Statistics show that approximately 50 percent of mid-sized companies and almost all large corporations use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to screen candidates for job opportunities.
There are a variety of reasons recruiters and hiring managers adopt this type of technology. With an ATS in place, human resources departments can automate and store hiring documents online so HR professionals never have to worry about sifting through stacks of paperwork or hundreds of emails to find what they need.
Colin Day, the founder and chief executive officer of iCIMS, Inc., a provider of talent acquisition software for growing businesses, is in an excellent position to advise job seekers on how to maximize their online applications. Here are Day's top suggestions for getting the most visibility out of your online application:
1. Thoroughly read job descriptions. Most recruiters will tell you a big pet peeve is hearing from job seekers who apply even if they aren't qualified for the job. Take the time to understand exactly what the company expects from applicants for jobs that interest you; do not ignore the detailed description of what the job entails. "ATS technologies can filter candidates by those whose responses dovetail best with specific job descriptions. For the best response rates, make sure your content and experience match up accordingly," Day says.
2. Create an original cover letter. If the company asks for a cover letter, be sure to include one. Make sure to write one specific to your accomplishments and skills and one that addresses the job description properly. Go a step further and mention how you will use that knowledge and those skills on the job. Avoid sending out a generic, run-of-the-mill cover letter. "Despite the cover letter being digital, it's often the first thing recruiters read when viewing candidate profiles--even ahead of the resume," Day explains. "Use the cover letter as an opportunity to showcase your personality, qualifications, and desire for the job."
3. Identify key words and tailor your resume. Take your time and look over your resume. Find the key words in the job description and make sure you indicate how your accomplishments address those requirements. Be sure to customize your resume and/or cover letter slightly to each specific job.
4. Make sure your responses are on target and error free. "With paper applications, poorly written submissions can be tossed in the 'circular file,' never to be seen again," Day says. "But with digital applications, error-laden content lives on at that company, potentially hurting your chances for a relationship with the employer in the future as well." This is a scary thought, but one that should motivate you to triple-check your content for spelling, content, and grammar. Additionally, Day suggests you make sure all of your information is completely spelled out--in other words, avoid abbreviations. In many cases, abbreviations that may be understood readily by the hiring managers are not familiar to the first-line recruiters.
5. Maintain one candidate profile per company. Once you apply to a company that uses an ATS, the organization saves your personal information. While you should tailor your resume and/or cover letter for each job submission, maintain one master profile for all of your applications for that company. "Multiple profiles in one company's system can cause confusion," Day says. "By only submitting one profile per company, you can eliminate the odds of the wrong profile being disqualified by a first-line recruiter."
6. Fill out all fields within the application process. By filling out every field, you are not just giving information that could make you stand out from the competition, but also demonstrating your interest and desire for the job. Many recruiters just skip over candidates who don't complete their applications. Also, Day explains that with an ATS in place, many companies filter candidates by their responses to certain fields within the online application forms. Don't miss out on any chances to be included in the recruiters' filtering processes for the position.
7. Ensure your social profile is current. Companies are now encouraging candidates to include professional information from their social profiles, typically LinkedIn, Google+, or Facebook, within their online application process. "The ability to view your dynamic social profile(s), allows recruiters to see your current work status and determine whether timing is right to extend you an interview or even a job offer. At iCIMS, we refer to this as a 'social resume,'" Day says.
8. Clean up your public social media profile. A technology-savvy hiring company is more likely to take an active interest in your social media profile postings. Make sure you don't have public images or content that would distract, or worse yet, deter hiring managers or recruiters from wanting to hire you. Don't provide red flags for recruiters and hiring managers. "If used properly, social media can help you connect with potential employers--just make sure your online data is working for you, not against you," Day concludes.
9. Review all the information you imported before submitting. Before hitting the submit button, take a final glance at the content you have provided. Keep in mind that once you hit that button, your information is sent to the recruiter directly. First impressions are important, so make the best one possible when you apply.
Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer, and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to empower their success.
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