Digital Job Applications: Why companies use them and how to make the most of them in your job search

Great Resumes Fast » Job Search » Digital Job Applications: Why companies use them and how to make the most of them in your job search

Like many of my clients, you may have found yourself frustrated—staring down the barrel of a digital job application online—trying to figure out how you’re going to navigate a company’s ATS software well enough to get your resume uploaded without taking hours to do it. I advise my clients not to fret over digital applications as they are just one piece of the job exploration puzzle. The following information will fill you in on ATS, why employers use it, and how to more successfully manage its use during your career hunt.

The ATS Trend

Many employers and recruiting companies have turned to applicant tracking systems to recruit and manage employees. While viewed by businesses and human resource specialists as a great way to centralize a company’s recruitment efforts, these systems often lead to frustration among quality candidates applying for jobs.

Why Companies Use ATS

There are several benefits of ATS software for companies. Not only does such software collect and mine data, it also gives them the ability to fully automate their employee recruitment. Using an ATS, companies may offer opportunities to internal employees before seeking external candidates to fill vacant positions. Some systems even provide off-site encrypted resume and data storage to meet state or federal regulations, providing extra protection for the personal information you provide when applying for a job. In addition, depending on what a company needs, the software may be an affordable means for managing its human capital (what the HR sector calls employees and potential employees).

An Employer Perspective

A study by Capterra, a business software provider, demonstrated that 75 percent of recruiters and talent managers use some form of recruiting or applicant-tracking software for both their internal and external staffing needs. Of those, 94 percent said software has improved their hiring process. The study went on to show that staffing firms utilize such software even more than direct employers.

The Employee Perspective

While employers may view the digital application as an ideal way to streamline the hiring process, it is often a completely different experience for potential employees. According to a study by recruitment technology company Jibe, 80 percent of job candidates described the online application process as stressful. Three of five job seekers surveyed said digital applications were more difficult to complete than other common online forms such as mortgages and student loans. Of survey respondents, nearly 80 percent said digital job searches were also more time consuming and stressful due to a variety of issues including:

Tech hurdles

The inability to upload a resume

The inability to track their application status

Applications that were not mobile friendly

The Stress of ATS

In addition to being time consuming and stressful for applicants, 60 percent of respondents in the Jibe study were unable to complete their applications. An online survey by CareerBuilder® reported 60 percent of applicants have quit in the middle of filling out an online application due to its length or complexity. Business News Daily published an online article in which Laura Kerekes—chief knowledge officer of ThinkHR, a human resource solutions provider—said the “cardinal sin” of modern recruiting is making the process too slow or difficult for candidates. She encouraged employers to make the process of applying as simple and engaging as possible.

ATS Rejection

One of the other problems with ATS is that the systems often reject qualified candidates, something a human being wouldn’t do simply because the resume was formatted with dates before employers. An article in Forbes reports that studies show up to 75 percent of qualified applicants are rejected by ATS programs because their resumes cannot be read due to issues such as formatting. This keeps job seekers like you from getting your resumes read. As a result, employers often never find well-qualified candidates—the ones who gave up applying due to the stress, time, and difficulty of utilizing such software. It also gives the employer brand a bad name when it comes to potential employees because I know I won’t send a client to apply online if it’s a nightmare.

Tips for Digital Success

There are ways to improve the odds that your resume will make it through the ATS and be seen by an actual human being.

-Keep your resume to a simple format such as a .doc or .txt.  These are easily read by most ATSs, which often mistake .pdfs for large photos and throw them out.

-Avoid templates, which often have invisible formatting issues that may cause an ATS to reject it.

-List former employers first, followed by the dates you worked there, and upload a copy of your resume instead of typing it into the program.

-Just as search engine optimization uses keywords to get sites found, ATS programs use keywords to search for target candidates, so be sure to utilize keywords wisely in your resume and application.

The Bottom Line

Filling out job applications online when you’re looking for a new career is just one tool in your job search belt, but I advise you not to rely on it exclusively. Online applications are a numbers game—with only the best resumes receiving less than a 7% positive response rate. This means you would need to apply to 100 online positions to hear back from 7 employers. Although this tech does play a role in your job search, don’t worry if an application is too difficult to fill out. If you start to get frustrated, or if it’s taking too long, just move on. You can always contact the company through its website or simply call to ask if you can email your resume.

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About the author

Jessica Hernandez, President, CEO & Founder of Great Resumes Fast

Hi, I’m Jessica. I started this company back in 2008 after more than a decade directing hiring practices at Fortune 500 companies.

What started as a side hustle (before that was even a word!) helping friends of friends with their resumes has now grown into a company that serves hundreds of happy clients a year. But the personal touch? I’ve kept that.

You might have seen me featured as a resume expert in publications like Forbes, Fast Company, and Fortune. And in 2020, I was honored to be named as a LinkedIn Top Voice of the year!

I’m so glad you’re here, and I can’t wait to help you find your next perfect-fit position!


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