As I sit here at my Macbook Air contemplating the approach I want to take on this impossible-sounding article, I hear one of my favorite Miranda Lambert songs in the back of my head…
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“Hey whatever happened to,
Waitin’ your turn
Doing it all by hand,
‘Cause when everything is handed to you
It’s all only worth as much as the time you put in
It all just seems so good the way we had it
Back before everything became, automatic…”
Don’t get me wrong – I love the internet. I love my email and my instant messenger. I love having all this information and access right at my fingertips. And it’s so damn fast, too.
That’s the problem.
Back in the day, I remember sending resume after resume, cover letter after cover letter, to addresses of employers with position listings that I found in the newspaper or Chronicle of Higher Education. And don’t forget about those Placement Conferences.
Every job application went into its own 8 1/2 x 11 manilla envelope and was taken to the post office, weighed, stamped, and mailed. There was no internet, there was no Monster.com, there was no Indeed.
Having navigated the process of updating every resume, every cover letter, and gathering all of my individually addressed letters of recommendation seemed like a lot of work at the time…but that was okay with me because I completely understood the process and what was expected of me.
Am I a terrible person because I’d like for it to still be that way?
Online job applications can speed things up, make things much easier for the employer to view, sort, and store. If you are on a search committee, you can screen those applications from the comfort of your desk or office and not have to spend the entire day in the Human Resources Office reading and scoring 300 paper applications.
(I’ve done this before. It’s quite painful.)
But the list of cons is equally as long – online controls can be too limiting, online only applications can inadvertently exclude possible qualified candidates, and it’s quite an investment to get started.
And that’s just from the employer’s side of things.
As a potential employee and candidate, it can be horribly frustrating trying to navigate the online job environment in order to stand out above other candidates. And while it may have seemed a like a great deal of work printing all those paper resumes and taking them to the post office, candidates have to do a great deal more preparation work for an online job application to stand out.
When you’ve identified a position of interest to you and discover the online application, make sure you get very familiar with what is expected in the job application.
From the employer side, I have reviewed many online applications that aren’t complete simply because the candidate didn’t realize what was required for the application.
In our desire to finish the application, we may neglect required items or just gloss them over.
The Balance Careers website shared a great list of items you will need to have in hand and ready to go before you begin filling out that application form. It’s not just your resume and cover letter:
Personal Information Required for an Employment Application
Address, city, state, zip code
Social security number
Are you eligible to work in the United States?
If you are under age eighteen, do you have an employment certificate?
Have you been convicted of a felony within the last five years? (information about convictions varies based on state law)
Education and Experience Needed for a Job Application
School(s) attended, degrees, graduation date
Skills and qualifications
Grade Point Average (G.P.A.), if this was above 3.50
Extracurricular activities where you held a leadership role
Employment History Required
Address, phone, email
Job title and responsibilities
Starting and ending dates of employment (month, day, and year)
Reason for leaving
Permission to contact the previous employer
Address, phone, email
If you can’t remember the address, city, and zip code of your employer three jobs ago, you’d better look it up before you start your online application. Get all these details together and set them aside. Or better yet, save it as a Google Doc so you have it accessible all the time (you can be old school, too, and just write it down).
Strengthen Your Profile
When was the last time you updated your LinkedIn profile? In the online job environment, LinkedIn can give your candidacy a big boost if you are able to connect things there that might get left out in your application (or not required).
Keppie Careers shares strong advice on how LinkedIn can boost your online footprint:((Keppie Careers: How important is LinkedIn for your job hunt?))
“Statistics show that over 90% of recruiters are using it to source hires. LinkedIn users post jobs, and when you view the descriptions, you can see who posted it and how you are connected to that person or organization via LinkedIn.
You can also see how many people have applied for the job via LinkedIn. These tools make it useful as a job search/applying for jobs tool.
Many companies will allow you to apply for jobs using a one-click option where you use you LinkedIn profile instead of filling out an application.”
Do Your Research
As you would ANYWAY for your job application, visit the employer’s website and check things out. According to Forbes:((Forbes: 8 Do’s And Don’ts When You Apply For A Job Online))
“First, recruiters want to see that you have a special interest in their company. They’re more likely to pursue a candidate who has a history with the company or industry and a story about why they’re applying now. Take the time to learn its mission and values. Then, incorporate those into your job history and cover letter. This will help you stand out among other applicants who applied without doing their homework.”
Workbloom suggests going the extra mile and contacting hiring managers directly.((Workbloom: Online Job Applications: How to Stand Out from the Crowd When You Apply Online)) Once again, LinkedIn to the rescue:
“When you complete an online application, use LinkedIn to research who the department head, hiring manager, HR manager, or supervisor is for your desired position.
Then, find out their e-mail and send them a short introduction letting them know you have applied for a specific job and that you are very interested in joining their team.”
Get to Know ATS
ATS stands for Applicant Tracking System. Applicant tracking systems are used by corporations to assist with recruitment and hiring processes. Each system offers a different combination and scope of features, but ATS are primarily used to help hiring companies collect, organize, and filter applicants.
While these are a dream for corporations and organizations, they can be a nightmare for candidates. According to Job Scan:((Job Scan: What is an Applicant Tracking System?))
Corporate recruiters can have their ATS automatically extract information from an applicant’s resume to build a digital applicant profile that can be searched, filtered, and/or ranked. The goal is to quickly cull out anyone who is under-qualified, make the applicant pool smaller, and quickly identify the top candidates.
Unfortunately for job seekers, most ATS lack sophistication and are not able to search and filter candidates reliably. Some highly qualified candidates fall through the cracks and are wrongfully eliminated from the applicant pool because their resume has formatting issues or lacks the correct search keywords.
This is a necessary tradeoff for many hiring professionals with limited time and resources. In order to get noticed, job seekers must optimize their resume for ATS.
Trying to “beat” the ATS’ out there could be as futile as figuring out the Instagram or Facebook algorithms that are ever changing. But The Muse offers these simple four tips on how to get past the “ATS Troll” to get your resume seen:((The Muse: Beat the Robots: How to Get Your Resume Past the System & Into Human Hands))
- Keep Formatting Simple
- Nail the Correct Keywords
- Ditch the Career Objective Section
- Use Spell Check
Further, The Muse says,
“At the end of the day, once your resume passes the unfailing eye of the ATS, it will then be scrutinized by a human eye. The good news is that all of the advice for optimizing your resume for ATS is simply good resume practice.”
It seems that much of the online environment is dictated by keywords, algorithms, search engine optimization, and virtual engagement; it’s no wonder we are all so tired by the time we get to the job interview.
Nonetheless, in addition to all the access and information provided by the lovely World Wide Web, it definitely changed the way we pursue our dream jobs (or any job, for that matter).
The good news is that all this extra work gets you more prepared for the interview, when you land it. Consider it Basic Training for your Job Search.
And an extra special thank you to Miranda Lambert whose “Automatic” gave me inspiration to launch this article.