These days, applying for a job is as simple as hitting the "send" button.
But getting your application noticed, well, that might require a full system reboot to your employment approach.
Experts say the recession and tight job market -- the unemployment rate in Stanislaus County was 16.8 percent in April -- means there could be hundreds of applications for each available opening.
At the same time, more and more employers are going to online applications. So job seekers need to be savvy and smart to stand out.
"It is very hard to stand out from the crowd when submitting an application online," said Leslie Lawson, employer relations and internship coordinator at the University of California at Merced.
"Employers develop an impression of you before they ever meet you. So taking the time to make sure you are putting your best foot forward on paper and online will help you make it to that second step of actually getting into the office."
The often impersonal nature of online applications makes it imperative that potential employees use a basic as well as high-tech approach to their job search.
Here are 10 tips from employment experts for putting your best virtual foot forward in online applications:
1. Mind your Ps and Qs: Proofread your résumé, your application, your name, everything. Simple mistakes can eliminate you immediately. So double and triple check for spelling, grammar and syntax errors. Everything you post and submit should be error-free.
2. Turn your résumé into a link database: An HTML résumé should direct employers to more of your past experience and expertise. This makes your résumé an information hub for not only your basic information, but an easy one-stop shop for a more in-depth look at your work.
3. Research the company: Know where you're applying. Demonstrate knowledge of the company in your cover letter and application. Explain why you want to work there and would make a good addition to its work force. Find out the latest news on the company and look into the culture of its workplace at sites such as glassdoor.com.
4. Make it personal: A "To whom it may concern" or "Dear Sir or Madam" letter makes your application even more impersonal. Find out the name of the person in charge of hiring or the department to which you are applying. This could be as simple as a phone call or an online search. Just make sure your information is current. Old information is as bad as no information.
5. Tailor your cover letter: Look carefully at what the job application asks for and become (within the bounds of the truth, obviously) that person. Look for keywords ("self-starter," "motivated," "innovative," etc.) and highlight those aspects of your experience and personality.
6. Work your social media contacts: Explore your professional and social networks to see if you have connections at workplaces you never knew about. Fill out your bio and personal information fully and professionally. The more personal connections you have to a potential job, the more likely you are to get your foot in the door.
7. Monitor your online profile: More employers are looking up their applicants on the Web. So clean up your social media profiles and look employable. If the first thing that pops up in a Google search is a picture of you dancing with a lampshade on your head, this is a problem.
Take down any inappropriate photos, posts and other materials. Along the same lines, if you're using your cell phone as your primary contact number, make sure your greeting message is appropriate and professional.
8. Ask for an informational meeting: A quick sit-down with either the human resources director or department manager can put a face on your application. Come prepared with a résumé and dressed as if it were a job interview.
Everyone loves to talk about himself or herself, so ask the director how he or she made it to that position and what advice he or she would give to someone trying to break into that field.
9. Put your name in your document headings: Save your résumé, cover letter and anything else you submit with your name in the title field. Employers receive hundreds of files simply named "résumé." So, if yours is personalized, it makes it easier for them to find you.
10. Don't forget to follow up: Just because you hit "send" doesn't mean your application automatically makes it into the right hands. Ask if your materials have been received, inquire about hiring timelines with a phone call or e-mail.
Now, if the application clearly states, "Do not contact," don't defy that request. But a "No calls to human resources" notice does not preclude a call directly to the department in which you'd like to work. Just be courteous in all your communications.
Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2284.