Job Search Angst – Application Woes

The Frustration:

“Why do I have to submit a resume, cover letter, AND still create a profile/submit an application for every single employer.  Enough!  It is all on my resume.”

Why it happens:

Employers use applicant tracking systems (ATS for short) to help them manage their hiring processes.  An ATS can help them do everything from providing EEO information to show compliance with labor laws, to making applications searchable (narrowing down from really large pools of candidates to more manageable lists), to managing communications to applicants (thanking them for applying, notifying applicants when the position has closed, etc.), and so much more.  Because of the astronomical amount of applications recruiters receive, they need tools like these to help them on to the next steps in the hiring process (screening, interviewing, hiring, training).  They are such handy systems and solve so many business problems that employers have continued to overlook one big issue:  the user experience of submitting information over and over to every employer’s ATS is just crazy.  It is redundant and time consuming.

It is unlikely that applicant tracking systems will go away or change significantly any time soon.  Unemployment numbers are still relatively high and because of that and the ease of online applications, employers still receive a high number of applications for most positions.  Since the process isn’t broken from their standpoint (plenty of applicants), they are unlikely to push back to their ATS providers to create a better user experience.   For now anyway.

How to Win:

Tool & Strategy #1:  

A reference document with your complete employment info.

For each position you held, list:

  • Address
  • Contact names
  • Phone numbers
  • Email addresses
  • Salary/Hourly pay rate (at start and end of employment)
  • Start and End Dates

Use this reference document to help get through applications quickly. This document doesn’t have to be polished or pretty – it’s just there for you to use as a quick reference.  Save yourself the extra hassle of looking up information more than once.  Helpful hint:  I store mine in a google doc and have a printed version.  This way I can get to the document wherever I’m accessing the internet – and I can copy and paste much of the information I need.  I use the printed version if the form is one  that doesn’t allow copying and pasting.  I just read from and type from my printed document and get through the process quickly.

Tool & Strategy #2:

Complete resume saved as a pdf, a text document, and a word document.  Having multiple formats will save you when it is time to upload your document to a website (and you will always have the version of the document that is preferred by that system).  If the system parses the information into the application for you, sometimes it will indicate which type of document will parse most easily.  Most of the time plain text documents work best – but read the fine print and check before uploading.  Helpful hint:  be sure to carve out a little extra time to customize your resume each time you apply and when you save the modified resume, save in multiple formats using the your name and the name of the company it is slated for.

Tool & Strategy #3:

Separate job searching and applying into two activities that each get their own dedicated time.  To do this, create two separate blocks of time; one for sourcing jobs  and one to submit applications.  For example, during my last job search I looked for jobs in the evening on my smartphone.  I emailed myself positions straight from my phone and the following morning, I checked my email and applied to the positions I had sourced for the day.  Searching and applying are really different tasks, requiring different websites and documents to be open and using different skills from you.  By grouping like tasks together your work will be more efficient.  Helpful hint: set a target number of applications you’ll apply to each day and stick to it (pick a number that is attainable – three a day is a great number if you are applying daily).  Setting a number will help you manage your time more effectively and keep you on track towards your goal (and will help you maintain your sanity).


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