like your first work sample!

To avoid typing errors, you can, for example, pre-formulate, compress and optimize corresponding text modules offline and activate the spell check (e.g. in a Word document). Better yet, let someone else proofread it. Then you are on the safe side when applying online.

The most important rules for applying online

  • The online application must be formulated just as carefully as the classic application on paper.
  • Always fill out ALL fields in the form. Otherwise the application is considered incomplete.
  • Use the free text fields and show your passion and personality in them.
  • Always try to use appropriate language - no jargon, no abbreviations.
  • Make sure you meet ALL of the requirements stated in the job posting.
  • Attachments are summarized in a PDF. Also pay attention to the metadata in the document.
  • The file size of the attached PDF should not exceed 5 MB. ZIP files are taboo.
  • Make sure you use a reputable email address in the contact fields. Ideal: first [email protected]
  • Check all fields and correct spelling before submitting.
  • Check your spam filter regularly to make sure that the answer has not arrived there by chance.
Application templates: 120+ free samples
Use our professional designs and free application templates to apply. More than 120 professional templates for resume, cover letter and cover sheet as WORD files. Including sample texts for various professions and jobs. Ensure the perfect first impression of your application.

To download the templates

14 tips for applying online

Most online forms do not require you to fill out in sequence. Many tools allow you to scroll back and forth smoothly when applying online. Good for you: You can get an overview in advance of everything that is required, has to be filled out and uploaded. If this is not possible, you can first log in anonymously under a false name and take screenshots of all fields so that you can fill them out all the better later.

Important questions remain unanswered, don't be afraid to ask the HR department - by email or phone. Some HR managers are grateful for the feedback where the application process is unclear. Please remain friendly, brief and specific when you ask. Individual recruitment advice cannot and does not want to be provided.

Otherwise, you can easily complete the online application from your computer or laptop (we do not recommend a smartphone). The following tips for a successful online application can significantly increase your chances:

1. Completeness

Your online application must be complete. Means: Before you send anything, check carefully that you have really filled in EVERY field in the application form. This is no triviality. Since a software (so-called CV parser) usually makes the first preselection when applying online, there is no hope of mercy. The machine works like an algorithm. Anyone who leaves the required fields empty, forgets file attachments, does not mention the required qualifications, will receive a rejection. So always check ALL fields and uploads for completeness. You should prepare the following application documents as PDFs and keep them ready on your desktop (even if not all of them are needed later):

TIP: Name your knowledge correctly!
Make sure to correctly name special knowledge or language skills in your résumé. The usual language levels from A1 to C2 are often misinterpreted by CV parsers as driving license classes. It is therefore better to write “basic knowledge”, “good knowledge” or “business fluent” in brackets so as not to reduce your application chances.

2. Online profiles

This is rarely asked for when applying online. However, you should expect that HR managers will also get an idea of ​​you on the Internet. Before submitting your digital application documents, please check your online profiles on LinkedIn, Xing, Instagram or Facebook. Maintain and update the online presence and present yourself in a consistently professional manner. Ideally also with a uniform profile picture. We have summarized information and tips for your online profile in this free PDF.

3. Personal information

Almost every online application begins with specifying the position you are applying for (often with a reference number) and entering all of your personal data: first name, surname, address, telephone, e-mail, date and place of birth, sometimes also the marital status. Pay attention to the greatest possible care! A typo or rotated number can have fatal consequences. Either the application ends up with the wrong recruiter. Or you cannot be contacted in the event of success.

4. Free text

Most online application forms have so-called free text fields. The usual application letter is expected here. You can prepare and prescribe that. Make sure, however, that there are any character restrictions and that your prepared cover letter is not cut off in the online application. The only thing that helps in this case is to reformulate and shorten intelligently without having to delete important content. Otherwise, you should try to organize the text with short paragraphs, line breaks and dashes and give it an easily readable structure. Important: Be sure to use all of the key words required for the job from the job advertisement. For example "project responsibility, team spirit, initiative". The selection software will search for it and evaluate the application.

TIP: Take screenshots!
AFTER filling out each page, take a screenshot and use the printouts to prepare for the interview later. If you have any questions about your information, you can remember them better. Especially if you apply for several positions at the same time, you might get confused. Embarrassing.

5. Special characters

Beware of special characters: The euro symbol, for example, can lead to involuntary confusion when specifying salary expectations if the recipient's program version uses it as a different character. Better to write "EUR" or "Euro" right away.

6. Signature

It is often forgotten because there is no paper document: The signature must not be missing in the online application either. It documents that all statements made are true. To do this, scan your signature and insert it, for example at the end of the cover letter and résumé, before you upload the documents to the platform.

7. Appendices

If you are asked to upload your résumé or scanned certificates, be careful not to overload the online application. The upper limit is a maximum of three letters of recommendation and the same number of certificates from the last three stations. However, these are not uploaded individually, but ideally summarized in a PDF. This means that the HR manager has to download and open fewer files. You should include the application photo in your résumé anyway - if it is not excluded in advance.

Incidentally, the order of the attached application documents and digital application folder corresponds to the classic one (see graphic) - except that the folder is of course omitted here.

DANGER: It is essential that you create new and current PDFs for uploading for every online application. There is so-called metadata in every PDF. These can contain information that discredits the applicant. For example, the creation date of the PDF. This reveals: This application is older and probably not (only) made for this company. Who created the PDF and with which program is also revealed here. In order to leave a professional impression at this point, it is advisable to edit this metadata in advance - for example with the free tool “BeCyPDFMetaEdit”.

TIP: Assign meaningful file names!
Name your files meaningfully and clearly. So not just "curriculum vitae.docx" or "bewerbung.pdf". Bad names are: "bewerbung.pdf", "2020_09-01.pdf", "Version_01.pdf". Correct is: "Application-Max-Mustermann.pdf". Optionally, you can also include the targeted position in the file name, for example: "Susanne-Mustermann-Abteilungsleiterin.pdf". In this way, the files can later be assigned more easily in the event that the system or the processor mess something up.

8. File size

Pay attention to the size of the attached files. Most of the forms provide clear guidelines in the online application. For example: a maximum of 1MB per file or a maximum of 5MB total. Problems can arise if your resume, cover letter or any other document requires too much storage space. Or you cannot even send the online application in the first place. Image files such as application photos or scanned certificates and work samples let the volume of application documents swell. If in doubt, compress the file size beforehand. Zip files as attachments are taboo. If the compression is not sufficient, you may need to submit a smaller selection of the attachments and work samples to reduce the size.

9. Review

Before you finally press "Send", you should once again check all the information in the form fields and the attachments. Errors in the résumé are particularly bad news. Formal mistakes and sloppiness lead to conclusions about the way you work. Make sure you give yourself enough time when applying online. You should allow up to three hours for the final completion and proofreading. We have summarized in a PDF which faux pas HR managers keep citing and annoying, which you can download HERE for free.

TIP: Use uniform senders!
Be sure to use the same email address in all documents and online profiles. Otherwise it can cause confusion. If you use your private email address, make sure that it sounds legitimate. A neutral e-mail address based on the pattern First [email protected] is suitable. You should avoid names and addresses of the type “[email protected]” or “[email protected]”. The combination with your own application homepage and domain works perfectly. This not only results in a professional email address (first [email protected]), but also a subtle reference to your own website.

10. Spam filter

You will usually receive a confirmation email from the company that your application has been successfully received. This is an important indicator for you that you have filled out everything correctly from a technical point of view. After the applicant selection has been completed, you will be notified again. Check your spam filter regularly (and adjust it if necessary) in the event that these e-mails are missing.

What do I write in the email for an online application?

Strictly speaking, nothing at all. An online application is filled in via a platform; an email is not necessary. But the terms e-mail application and online application are often used synonymously, although they denote two different (digital) application forms. The former is like a classic application, except that it is sent by email. For this purpose, the documents are scanned in beforehand, merged into a PDF and attached to the email.

If you apply by email, you can copy the cover letter as text into the mail. This saves the HR manager one work step. You can also send the cover letter as a PDF with a curriculum vitae and an attachment. Then you should refer to your application separately in the email. An example formulation could be:

Dear Ms. Muster,

Enclosed you will find my application for your advertised position as _____. Why I can fill the position optimally and offer your company numerous advantages through my experience in _____, please refer to my complete application documents in the appendix.

I look forward to a personal interview.

With best regards

If a specific form of application is mentioned and desired in a job advertisement, please apply only that way. Everything else unnecessarily costs sympathy points or even the chance for the job. The only exception: you are writing an unsolicited application.

Online application tricks: Stand out from the crowd

The online application has a serious disadvantage: Each application looks like the other. After all, they are all created and sent using the same form. Differences in design - impossible !? Not quite. If you want to stand out from the crowd and not get lost in the uniformity of online applications, you can at least enhance the uploaded documents with a unique design or original graphics. You can download the guide with tips and tools here - as usual - free of charge:

Download application tips

Application homepage for online applications

Your own application homepage (also known as the “About Me” page) offers you significantly more design freedom than the forms in the online application. Numerous providers (for example 1 & 1, T-Online or Strato) enable your own website in the form of a modular system. You buy the domain (URL) of the page from the Internet provider and receive from the provider various designs and structures to choose from, which you only have to fill with content. The average cost for this is five euros per month. Programming skills are not required.

Additional advantage: The application homepage can be used again and again and for different applications. To do this, you create the respective pages individually and provide them with password protection so that the HR manager of a company only sees the page intended for him. The content of the application homepage can be:

  • In-depth information on previous professional projects and successes
  • Work samples (for example in creative professions)
  • Details on volunteering
  • Collected references and testimonials
  • Application videos (see next section)

Application video for the online application

What also works well: a personal application video in which you address the HR manager directly. You can also use it to anticipate and answer a few typical interview questions. But only tell what is relevant. Everything that does not fit the targeted location and position is omitted. Of course, there should be no private profile pictures or vacation photos on the application homepage. You can include the reference to your own website in a suitable place with this wording:

If I have piqued your interest, you can find more information about me on my homepage at:

Or you can integrate the link using a so-called QR code. In the tabular curriculum vitae it could look like this:

The application homepage is only an addition to the online application - no replacement. With this additional page, you can clearly stand out from the crowd and give the HR manager an individual bonus. We wish you every success with your application!

No feedback from the company - what to do?

What to do if the employer of your choice does not contact you and you do not receive an answer to the online application (technical term: "ghosting")? At first, patience is a virtue. Allow the employer at least two weeks to review the applications. Whoever calls and pushes after two days does not make a good impression.After two to three weeks, however, you can ask - in a friendly and unobjectionable way - on the phone or by email. Be sure to state the reason for your call, for example:

I am aware that you have a lot of work to do. So I don't want to hold you back long. Two weeks ago I applied to you for the position as _____, reference number _____. Could you briefly tell me something about the intermediate status of the application process?

As a rule of thumb, you can remember: The smaller the company, the sooner you can get in touch. In larger companies and corporations, the number of applicants is usually greater. This increases the effort and takes more time. Sometimes up to six weeks.

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Further tips on applying