Applying for a Job Online Class Now Available to Anyone Anywhere

December 16, 2011

I have recently done a thorough revamping of the “Applying for a Job Online” class at the Newton Free Library.  Class materials are available online to anyone who needs them from any Internet connected computer, both for teachers and for job hunters.  If you are looking for a job, I would encourage you to look at the Handouts, especially handouts 8 – 10 relating to plain text.  This is the single most commented upon part of my class by the patrons who attend.  In all my classes, I have had only two people who even knew what plain text is and it is critical if you have to cut and paste parts of your resume into the body of an email or into an online job application.  Check out handout 8 to find out why.  Take a look at the other handouts.  They are all in Microsoft Word 2003.  You can also take the class using the PowerPoints if you have the PowerPoint program on your computer.

If you are a teacher,  you can use the handouts in conjunction with the PowerPoint presentation or independent from it if you do not have this program.  Before I taught myself how to use PowerPoint, I was using the Word documents for my screen shots.  I just had them in a file on the computer and pulled them up from there.

Whether you are a teacher or a job seeker, I would encourage you to read below.  This is a detailed explanation how to use the class materials all together, or as separate entities, or as a springboard for ideas for your own classes.  The bottom line is helping people get jobs.  The only thing we ask is that you give the Newton Free Library credit when you use our work in any presentation.  It would also be deeply appreciated if, where possible,  you would provide a  link to us either at and/or at

How the Class Works: This class has become predominantly a demonstration class rather than interactive. For various reasons, including limited time and much to cover, this has been the most efficient way to proceed. The handouts listed below are critical to this process. Many are composed with screen shots to the left and text boxes with instructions to the right. It is the handouts that the students take home and use. There is a handout for everything that is covered in class (Handouts 4-10 below).  This allows the student to begin their introduction to a range of job search sites and operations in class, then to go home and begin using what they need.  It should go without saying that questions are always encouraged during class as well as any point thereafter.

Class structure: The PowerPoint presentations for this class are in eight parts. The first is a general introduction to looking for work. This includes basics you need to know plus tips to help you with your search online.  What follows that are seven presentations.  These include using key databases and a website, accessing job information on the Newton Free Library’s Job LibGuide, explaining and then creating plain text in Microsoft Word and/or Google Docs, and, lastly, a bit more about networking, online networking (Web 2.0), and blogs.

Having the PowerPoint presentation in sections gives a teacher more options. It makes it easier to change the order of the presentation.  A class can be done with some sections running “live” off the Internet and some from the PowerPoint.  If a class was needed just on plain text resume creation, those sections could be used as a stand alone.  Having the entire class available on PowerPoint also allows the class to be held even when the Internet connection is down. (How many of us have had to cancel classes because there was suddenly no Internet connection?)

The seventh PowerPoint, on the different types of networking is an expansion on two screens included in the general introduction. In this PowerPoint I have included three additional screens/slides outlining very basic steps for networking. This allows teachers to cover networking in a little more depth when the need arises. As with all the other PowerPoints, networking also has a handout.

There have been a number of questions in class about Social Networking (Web 2.0) and blogs.  I have created a separate PowerPoint for those who would like to go into this subject with a little more depth than allowed in the main presentation.  All the PowerPoints together would take more than an hour to show.  This, again, allows for more options within a particular class.  You get to pick and choose.

Changing the Presentation:  I have designed this class so that other teachers will have maximum flexibility using the material. This is the reason I have divided the PowerPoint presentations into sections rather than linking them into one unit.  If you are considering using them to teach, you can easily change the order to one that works best with your particular classes. If you want to spend more time on each section, this also allows the class to be split into multiple sessions. Changing the order or extending the number of sessions can work very well, depending on how you want to reinforce the material.  If you have developed your own online job search aids, you may want to use only a section or two of what I present here.  Time and class makeup are factors in deciding how much or how little material you wish to cover.

Most Popular Segment: The PowerPoints that explain and show how to create plain text get the largest positive feedback from my classes. In all the classes that I have taught, I have had only two people who knew what plain text was, let alone how to use it. I usually show this section last.  It is a complicated process that, once completed, makes the job seeker’s life much easier.

There are now two versions.  I have always had a step-by-step PowerPoint and handout for creating plain text in Microsoft Word.  However, not everyone has access to this program.  I have now added a second version (both in PowerPoint and in the handouts) for changing formatted text to plain text in Google Docs.  This word processor has the advantage of being free and, therefore, available to everyone.  Although I personally think Google already has too much of our information, I have to admit that they do most things well, usually keeping the end user in mind when developing programs.

Whether the instructor uses only one or both depends on the needs of the class and the time allotted.  I have also separated out the section that explains what plain text is and why people need it.  This allows the teacher to use this one PowerPoint and just give out the two versions of the handouts if time is extremely limited.

PowerPoint Setup, Handouts, and Permissions: Each PowerPoint presentation is set up with the screen shot on the left and the instructions on the right, as opposed to a full screen shot with instructor’s notes. I tried both versions in my classes and participants preferred a combination of both that they could see on the screen. Moving arrows/pointers are embedded in each screen leading from the instruction to the section of the screenshot I am referring to. Each arrow is triggered by a left mouse click. You can use this information to teach a class or as a jumping off point to plan your own class.  We just ask that you give credit to the Newton Free Library for what you use.  If you do not have access to PowerPoint, you can print out and use the handouts. They have the same information as the PowerPoint presentations. The class, the handouts, and the supplementary material were created using Microsoft Word 2003 and Microsoft PowerPoint 2003 on Windows XP.

Supplements: The supplementary material includes lists, websites, and other items that the class members should find useful, but does not necessarily have to be printed out.  Students can just be referred to the online web addresses. The one supplement I have included just for the teacher is a sample for a certificate of attendance.  Some attendees will need the teacher to fill this out if they are on unemployment and need proof that they were attending a class or lecture.

Note: All links below are to the same page, the LibGuide homepage.  You will find the PowerPoints, Handouts, and Supplementary Materials listed with links in the right frame.  I have linked each item for the convenience of those people who click on only one or several of the items listed below.

The Class

Goals of the Class

To show how to use computer resources in a job search by:

Pointing out some of the problems inherent in applying for a job online and explaining how to solve them.

Discussing some of the various types of job search information available both in print and online.

Showing some of the many resources where you can find job listings.

Demonstrating where to find and how to use information made available through the Newton Free Library in your job search.

Explaining what plain text is, why it is necessary in a job search, and how to create a plain text resume step-by-step.

I.    Looking for Work: PowerPoint

          Three Rules for a Successful Job Search

            Rule # 1  Do your homework!

            Rule # 2  Network online and in person

            Rule # 3  Have one formatted and one plain text resume prepared to  use online.

What you need to know:

The job search vocabulary

Where to find job information


            Job Banks


How to research a company or industry

The three ways to apply for a job online

        On site Job Kiosk

        Via Email

         Online Job Application

How to Stay Safe Online

II.  Using Key Databases and a Website: PowerPoint



          General Business File ASAP (InfoTrac)

          The Occupational Outlook Handbook

III.  Accessing Job Search Information Using the Library’s Job LibGuide: PowerPoint

IV. What is Plain Text and Why Do We Need It? PowerPoint

V.  Creating Plain Text Using Windows XP and Word 2003:  PowerPoint

VI. Using Google Docs to Change Formatted Text to Plain Text: PowerPoint

VII. Finding Work Through Networking: PowerPoint

VIII. Web 2.0 and Blogging: PowerPoint

IX. Handouts: Word Documents

Handout 1 – Current Library Job Programs and Lectures

Handout 2 – List of Handouts and Supplementary Material

Handout 3 – Evaluation Form [This is the only item returned to the Instructor.]

Handout 4 – Copy of PowerPoint Presentation – Looking for Work*                            

                              4a – Three Ways to Apply for a Job Online

                              4b – Basic Job Search Vocabulary Explained

Handout5 – How to Use Key Databases and a Website

Handout 6 – Accessing Job Search Information Using the Library’s Job LibGuide

Handout 7 – Networking

Handout 8 – What is Plain Text and Why Do We Need to Use It

Handout 9 – Using Microsoft Word to Create Plain Text from Formatted Text

Handout 10 – Creating Plain Text from Formatted Text Using Google Docs

Handout 11 – Sample of the Word and the Plain Text Resume Used in Class

Handout 12 – Schedule of Classes at the Newton Free Library                                   

X. Supplementary Materials

Supplement 1 – Books to Help With Your Job Search  Listed by Category

Supplement 2 – Website List: Annotated and Categorized

Supplement 3 – Key Class Websites

                  a. Employment and Training Resources —   Schedule of Workshops

                  b. Charles River Public Internet Center      

                  c. Mass Trial Court Law Libraries’ Web Page on Massachusetts  Employment Law

                  d. Staying Safe Online: The Dirty Dangerous Online Job Search Assumptions

                  e.  How to Copy and Paste Your Resume to Safely  

Supplement 4 – Certificate of Attendance

vea/created 24 February 2011/updated 16 December 2011
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass.
Applying for a Job LibGuide:


What Exactly is Plain Text/ASCII

August 31, 2011

Formatted and Plain Text Versions


Let’s begin with the problem.  Most resumes and cover letters are first produced using a program (like Microsoft Word) that make them look striking.  You will see different sized text, bold facing, indentation, and other fancy work that make it stand out.  To accomplish this, there is a lot of underlying computer formatting that you don’t see. This is not a problem if you send the resume as an attachment.  However,  if you try to copy and paste a formatted document into the body of an email, the computer software will translate your work into gibberish when it is received on the other end.  Email programs recognize very little formatting.  You have the same problem when you try to copy and paste your cover letter, resume, or other information into a company’s online website application. The company’s website application software, called by the general name Automatic Applicant Tracking Systems, may not recognize some of the formatting used for your material.  The end result is that your application never gets through the system to the person who might want to hire you.

What do you do to get around this?  You must strip your resume of most of its formatting. You need to get it into a very specific format known as plain text or ASCII.  ASCII stands for American Standard Code for Information Interchange.  It is pronounced asskey, but is also referred to as ASC2, since the final II looks like the Roman numeral II. ASCII is the platform upon which the more intricate formatting used in popular computer programs is built. It is therefore more universally recognized and can be read by a broad range of software.

The steps for changing a document with formatted text into plain text are very specific and too long to go through in a blog.  I am providing a link here to the home page of the Applying for a Job Online LibGuide mentioned in an earlier posting. In the right column click on Handout 9 – Plain Text in Microsoft Word. It should come up if you have Microsoft Word 2003 or later on your computer.  This will explain, step-by-step and screenshot by screenshot, how to change a Microsoft Word 2003 formatted resume into plain text. Feel free to print it out.

Note on Google Docs:  Since I did this post, I have created another set of instructions for Google Docs.  Just check out the same link I provided above, but look at Handout 10 – Plain Text in Google Docs. (vea/12 January 2012)

Good luck.  Let me know how you make out.

vea/31 August 2011
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass.
Applying for Job LibGuide

Why is it so hard to apply for a job through a company’s website?

April 16, 2010

This is a question I have been getting quite a bit lately and I decided to do some research.  It comes down to the fact that companies are adopting software known by the generic name “Applicant Tracking Systems” or ATS.  Companies simply do not have the manpower to go through all the job applications they are receiving.   This, naturally, complicates the life of the job applicant.

Whether you are copying and pasting requested information or your entire resume into a site, the formatting used in your original documents may be incompatible with the company’s software.  Then you don’t even make it to first base when you send off your information.  If you are having this problem and need to strip your documents/resume of formatting, click on the tab above labeled Plain Text ASCII.  This explains what plain text is, why we use it, and how to create a plain text copy of your work.

I have found two articles that give additional  tips in dealing with ATS.  Just click on the titles if you would like to look at them.  The first is “The Automated Applicant Tracking System – AKA: The Resume Black Hole” by Samantha Greenfield from the Northern Virginia Daily.  “Pass the Applicant Tracking Systems by Tweaking Your Resume” from the blog Browse Local Jobs is the second.

If this helps or you have suggestions based on your own job search, could you leave a comment below?  You could save other people a certain amount of  frustration in dealing with this entire process.  Thank you and good luck.