and Get an Employer's Attention
You've found an ad for an entry-level position at XYZ Inc.
With your skills and qualifications, you fit the bill
perfectly. But XYZ requires an online application—and that
means (you think), you fill out a cookie-cutter application
that distills your skills so that it appears you're
one-of-a-million applicants, not one-in-a-million. And
then—when you click "send"—your application swirls away into
the black hole of electronic waste.
Should you or shouldn't you use an online application? And
if you do submit your resume online, how can you get it the
attention it deserves?
If You Want the Job…Follow Directions
Online applications won't go away, employers say. An
increasing number of employers want candidates to find job
openings on company web sites or Internet job boards; they
require online applications; they prefer to communicate with
potential hires via e-mail.
Hiring with the aid of technology is a time- and
money-saving proposition for businesses. It has maximized
efficiency in the candidate selection process.
Employers say they can advertise to a wider, more diverse
candidate pool (which means you've got more competition than
ever before!), find matches for hard-to-fill positions,
easily share resumes of qualified candidates with hiring
managers, streamline the hiring process, and tighten the
timeline between the need for a new employee and the date
the employee starts on the job.
Employers say that using the company's own online
application system is the fastest way to get your resume
into the right hands. Your focus should be on making your
application unique; to avoid its being swallowed up in the
Typically, applications submitted online go directly into
the employer's applicant data base. Paper resumes are
scanned or keyed into the data base (where a scanner or data
processor may add errors to your resume).
A hiring manager who needs to fill a position enters
keywords to search the data base and find the applications
of the people who are the best fit for the job. Those
results become the candidate pool.
Making a Big Splash in the Candidate Pool
What does it take to have your bits and bytes bob to the
surface in a candidate search?
A recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and
Employers (JobWeb's/Job Choices' publisher) asked employers
for their advice on how to make an electronic application
outstanding. Here's what they recommend:
Follow directions. Be careful to enter the correct data in
the correct field.
Ask for advice on completing the application from a company
recruiter or an alumnus who may work at the company.
Tailor your application information to the position. Don't
copy and paste text from your generic resume.
Use key words, buzz words, and industry verbiage. Use the
verbiage in the job ad as your model. Employers search on
key words when they're looking for people to fill specific
Create a skills-inventory section even if the application
doesn't require it. You might put this in a comments
Include numbers and statistics if they are available.
(Example: Counted five cash drawers daily; responsible for
more than $10,000 per 8-hour shift.)
Complete all fields—even those that aren't required.
If the company offers an optional assessment test online,
take it. (One employer recently admitted that students who
don't take the optional assessment test are automatically
Make sure your resume can hold its own in a very simple
format. Fancy bullets, text, italics, and bold do not
convert well in an electronic application.
If possible, spell check and grammar check your application
before submitting it. Have an error-free application because
this application serves as the employer's first impression
Include a strong objective. Ask a career counselor to help
you word your objective.
Another use for the comment section: use it to demonstrate
that you've done research on the company and the industry.
Use quotes from letters of recommendation in your resume or
Follow up your electronic application with a personal e-mail
to the recruiter. A follow-up phone call is acceptable if
the ad does not say, "No phone calls."
As more and more companies tap technology to find new
employees quickly and efficiently, you'll need to find new
methods to draw attention to your application.