What You Need To Know About Digital Applications As Part Of Your Job Search

If you are like many of my clients, you have already found yourself frustrated when filling out digital applications online. Simply trying to make your way through the maze of a company’s applicant tracking system just to upload your resume can seem like an endless Odyssey that Homer himself might tell of. As with my clients, I advise you not to focus too much effort on applying online as this is just a snapshot in the overall album of your job search. With knowledge comes power. The following information will empower you when it comes to ATS so you can put your best foot forward when applying online. Related: 3 Ways To Get Your Resume Past The ATS


What Is ATS?

The Applicant Tracking System is software that allows businesses and recruiting companies to centralize their efforts in recruiting and managing employees. For employers, there are several benefits to this type of technology including its ability to collect and sort data. In addition, companies can offer existing employees internal opportunities before searching externally for qualified candidates. Government regulations are becoming ever more stringent about protecting personal data, and ATS software can often meet or exceed the security threshold for businesses and organizations.

An Upward Trend

The use of ATS is on the rise according to a study by business software provider Capterra. It found that 75% of recruiters and talent managers today are using some form of ATS for recruiting and staffing management. The study went on to show that 94% of employers utilizing ATS are sold on the technology, believing it has improved their recruiting and hiring processes.

Tech Hurdles

Potential employees and existing employees looking for upward mobility within companies that use ATS have experienced problems that seem inherent in the software. A study by Jibe, a recruitment technology company, reveals that 80% of job applicants described online applications as stressful, and three of five candidates reported such applications were more difficult than other common online forms such as student loans and mortgages. The trend continued when the study determined 80% of respondents said a number of factors contributed to making the digital application process more time consuming and stressful including:
  • A Variety of Technical Difficulties
  • Trouble Uploading Resumes
  • Lack of Ability to Track Application Status
  • Software Not Compatible with Mobile Devices
  • ATS Rejection of Qualified Applicants

Bye, Bye Candidate

One of the hidden problems many people who apply online may not realize exists is that ATS software often rejects qualified applicants. The software often rejects applications due to simple issues such as a particular formatting of one’s resume, or because the right key terms weren’t used in the application. A report in Forbes magazine reviewed a number of studies on ATS and found that up to 75% of candidates who were qualified for jobs were cast aside by ATS technology due to something as simple as the dates coming before the name of former employers on resumes. When the system tosses resumes away like this, they don’t get a follow-up by a human being. You lose out as the applicant and the employer loses the opportunity to hire a potentially highly qualified staff member. This can leave job seekers feeling fruitless and employers with a stain on their business brand when it comes to seeking new hires.

The Cardinal Sin

Laura Kerekes, chief knowledge officer of human resource solutions provider Think HR, told Business News Daily that the “cardinal sin” of modern recruiting is making the process too lengthy or difficult for applicants. She said if employers want to have a shot at top-tier employees, they must make the application process simple and engaging. Unfortunately, that’s not what is happening according to an online survey by CareerBuilder®. Its survey reported that 60% of applicants have quit in the middle of completing a digital application because it was too long or difficult to finish. In addition, the Jibe study mentioned above showed the same results with 60% of respondents stating they didn’t finish an application because it was too time consuming or stressful.

All The Right Moves

While ATS offers a multitude of challenges, there are some ways to achieve success and land that interview with a real person.
  • Do your research. Check out the requirements for the position you want and adapt your resume accordingly. Check out current employees on social media such as LinkedIn to determine whether you have the right qualifications, and you may find good keywords to use in your application.
  • Use a simple format such as a .doc or .txt for your resume. Resumes sent as .pdfs are often mistaken as large photos and are discarded by many ATS.
  • Avoid building your resume with a template. They often have invisible formatting issues that cause ATS software to throw them out.
  • On your resume, be sure to list former employers first, followed by the dates you worked there. Do not type your resume directly into the program. Upload a copy instead.
  • ATS programs search for keywords to target candidates. Think about the requirements listed by the employer and use keywords accordingly in your resume and application.

Friending The Unfriendly

When it comes to working with ATS during your job search, remember this is just one piece of the puzzle. Don’t rely too heavily on digital applications to land the position of your dreams. The fact is the best applicants receive less than a 7% positive response rate to online applications, so it’s simply a numbers game. In short, you would have to apply for 100 positions to get seven callbacks. While ATS does have a place in every thorough job search, don’t spend too much time fawning over online applications. If you find an application to be too stressful, time consuming, or difficult, cut your losses and move on. If it’s a company you are really interested in, call them or just email your resume to a human being who will recognize your real potential. I believe in networking it's a great way to "work around" the challenges so many of us face with ATS. Let's connect on LinkedIn! Feel free to send me an invite here. Rather have an expert tackle the ATS resume challenges you're up against? You can find out more about how I help my clients and their great interview success rates on my website at Great Resumes Fast. Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CAREEREALISM-approved expert. You can learn more about expert posts here. Photo Credit: Bigstock

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