Beating the Online Application Machine

Posted October 5, 2012 by Marcy Twete in Building Your Brand

We’ve all done it. You’ve read the job description, you’ve clicked on the “Apply Now” button, and you sigh a huge annoying sigh. Ugh. An online application system. Sure, you can upload your resume. But then you click through 957 pages of information to fill in that’s, yup, you guessed it….exactly the same as everything included on your resume.

Why do companies utilize these online application systems? Because they work together with ATS–applicant tracking systems. When companies use applicant tracking systems, the online applications are largely screened by computers, not humans, and then passed along to those who make decisions. How, then, can you “beat” that terrible ATS to ensure your resume makes it into the pile for the real people? Here’s how:

  • It’s all about the keywords. Look through the job description first, and ensure you’re using some similar language in your resume. If the job description refers to the department as Community Relations, for instance, and you use the term Social Responsibility, even if you’re the most qualified candidate on the planet, your resume won’t catch in the system. Watch for words like “public speaking” and “managerial experience” and find places to mirror those words in your resume and cover letter.
  • Fill out the whole thing. I know it’s tempting to upload your resume and press send without filling in the 957 pages in between. But if you don’t fill these out, often ATS won’t read them. So take the time and fill it out top to bottom.
  • Never stop at the online application. The key to beating ATS is to make it your safety net, not your whole application. With every job you apply for, go through your LinkedIn, find a way to get your resume directly to the inbox of someone in the company, preferably a recruiter or the job’s hiring manager. With this method, even if the ATS says no, someone might say yes.

Don’t give up the hunt because of what is often a cumbersome application process. You will find the right job, no matter what the process to apply is. But you have to go above and beyond and ensure you’re doing everything you can to maximize your opportunity.

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."