You’ve spotted the perfect job. You’ve customized your resume to the posting. You’ve also created a powerful cover letter. Now you have to spend a half hour or more filling out the online application. Ready to give up? Don’t! There are ways to make it easier and worthwhile, if you are truly interested in the position.
According to an article on usnews.com by Miriam Salpeter, about 50% of mid-sized companies and nearly all large corporations use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to screen candidates for job opportunities. This is how HR professionals narrow down a pool of sometimes hundreds applying for each position.
These tips can save you some headache:
- Don’t start if you’re in a rush. Preparation is key to speeding up the process. Actually rushing through the steps could lead to errors and frustration. Be sure to read and follow directions thoroughly to avoid entering data in the wrong fields, answering questions incorrectly, or missing required documents. Remember that some application systems time out after a certain amount of inactivity, which means you could lose some steps completed or have to start over. So it’s best to complete it when you have ample time and all the information you’ll need beforehand, such as employment dates, previous pay rates, salary expectations, work samples (if applicable), and references.
- Create an ASCII resume. Some online applications will allow you to upload your resume in a format of your choice, such as MS Word or PDF. However, there may be file size limitations. Or you might be allowed to copy and paste content from your resume or use a resume builder incorporated into the system. For this option, an ASCII (or plain text) version would be useful. You can create it from your MS Word file by saving it as “plain text.” Copying and pasting from this format can help prevent variances in fonts, bullet styles, etc. from distorting your content when input into the ATS fields.
- Have your cover letter handy. If you can upload your cover letter as an attachment, do so. If you can copy and paste the content of your cover letter into a section, do that also or instead. You never know how the ATS is set up to scan your information for matching key words. If you don’t have a cover letter, use the summary of your qualifications from your resume, preferably from the ASCII plain text version. If you paste the content of your resume into a different section, make sure to remove the summary of qualifications part from it to avoid redundancy.
Final thought: If you come across a position on a job search site or job posting list sent via email, check out the company’s website before you apply. That way, you can find out more about the company (culture, benefits, etc.) or even see if there are other current openings that might suit you better. Most companies have positions posted under an “About us” or “Careers” tab. In some cases, positions are handled by a specific recruiter or staffing agency, so you might have to apply through the source of the posting.
Pro tip: Applying directly with the company can“speed” up your application process.