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Life Is Too Short… For Online Job Applications

Life Is Too Short… For Online Job Applications


My friend sharing that she’d just been laid off.

“I took one look at all the milestones on the progress bar, then hit the back key.”

Another ex-colleague, describing his displeasure when he clicked the “Apply Now” and “Apply on Our Web Site” appeared.

“I tried. I really tried. It was just too difficult, such a mess… I just couldn’t keep going.”

A different acquaintance describing the hell that is an upload or import of your resume parsed into a text block in an online form.

Recently, I asked a friend to keep a log of his job search activity for a week. (I am keeping this confidential because he is currently unhappily employed.) He’s a brilliant internet marketer with an active social media persona. His Linkedin profile and online resumes are up to date. He is willing to relocate for the right job and pretty open to new experiences. He’s personable and a team player. I’d hire him if I needed his skills.

His day starts by checking his personal email.

TIP #1:

NEVER use your work email for searching for a new job because:

You never know what kind of monitoring is going on with your corporate network. If you don’t want the company you are currently working for to find out, then don’t. Just don’t. It’s not professional.

As a hiring manager, if I saw your company email address, I would assume you were doing your job search on your company’s time, which indicates a lack of integrity. Your resume went straight into the trash.

Back to his email. About a month ago, he went through the laborious process of uploading and reformatting his resume on Monster, CareerBuilder and other more niche job search portals. He then set up searches on each that would email him when matching jobs were posted.

As he opens each of these email alerts, his shoulders sag. Why would he be interested in an entry-level SEO position when he has a decade of experience across the integrated marketing spectrum? Out of the ten emails he gets each day (between 70 to 120 links to openings), most of the jobs are not properly targeted. The software pretty much sends you any matches with very little filtering.

TIP #2:

Use the advanced search capabilities and keep refining your search until it seems to produce the best results possible. THEN set up your email alert. If you know how to leverage Boolean search techniques, you could also create Google Alerts to data-mine the entire interwebs for you.

As he’s reviewing emails, he begins opening new tabs to jobs he’s interested in. There may be six to seven jobs in total a day that he’ll click-through to, in order to learn more about them. Some will have been closed. Some may be in an industry that he’s not interested in working in or he’s not qualified for. Eventually he may find two or three interesting enough to learn more and apply. With his resume cleaned up and a basic cover letter at the ready, he clicks on the “Apply Now” button.

Sometimes it works seamlessly, but typically only within a job portal where you already have a resume uploaded and cover letters set up for every possible specialization you want to emphasize. The trouble comes when the company’s HR department doesn’t care enough about the candidate experience that they put you through applicant tracking software hell. Even if they’ve posted an ad on Monster or CareerBuilder, they still want you to apply on their web site. You know the companies I mean… a popup window with a progress bar with 15 separate sections. The upload that parses your beautifully formatted resume into what looks like gibberish. No rich text formatting to facilitate bolds, bullets and even new freaking paragraphs!!! ← You, too, Linkedin. Seriously. You’re the biggest offender. Get your act together.

My friend says there are times when he rejoices when he sees the “Log in with Linkedin” button, but it depends on the web site he’s on — sometimes it works perfectly, others, not so much. He’s had half a description show up as the description for another job. All the job titles in one job, all the dates in another. Going in and cutting and re-pasting took as much time as if he had done it by hand himself.

TIP #3:

He recommends trying the “Login with Linkedin” feature first, then deleting everything and starting over if it’s really bad, instead of reviewing every line to assure it’s actually in the correct field.

Same thing with uploading your resume as a PDF or Word Document. When these applicant tracking systems parse your resume, you have no idea how the software will recognize each piece of data. If you have fancy borders, tables, columns, bullets, bolds, custom styles, literally anything at all that you might use to create a visually beautiful and easy to read document, it could create havoc with what the software actually creates.

TIP #4:

Redo your resume as a text-only document (.txt or .rtf) and set up visual cues for spacing and bullets as best you can relying on nothing but characters, spaces and punctuation. Revisit one of those nightmare sites and use it to test your TXT file until it reads clearly and flows as desired. Then keep it handy for uploading to these nightmare sites.

The time it takes for him to apply is much faster with his streamlined text version for uploading purposes. Even if the software makes mistakes, they are typically easier to identify and correct.

Even then, some of these applicant tracking software systems make you double the work, by uploading your resume (which you had to review and correct to ensure your formatting was clear), but then begins a series of pages WHERE THE SAME INFORMATION HAS TO BE ENTERED INTO INDIVIDUAL FIELDS. Start Date. End Date. Location. Title. Salary. Why you left. OMFG. Where do I upload my DNA sample? The EEOC labor compliance doesn’t have to be seven pages of checkboxes and submit clicks. If you treat candidates like this, how do you treat employees? I cannot imagine trying to file an expense report or a health insurance claim with this same company…

This is where my friend got angry. I mean, really frustrated. At this point, he typically gives up and this, my friends, is the problem. He’s a really great internet marketer. He’s a brilliant guy to work with, yet these companies will never have a chance to meet him and it really is their loss.

TIP #5:

Update your Linkedin and online profiles regularly. All those resumes you have online should be updated WEEKLY if you are actively looking and interviewing for a new job. Sourcers and recruiters are usually going after the latest resumes to be posted and may not even even go back 30 days when searching for candidates.

So how did his time break down? At the beginning of the week, he updated all his profiles, taking about two hours. He keeps links to all of his online profiles as bookmarks, and he just goes down the line, making small changes, testing different things (like taking his middle name out, changing it to an initial, eliminating it altogether) to learn what shows more activity. He looks at any analytics these portals provide (like LinkedIn’s “Who’s Viewed Your Profile”) and compares the activity across the sites and prioritizes any follow up he wants to do. Each day he spends about an hour reading through the email alerts and reviewing the interesting positions. Depending on how he has to apply, he could spend between 5 minutes and two hours per application. Seriously. And he’ll only spend that two hours for a dream job, something he wants to be perfect when he applies.

After applying for positions, he networks online, seeking out potential hiring managers in companies he’s interested in. He’s also connected with lower level staff to find out how they got hired. He spends, on average, about two hours a day networking, connecting, posting in groups, responding to posts, and posting his own updates.

After that, he goes after staffing firms adding his resumes to their applicant tracking systems, following up on recruiter calls, and handling phone interviews. People say looking for a job is a full time job. It shouldn’t be. My partner says, she’s never had to look for work; that the offers just come to her. That’s not really true. She’s very active on social media and a thoughtful curator of industry news that makes her a thought leader in her industry. She writes consistently for multiple channels, keeping her work fresh and updated regularly. She does it for the love of her work, not for jobs, and it shows. She earns awards and gets on top ten lists all the time. Being generous with your knowledge, connecting like-minded people, mentoring — all are skills that enable you create an online persona that is attractive to employers even if you are not actively looking for work.

So, how did he do? After the week of logging his time, filling out applications on job portals and company web sites took the majority of his time, nearly 18 hours. The next largest chunk of time was devoted to networking at 10 hours, with responding to recruiters and screening interviews third at 4 hours. That’s 32 hours on top of a full-time job. It shocked him when he fully understood the time issue. He’s making it part of his job search to completely forego company web site applications. Based on our analysis, the time spent vs. actual responses showed a 0% result. (I know a couple of the companies he applied to — known for being black holes; articles about their “strong” work culture shows they have no respect for employees; it’s quite evident in their hiring practices as well.) Following up with recruiting agencies also seemed to be an epic fail. Out of the 28 agency responses to his applications, he followed up with 23 as being interested. Out of the 23 recruiters he responded to, that had wanted to discuss an opportunity with him, NONE responded within that week. (He did get one call from a previous week’s effort.)

What does this say about the overall situation in the recruiting industry? Most recruiters don’t follow through. None of them really care about you. You are a product they are selling to a company in exchange for a fee. You are the same as a house to real estate agent. If a better house is more easily sold, which house do you think the real estate agent is going to concentrate their effort on? Job portals are like the LMS listings real estate agents share. If a job order comes in that matches your skills, they will call you. If not, who are you again? It’s not their fault. They can only fill the jobs they have available now. If you don’t match any of their current openings, they can’t help you.

The majority of people are hired through their personal networks and employee referrals. This is hard to do if you are job searching while still employed, but quietly reach out, make connections, clean up your online activity, and polish your interviewing skills, will significantly shorten the amount of time you spend looking for a new opportunity.

Message to Companies Who Still Want You To Apply on Their Web Site:

Have you gone back over the analytics of your applicant tracking system to see how many people register but never complete the process? Do you have someone in your organization who monitors this metric? If it looks anything like the bounce rate on a spammer site, you are seriously losing out on some of the best people available. I will state it again:

At this point, he typically gives up and this, my friends, is the problem. He’s a really great internet marketer. He’s a brilliant guy to work with, yet these companies will never have a chance to meet him and it really is their loss.

You might want to reconsider how you attract talent and your entire candidate experience more carefully because only those with plenty of time on their hands, or are desperate enough, will complete those horrible applications.

Great people are busy changing the world, not completing endless fields in your applicant tracking system.


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