Job Seeking? Tackling the Online Application

Submitted by Christina Curtis, Career Advantage & Certified Professional Resume Writer

The job search can be a daunting thing. These days the electronic application process leaves little to the imagination and can be very tedious.

Unfortunately, no system is the same, so you have to mold yourself specifically to each and every job application based on the keywords you use.

The Applicant Tracking System
Many potential employers use the online application systems to weed out what they deem irrelevant applications based on word choices using the Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

When your resume is scanned or entered in, the ATS picks up keywords and will probably rank your application based on word use and frequency of those words used. Therefore, it really matters not only what you say, but HOW you say it.

The more challenging aspect of it is that each employer can customize how they track applications, so even within the same industry, potential employers could have different keywords for the same or similar job postings. The point: keywords are not universal and as the jobseeker, it is imperative to be thorough, pay attention to the job posting, and take your time on your applications.

This process is time consuming: it could take hours to finish one application so it is important to develop a system for yourself. Since a text version of your resume is MOST compatible with the ATS, we suggest making a simple version of your resume in a basic word processing program (i.e. Notepad on a PC). In a way that makes sense to you, organize the document into sections so you can easily cut-and-paste the relevant information. Here are our suggestions:

School Name
Date Graduated (at least year)
Relevant Coursework (if applicable)

Work History:
Address/City, State
Job Title
Primary Responsibilities
Repeat for every job.

Use Keywords
The Primary Responsibilities section needs to be tweaked for each job posting depending on the needs of the position. Never lie! But, be sure you use the words they use. There are two ways that you can gather information about what words might put you at the top of their list:

  1. Scour the job posting. Do not just skim it, but analyze it. Pull out words that they use to describe the qualifications you have and use them! If you say “Develop” but they say “Promote,” change it!
  2. Research the company – chances are much of the vocabulary you need can be found in how the organization describes itself and its goals. Plus, if you do this you can use what you find out in your cover letter and later, in the interview.
And that brings us to the final point:
Never scrap the opportunity to write a cover letter. There is often a portion of the application where you can upload documents. Upload a unique resume and write a customized (do not ‘fill-in-the-blank’!) cover letter. The cover letter needs to exemplify your communication skills and show that you have thought carefully about what the job means to you (more on this topic in the near future).

If you have the time, definitely ask someone else to read it over and take their critiques seriously; what sounds good in your head might sound odd to someone else.

In the end, what you really want to do is to get ranked as high in the ATS as you can, given your qualifications, and to communicate clearly that you are serious about the opportunity. If you still find yourself baffled by the whole process and need professional help designing your resume and/or cover letter, seek professional help from our local Career Advantage office. or call 864-356-5197 or 864-356-5197.