You may have found yourself in the same boat as many of my clients when it comes to the frustration of filling out job applications online. It can seem like an effort in futility—attempting to navigate a potential employer’s ATS software just to get your resume uploaded and then praying a real person calls you for a follow-up interview. I’m going to tell you what I tell my clients: Don’t agonize over online applications because they are just one small piece of the job search puzzle. Although there can be many obstacles to the use of ATS, the following tips will help you get the most out of your time applying online.
The Applicant Tracking System Trend
Many employers and recruiting companies have turned to applicant tracking systems to centralize their recruitment efforts. While they offer many benefits for the organizations utilizing them, these very same systems often lead to frustration among quality candidates applying for jobs.
Why Companies Use ATS
Applicant tracking software allows employers to collect and mine data, fully automating employee recruitment. The software also allows companies to provide internal employees with opportunities before seeking external candidates. Some federal and state regulations require employers to provide encrypted resume and data storage to provide added protection of the personal information applicants provide when applying for a job. The ATS can often meet such regulation requirements for companies. In addition, the software may be used by businesses and organizations to simply manage its employees and potential employees.
A New Common Technology
With each passing day, ATS is becoming a more commonly utilized technology. Business software provider Capterra conducted a survey of employers that showed 75 percent of recruiters and talent managers use some form of recruiting or applicant tracking software for all of their employment needs. Of those who said they used such software, 94 percent said it has improved their hiring process.
Trouble With the Tech
Though employers may see ATS as a great way to improve their hiring process and streamline their employment efforts, it can become an agonizing effort for potential employees who may experience a number of issues with such software. A study by Jibe, a recruitment technology company, revealed that 80 percent of job candidates said applying online for jobs was a stressful experience. Three of five survey respondents said digital applications were more difficult to complete than other online forms such as credit card applications, student loans, and mortgages. Nearly 80 percent of those who participated in the survey also said ATS made job searches more time consuming and problematic due to things such as:
- Technology Problems
- Difficulty Uploading a Resume
- The Inability to Track Application Status
- ATS That Were Not Mobile-Friendly
Missing the Target
While employers find ATS simpler, they may be losing out in the long run on qualified employees. The aforementioned Jibe study found 60 percent of respondents were unable to complete their applications online due to a variety of issues. CareerBuilder® performed an online survey that demonstrated 60 percent of applicants reported giving up in the middle of an online application because of its length or complexity. An online article published in Business News Daily posited that making the process too lengthy or difficult for candidates is the “cardinal sin” of modern recruiting, yet it seems to happen all too often—leaving employers missing their target of garnering the most qualified employees for every position.
Another issue with ATS is that qualified candidates are often rejected by the technology for simple things such as the way resumes are formatted. An online article in Forbes reports that up to 75 percent of qualified applicants are rejected by ATS programs. This keeps qualified applicants from ever getting their resumes read by a real human being. Well-qualified candidates who give up applying due to the stress, time, and difficulty of utilizing such software often move on to other employers with better software or other means of applying. Word spreads fast when it’s a nightmare to apply for an employer—leaving a smear on its brand a bad name when it comes to potential employees.
Tips for Digital Success
You can take steps to improve the odds your resume will make it through the ATS in order to gain a real interview:
• Use a simple format for your resume such as a .doc or .txt. Most ATS can read these formats easily but will throw out .pdfs by mistaking them as large photos.
• Resume templates often have invisible formatting issues that may cause an ATS to reject them. Build your own resume from scratch in a simple program such as Microsoft® Word.
• List the names of former employers on your resume first then the dates you worked at each place.
• Instead of typing your resume directly into the program, simply upload a copy of your resume. It’s faster and easier.
• ATS programs use keywords to search for target candidates so be sure to utilize keywords wisely in your resume and application.
• Ensure your social media portrays a professional image and utilizes keywords about your education, experience, and skill set so ATS social media software can easily locate you.
Here’s the Point
When you’re looking for a new career, filling out applications online is just one tool in your job search belt. I advise you not to rely on this application method exclusively as it is a numbers game with only the best resumes receiving less than a 7% positive response rate. In other words, you would need to apply for 100 online positions to hear back from seven employers. While ATS technology does play a role in your job search, don’t worry if an application is too difficult or frustrating to finish. If it is too difficult or time consuming, simply move on. You can always contact the company through its website or make a personal phone call to ask if you can send your resume via email or snail mail.