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Why Online Job Applications Don’t Work

When applying for a job, virtually everything is done, well, virtually. As part of your digital experience, you look for listings online, you submit your job application online, and you might even do your job interview online. But what if I told you that applying online is one of the most difficult ways to secure employment?

According to Glassdoor, on average, each corporate job opening attracts 250 resumes. Of those candidates, 4 to 6 will receive an interview, and only one will get the job. So, is applying for jobs online a waste of time? Well, it’s complicated. It’s true that some people find employment by applying for jobs online. For most people, though, it’s hit-or-miss. In fact, you can typically find a job faster using other, more traditional job search options. In recent years, we have been uncovering more and more shortcomings in the hiring practices that accompany virtual job search.

Let’s examine four reasons why applying online may not be your best option for securing employment:

1. Only the most impressive resumes get noticed.

While automated applications can save hiring managers the hassle of sifting through hundreds of emails with traditional resumes and cover letters, many applications submitted online end up being ignored, without so much as an acknowledgment of receipt from the employer.

One Software Engineer by the pseudonym Angelina Lee had experienced just this and decided to put their own theory to the test. Angelina devised a plan to create a fake resume, stacked with impressive experience at top companies such as Instagram, Microsoft and LinkedIn. The intent of this experiment was to determine if where you work and where you went to school really does make all the difference. And, just as expected, Angelina received a 90% callback rate, even when her resume depicted qualifications such as “Team Coffee Maker” or “Connected with Reid Hoffman on LinkedIn”.

This begs the question, what are hiring managers really looking for when they receive your online application? Are your skills and experience enough to land an interview, or do hiring managers expect to interview only those with more-than-impressive experience?

2. Your resume may not ever be read by a real person.

Coinciding with the increase in online job search, companies have increased their usage of applicant tracking systems (ATS). This is essentially a program used to screen all the resumes submitted for a position and filter them based on how the keywords they contain measure up to those sought by the hiring manager. If the keywords and phrases that you’ve used don’t match what the employer has set the ATS to scan for – your resume won’t ever be read by a real person.

3. Online applications take too long to fill out.

Have you ever opened an online application, just to click out of it? Well, you are not alone. According to this Sevenstep Study, nearly 30% of all job candidates won’t spend more than 15 minutes filling out an online application, although patience for lengthy applications varied by age. Candidates ages 25 to 34 were found to have the least patience for online applications, as 36% of them were willing to spend 15 minutes or less, while 35% of those under age 25 were willing to spend 45 minutes or more on a single job application.

Job hunting is a lengthy process as is, and by focusing mainly on online applications, we often experience increased time spent searching and applying for work, then through traditional job search methods.

4. Employers don’t stay in touch.

In an ideal world we would know what happens to our job applications, once submitted. Employers should create true talent communities through networking to foster ongoing candidate engagement, even if there are no available positions for that particular candidate. However, today’s job seekers are often left on the edge of their seats, wondering if their applications got lost into the abyss that is the internet, or, if they have simply been ignored. The process of job searching would be much more rewarding if both employees and employers band together to build their professional networks, despite the application outcome.

The good news? There are better ways to get a job. Start by learning about how you can tap into the hidden job market. Focus your energy on building relationships to help gain access to inside information about job opportunities that may not have been posted publicly yet. You can start with people you already know, and branch outwards as you are introduced to industry professionals.

When it comes to your resume, you can determine which are the most relevant keywords for the position and industry by carefully reading job descriptions for opportunities in your field. Make sure that the wording you use to describe your skills and experience closely matches the language used by employers. And remember, if you can bypass the online application, and send your resume and cover letter to the hiring manager directly, you have a much greater chance at receiving a request for an interview.

If you’re looking to learn more about how to secure work, beyond applying online – reach out to Career Services at [email protected] or [email protected].

By Alexandra Stancato, Career Advisor, Toronto Film School