Should You Apply for Jobs Using Online Applications?

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During your Transition Assistance Program classes, you were likely told about various processes to apply for post-military jobs. Job seekers today apply for open positions in many ways: on site at job fairs, through networking and direct contacts, by sending resumes in the mail and by using online applications.

But which ones really work? Do online job postings actually yield results?

When you apply online, either through a company's careers page or an online service like Monster, LinkedIn or Indeed, your information is typically uploaded into an applicant tracking system (ATS) that filters for keywords, required certifications and other criteria entered by the hiring team. If enough boxes are checked, your information is then forwarded to be reviewed by a recruiter or hiring manager. That person then assesses your application for its fit with the organizational needs and culture.

In a 2017 Forbes article, author Liz Ryan noted, "Your chances of getting a good job by filling out an online application are about as good as your chances of winning the lottery -- or maybe worse. Any company can post job ads and collect resumes -- they don't have to hire or even interview anyone if they don't feel like it."

If you consider that an online application goes into a system with hundreds of other job seekers who also are being quickly scanned for consideration, is it worth it?

Applying Online Is Still Worth It

If you simply upload a standard cover letter, and cut and paste your generic resume into an online forum, you are likely falling into a bottomless pit of candidates who may or may not have any or most of what the recruiter is seeking. But there is a better way!

Instead, make online job applications part of your strategic transition -- either from the military to a civilian job or from one job to the next -- and approach the applications with research and insight to get an advantage over the applicant who applies to every job under the sun.

Consider this: I recently posted online for a marketing coordinator job with my company. I received many generic ("dear sir/ma'am") cover letters, resumes from people whose experience is primarily in retail, as a personal chef or in mechanical engineering and others whose resumes reflected nothing described in my posted job description.

It took considerable time and effort for me to scan those applications only to discard them (I do send a "thank you, no thank you note").

However, when I saw an online application tailored to my open position, customized to highlight how past experience lines up with what I'm hiring for, complete with a cover letter tailored to me and the work I do, those applicants got into the interview pile.

Even if their experience wasn't perfectly aligned, when the candidate took the time to consider the nature of my work, reflected on how their past experience qualified them and connected the dots for me, I gave them consideration.

Tailoring your online application is critical. No shortcuts. Spend the time to make the application relevant and compelling to the person reading it.

Networking

Hands down the best way to get your application noticed is through networking. When someone who works at the company (or knows the recruiters in charge) can vouch for you, introduce you or endorse you, the recruiter takes note. They are looking for the quickest way to find the right candidate, and a personal referral from someone they trust carries weight!

That said, recruiters interested in your candidacy through a referral will ask whether you've already applied online. This means that you still want to fill out that online application.

Customizing your applications to the job and the employer, networking your way into the application process and being thoughtful about the positions you apply for are ingredients to increase your odds of success when applying through online job postings.

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