By Sheila Nazari, Human Resources & Career Consultant, Management & Leadership Solutions
Lately, I’ve heard many people venting their frustrations about how employers make applying for jobs near impossible, thanks to the online application system. You have to create a username and password for every company you apply to and you have to upload your resume in the correct format and if you happen to accidentally press the ‘back’ button, you risk losing all the information you just entered.
Since I’ve helped companies implement applicant tracking systems, I was defensive at first, but I could sympathize with them. The advantage of applicant tracking systems is that they are designed to make the recruiter or hiring manager’s jobs easier, but the disadvantage is that they can make it more difficult for you, the candidate, to get the job or even to get your resume noticed.
The up-side is that there are many tips that will help make it easier for you to apply.
- Different applicant tracking systems can read different types of file formats so make sure you note what type of files can be uploaded and make sure that your resume is in an acceptable format. They usually can read DOC, RTF, and PDF files. If possible, save your resume, cover letter and other documents in the same type of file format to ensure effective uploading.
- Use spell-check on your resume and cover letter before submitting them.
- Check the job description for the key behaviors required and target your resume to demonstrate how you’ve displayed those key behaviors in previous jobs.
- Try to find out as much as you can about the position before applying so that you can better answer the pre-screening questions.
- If you call the company because you’re having problems applying, be specific about the issue. Saying that you just don’t know how to apply online or that the site is useless is not the best way to get on the recruiter’s good side.
- Take your time with the process. If you accidentally click “yes” instead of “no” on certain questions, it can have a significant impact on whether or not your resume gets screened out.
- Pay attention to the required fields (usually shown with asterisks). Other fields are optional.
- Don’t offer negative information such as: “Reason for Leaving” – I was terminated. Safe answers to that tricky question include better opportunity, advancement, career transition, etc. Look at it from the recruiter’s standpoint and how they may react to your choice of words.
- Store your username and password somewhere convenient so that you can easily sign in to edit your information or apply for other jobs with that company.
- If you don’ have a resume, you can use the Resume Builder in the system. If you choose to go this route, have all of the information you need at your disposal and be as thorough as possible, so that you don’t leave out important information.
- Most systems give you the opportunity to save your work and come back to it. If you find yourself getting frustrated or running out of time, use this option.
- If you know someone who works at the company where you are applying, ask that person if you can put him or her as a referral. There will usually be a field that asks if you were referred by someone.
- Use LinkedIn and other social networking sites to see where your connections work and if applying to that company, ask them what the company looks for in a candidate. Tailor your resume accordingly and ask them who you can send the resume to in addition to applying online.
Want more help with getting your resume online ready? Check out our interactive course - Getting Your Resume Noticed.
About the Author:
Sheila is a HR and Training Consultant and Career Coach who guide organizations and people in setting and reaching their goals. She has worked with Fortune 500 companies, medium-sized and small companies including Target, Apollo Group, University of Phoenix, Corporate Psychologists, Knight Transportation and Auckland Museum. Sheila received her Master's degree in Human Resources from the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management and her Bachelor's Degree from Boston University.