Six Tips to Tackle the Online Job Application

Retired Colonel John Buckley
One Retired Army Colonel’s hard-earned advice for military transition.

Conquer the Transition: Part 5

Before you have the opportunity to meet face-to-face with a recruiter, you must first take on the online application. I had submitted more than 100 of these before forcing myself to eat a big slice of humble pie and admit that I was obviously doing something wrong. I finally determined that in order to defeat this step, it was time to set forth a new strategy.

I defaulted to my military problem-solving experience, deciding the best course of action was to study my “enemy” and learn how they applied their “weapons of war.” I identified and interviewed 10 friendly recruiters who unwittingly gave away their secrets, revealing that I’d been sabotaging my own chances of surviving the selection process. As you prepare to submit your own applications, I’d like to share some of those secrets and hopefully help you avoid the same mistakes I made.

Six Tips to Tackle the Online Job Application

1. Start applying for open positions three to five months prior to your availability date.

The job search and hiring process is likely to take longer than you expect it to. Start early.

2. Before you apply for a role, verify that you are qualified for it.

Some military and civilian job titles are similar, but the requirements could be vastly different. Be sure to double check the list of requirements in the job description to be certain you meet the qualifications.

3. Beware of the pre-screening questions.

Do you meet the basic requirements? Do you meet the preferred requirements? Answered incorrectly, these questions are like landmines, halting your application from any forward progress. Navigate the field by following these two rules of thumb:

Basic Requirements: You must meet them all.

One-third of veteran applications our company receives are automatically rejected because the individual was not actually qualified for the job. This adds up to a lot of wasted time and energy. If you submit an application and your skills don’t match every basic requirement, your application will be automatically rejected. No one will see it. No one will call.

Preferred Requirements: You can meet some or all.

If you only meet some of the preferred requirements, you might be at a disadvantage, but you could still compete. Study the responsibilities for the role and make an educated decision on whether it’s worth your time to apply.

4. Adjust your resume for each job you apply for.

It’s important that you emphasize your skills and qualifications that relate to the job description. This will likely change slightly from role to role.

5. It’s okay to apply for multiple roles.

It might even be smart to cast a wide net, but be sure to apply for roles that fit your skills and specific area(s) of expertise.

6. Before you hit “submit,” thoroughly review your application

Don't push that button until you ensure all required fields are completed, you've attached your updated resume and have alerted each of your references.

Get more tips on each of these steps in Koch Industries’ Transition Guide.

John C. Buckley, II, Colonel, U.S. Army (Ret) is a veteran, career coach and mentor, author, and an expert in the field of military-to-civilian career transition. He currently assists Koch companies to develop and implement military recruiting and retention programs. Prior to civilian life, he commanded infantry soldiers in combat and peacekeeping operations and directed two of the Army’s most prestigious schools. He teaches transition courses, gives seminar presentations, writes about the military-to-private sector career transition, and continues to counsel current and former military personnel. His recent article “Dance With The One Who Brung Ya,” was published in Military Review by Army University Press in 2016. Email John at

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