The Ugly Truth about Online Job Applications – Part 2

Someone typing on a laptop computer.In Part 1 of this series, you read how many employers today use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) in an effort to efficiently process the ever-increasing number of online job applications they receive.  If you have not already done so, please go back and read Part 1 now.  You will recall that the ATS software scans the application, cover letter, and resume of each applicant, calculating the degree of fit for the job.  This is done by examining the answers provided through the online application, and searching the electronic cover letter and resume files for key words, phrases, and other criteria.  No longer does a human resources analyst or technician need to perform the manual task of painstakingly opening and reading every single application and associated document files received to determine whether an applicant is qualified.  Instead, the ATS does the initial tedious and time-consuming review work, places the resulting information in a database, and flags those files which the human resources person may wish to examine closer.  The concept sounds great, except that as you learned in Part 1, ATS systems do have their weaknesses as well, which makes the overall online application process far less than 100% perfect, creating potential frustrations for both the employer and applicant alike.

Think of the road to an interview as a series of two hurdles; first, you have to successfully jump the “ATS hurdle” in order to get your application materials into the hands of a real human (such as the human resources person and/or hiring manager).  Second, you have to successfully jump the “human hurdle” by convincing that HR person or hiring manager that you are qualified and desirable enough to be offered an interview.  This second hurdle is jumped by using the usual job search tactics of having a well-written cover letter, resume or curriculum vitae (CV), and being sure to include any additional documents required at the time of application (copies of transcripts, licenses, certifications, etc.). Continue reading

The Ugly Truth about Online Job Applications – Part 1

Woman typing and looking at a computer display.At last, you are ready to roll, and now it’s time to apply for that big job.  You diligently search all the online job sites and position postings at the companies in your field.  Although those online applications can take longer to complete than a millionaire’s IRS 1040 tax form, you carefully fill out each one, making sure every required field has just the right entry.  Finally, you attach your resume and cover letter, and click the Submit button.  Done at last!  Then you wait… and wait… and wait yet some more.  Days, then weeks pass.  Nothing.  Not even an automated and insincere “thanks, but no thanks” response.  It’s like your online application and attachments simply went into a cyber black hole.  What happened?

Congratulations!  You just experienced the frustration felt by many, if not most, job applicants today who are forced to apply for positions using an online Applicant Tracking System (ATS).  An ATS is designed to electronically sift through all the job applicants for a position and identify only those few who the software believes is the best fit based on parameters established by the recruiter.  Although your resume and cover letter may have been written with the quality worthy of a Pulitzer Prize, it doesn’t matter; odds are, human eyes never even saw your application materials.

Say what?  Don’t people in human resources (HR) departments even read applications anymore?  What is going on? Continue reading