The Skinny on On-Line Applications
By Uri Allen, CPRW
One of the biggest complaints I hear from job seekers is how much they hate/loathe/dread the online application. For those with little to no computer skills, online applications are yet another hurdle they have to overcome in order to stay competitive with today’s job market. My boomers (and some Gen X’ers) complain that the online application is just too impersonal and that if they could only talk to someone…in person. My Gen Y and some of my millennial clients complain that the application process is too long and what’s with those stupid tests they make you take? And did they just ask the same question twice? It seems as though each generation has their own complaints but one thing they can all agree on (for once) is that online job applications are the pits. So why are so many employers using this format? For this blog post, I will delve into the world of online applications and see if there is indeed some method to the madness that has so many frustrated job seekers looking to office space their computers.Don’t take a bat to your computer just yet!
IT’S A NUMBERS GAME
OK so let’s face it…it’s an employers market out there. With an abundance of job seekers looking for work, employers are often overwhelmed with the amount of applicants they receive when they post a position. For a single job posting, employers on average receive about 250 applications. An article on ere.net went on to post these staggering statistics:
Although it varies with the company and the job, on average 250 resumes are received for each corporate job opening. Finding a position opening late can’t help your chances because the first resume is received within 200 seconds after a position is posted. If you post your resume online on a major job site like Monster so that a recruiter can find it, you are facing stiff competition because 427,000other resumes are posted on Monster alone each and every week (BeHiring).
It’s no wonder with numbers like that, employers needed a way to effectively manage the responses they were getting. With the job market being in the toilet for so long, job seekers find themselves in dire straits and begin to apply for ANY job, even if they were not qualified for it which drove up the number of resumes a potential employer needed to weed out. This weeding out process was costing employers to spend a great deal of time sifting through resumes to find qualified candidates (time=money) and thus, Applicant Tracking Systems come into the picture. These tracking systems (i.e. online applications) allow employers to filter out erroneous applicants and applicants that don’t meet qualifications set by the employer. This, above everything else, is probably one of the biggest, if not the biggest driving factor in the reason why so many employers are turning to online applications.
Some others boil down to simply convenience. Online applications allow employers to gather LOTS of information and the new applicant tracking systems allow this information to be organized and cataloged alot easier than paper applications. Online applications also level the playing field and give everyone the same starting advantage (so to speak…not so much for those less computer savvy). Whereas in the past an application might be rejected because of messy handwriting, these online processes allow job seekers to neatly and completely fill out applications. Those little red asterisks tell you exactly what you need to fill out and what you might have missed which can be a huge PLUS for job seekers who tend to miss or overlook things on an application. These tracking systems can also accept resumes and aggregate assessment test results and keep everything in an orderly fashion so that an employer can pull up the information at the drop of a dime. So while it does seem like an impossible inconvenience, there are some pluses for job seekers and some ways that you can make your online application process easier and more effective.
1) Become computer savvy. These days there is really very little excuse for not knowing how to use a computer. They are such an integral part of our society, you are putting yourself at a huge disadvantage if you don’t learn how to use one. Visit your local CTWorks or One Stop center and take some computer classes so that you don’t take yourself out of the running for your dream job because you lacked the computer skills to apply for one.
2) Have (and use) a plain text version of your resume when pasting into the text box of your application. Fancy formatting is great if you are attaching it but all that does is jumble up and make your resume look weird when you are trying to paste it into a text box. The folks over at Dummies created this great tutorial that will walk you through the process of converting your resume to plain text. Use a plain text version when pasting to avoid any formatting weirdness.
3) Meet the qualifications of the job posting. If the job posting says the position requires advanced Excel but your computer skills don’t extend far beyond playing Farmville on your iPad, you would fare better to find a position that didn’t include a skill you lack. It’s a waste of time for both you and the employer to apply to positions that you do not meet the requirements for. With such an abundance of job seekers, there are plenty out there that will meet the requirements and all you are doing is setting yourself up for rejection by applying to jobs that you are not qualified for.
4) Fill out all of the required fields. With real information. I was shocked when I heard that someone had recommended that job seekers skirt around filling out their birthdays and social security numbers by inserting all 0’s in to the fields. This is a sure fire way to raise some red flags and get your application tagged for the garbage pile. Employers use this information to perform background and criminal checks, so it’s important that a potential employer isn’t confusing you with someone else with a less savory background. Many employers also use secure sites so your information is less likely to be compromised. For some tips on safe online usage, another one of our CTCG bloggers Erica created a great infographic about staying safe online.
5) Treat it like a paper application. Proofread everything, make sure that all of the information is correct and accurate to the best of your knowledge. Online applications hold the same weight as paper applications are a legal documents so be sure to be honest on the application as well. If an employer finds out you fibbed on the online app, you could be terminated from your position. When attaching cover letters and resumes, treat them as you would if you were handing them to an employer…tailor the cover letter and resume to the position, highlighting how your skills and abilities are a good match to the posting and make sure these are error free.
While the above tips can’t guarantee 100% that your resume won’t end up in the black hole abyss of the internet, they can at least make the process a lot less painful and awful. If you have any tips to share about navigating the world of online applications, leave a comment!