Online Job Applications: All You Really Need To Know

A quick guide on how to fill out online job applications and get a response.

boss on phone job applications cartoonThis is a guest post by Dean Giles. If you’d also like to guest post here on JobMob, follow these guest post guidelines.

Have you heard it lately? Ask just about anywhere how to apply for a job there, and you will hear, “You have to apply online. If they are interested in your application, they will call you.”

Online job application puts all of the power in the hands of the employer—and it cuts down the time and money needed to handle job applicants, because employees don't see most of the applications.

You see, when you fill out the online job application, your application enters a database of applications, sometimes called the automated applicant tracking system, other times called “the resume black hole.”

How many times have you heard of people filling out dozens or even hundreds of online applications without even getting one response back?

Automated systems sort and process the applications. If your application isn’t processed and brought to the top of the list of applications, it simply won’t even be reviewed by human beings.

How to get through the automated filters

So the question is–what do you need to get to the top of the automated list, and get past the autobot filters designed to weed out applicants before HR or anyone else needs to spend any time on it?

You will need three things:

  1. Use exact keywords and phrases
  2. Find job openings that closely match your skills and abilities
  3. And… a system that works in reverse—a system that only has you apply for a job after you have gotten the response. Yes, you heard me right. To succeed with the online job application, you need only apply for the jobs that you already have a response for.

The experts and gurus will tell you that you need to apply for a lot of jobs. The logic is: the chances of getting a job goes up with every application you submit. But I don't buy it. You spend hours getting the resume and application just right. You fight with the submission process, then you wait. And for what? Intense silence on the other side.

Your hopes are actually dashed with every online resume that you fill out. You can't hold out real expectations when you haven't had a response from the last 35 applications you have submitted, now can you?

Then pretty soon you are looking for ways to pump applications out faster. You are cutting corners sending the same resume to every offer, leaving every field blank that isn't expressly required. But what will an employer see if they actually do look at that application? Someone who can't even complete a whole form? Will that application actually help your chances of getting hired, or would it just hurt them?

What would your chances of being hired actually be like if you knew your application would be reviewed by a real person? How much more time and detail could you put into the application, and how much better would it be?

Contemplate those questions while we address the other two things that you need to get your resume seen by real people.

1) Use exact keywords and phrases

If you don’t have the exact keywords and phrases that the automated system is looking for, your application will fail. It is that simple. For an example, I will assume most everyone has done a Google search before. In the Google search window, a person will type in a search term and Google will deliver a list of possible sites that relate to the term that you typed in. Although the algorithms are different, the automated applicant tracking systems have, at their heart, the very same mechanisms and return to the employer’s agent, the HR person or company recruiter, a list of applications that have all of the specific keywords and phrases that they are looking for.

The irony here is that many people will have the experience and prerequisites expected, but will not be in this list of top qualified candidates because the automated systems just won’t find their application.

Use the job description to get the exact keywords that are being searched for.

2) Find job openings that closely match your skills and abilities

As was pointed out, the automated systems are looking for specific keywords and phrases, it is easiest to match those keywords when you are applying for jobs that you really do qualify for. But, where do you find those perfect jobs that you are looking for?

Finding the right jobs requires knowing where to look, and how to get the right help finding the job opportunities. It is estimated that the big job boards such as Monster, CareerBuilder, and etc. only account for 4 to 8 percent of all hires in the US. What that means is that the majority of the jobs available are not on the big job boards. You can learn exactly where to look for the right jobs, and how to access the “hidden job market” where the competition is significantly less, and odds are much greater in your favor for getting hired.

The secret is in networking and the right tactics to find the people inside that are influencers and can help you.

Finding just the right job opportunities will cut down the frustration factors immensely and actually improve your chances of interviews and job offers.

3) Only apply for the jobs that you already have a response from

The process that works is actually the reverse of the common logic. Don't apply until someone there is expecting your application.

Most people think that online job application means that you can’t contact the company, and that there won’t be any human interaction until you win the job application lottery and your name is chosen. Frankly, this attitude keeps most people from making the short list at the companies that they are interested in. If you have the first two things mentioned above, then you need to let a real person know it.

Companies often hire people who are a known entity. They are friends of someone in the company, or have worked with someone in the past. This is where the saying comes from, “who you know matters more that what you know”

No place is that more evident than when it comes to getting hired. As it turns out, knowing who to contact and how to contact them is a key component to becoming that known entity, and gaining a foot up on your competition.

Most people go about contacting someone in the company in a completely wrong way. They hear this phrase again and again, “if they choose your resume, you will get a phone call from them.” That is usually the last thing anyone hears from the potential employer’s company. Finding the right people to contact and contacting them in the right way will make a big difference with the employer interest in your online job application.

The real problems of today’s job search happen to be in the new online job application process and all of the baggage that it introduces, rather than in the lack of jobs or the current economic conditions.

The prevailing system for getting hired simply doesn't work. When you reverse that equation and start by contacting someone at the company, you can start seeing results immediately.

About the Author

dean giles portraitTwenty one years as a Project Manager gave Dean Giles, Job Search Coach, a lot of experience on the interviewing and hiring end of the job market. One company acquisition and a subsequent reduction-in-force, put him on the opposite end of that equation. He quickly found that the automated online job application mechanisms had pretty much high-jacked the hiring processes. He found that the hiring process for most people is completely broken and that what he had learned over 21 years had to be applied in new and creative ways. Dean now strives to help people find employment and use the new technologies to their advantage.

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If you liked this article, you'll also enjoy 9 Best Practices For Turning Online Job Openings Into Job Offers.

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One Response

  1. Jacob Share Kristen Fife November 29, 2016
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