5 Reasons Applying for a Job Online Does Not Work

Applying for Jobs Online

By: Tracy Levine, President, Advantage Talent Inc.

As a recruiter, I have been approached by numerous people complaining about having to apply for most jobs online.  They want to know if it works for anyone.   Ignoring the tongue in cheek title of this blog, the answer is yes.  Most people will start their job application process with a company by applying for the job online.  This could be directly on a company’s website, a recruiter’s website or a job board.

Job Hunters take actions that assure they will not make it through the computer gatekeeper to even be considered for a job.  The following is a list of the top 5 reasons why applying for a job online does not work for many Job Hunters.

1. Downloaded resume templates with formatting. 

It may make you feel good that your resume looks totally traditional or “pretty” but the computer gatekeeper will not be impressed.  All computer databases utilize plain text.  This means your resume will be converted to the most basic of letters and numbers.   Plain Text does not read pictures or any type of formatting other than indent and return.  Therefore, the computer will interpret the tables and other formatting the best it can.  Your information might not make it into the correct fields.  If you cannot be found, you will not be hired.

2. Submitting Functional Resumes.

Do not even bother to apply online if you use a functional resume.  A functional resume almost assures that you will not come up toward the top of a list or on a list at all.  This is even truer if you post on a large job board.  Functional resumes are not computer gatekeeper friendly.  The computer cannot determine how much experience the candidate has within any particular skill or when the candidate last used the skill.

3.  Applying for jobs that the Candidate is not qualified to fill.

Many job hunters have become spammers.  DO NOT Apply for jobs that do not match your skill set.  Experts have been telling the unemployed to think of different ways their skills can be used.  Good Advice but irrelevant when applying for jobs online.  Computers do not think out of the box.  They find the resume that fits the exact words used in the data base search. Do you fit the job description?

4.  Trying to bypass the online application process.

There are many experts that are erroneously telling candidates to bypass the online job application.  These “experts” believe you are more likely to get the job if you send your resume directly to the recruiter or hiring manager.  In most cases this is not a good idea.

Larger corporations use the HR department for a reason.  In the past, many of these companies have been accused of hiring discrimination and sued.  To prevent any appearance of impropriety these companies make candidates go through the HR department first.  Depending on the company, going directly to the hiring manager automatically gets the candidacy denied.  Trust me on this one; it happens more than most people know.  In most instances the candidate will never know this is the reason they did not get the job.

In today’s market, employers and recruiters are inundated with resumes for each job opening. The employer posts jobs online to keep their e-mail box from getting bombarded with 1000s of resumes not attached to a specific job.  Sending the employer or recruiter an e-mail can backfire.  Do not do it unless you are truly the best or an expert in the field as it relates to the job that has been posted.  I cannot speak to others’ practices but we do read all of the resumes attached to job orders.  Typically, the person in charge of the job will look at all of the resumes for the job at once.  It is easier not to let any candidate slip through the cracks if the job description and the candidate competition are viewed simultaneously.  If the candidate is the right person for the job, they will be found in the group review.

5.  It is a lottery.

Anyone who has a computer can apply for jobs online.  It is easy.  Therefore, the competition is greater.  This should not discourage a candidate from applying.  We have all heard the saying, “The cream will rise to the top.”

Applying for jobs online does work.  If you are not having success it might be because of some of the things listed above.

9 thoughts on “5 Reasons Applying for a Job Online Does Not Work

  1. I applied quite a number of times directly at the sites from many companies, often which are linked to the monster.com/etc. listings.

    It was extremely rare that I received any response. This is not due to an extremely high number of applicants or me being an unqualified applicant (I’m in a skilled engineer seeking work in an area where there are fewer qualified candidates).

    I have no guarantee that the jobs are even truly available.

    Additionally, certainly I follow all the proper protocols for resume submission & going through the right steps.

    My results & conclusions are the following:

    1. Online submission may “worK”, but as little as 1/25th of the time. Additionally, companies can be *horribly* slow to respond, and not necessarily making any real steps to filling a position.

    2. Online submission can work pretty well when it’s listed BY A RECRUITER OR RECRUITING FIRM. That’s how I got my new position I’ll be starting in 2011. There was not much nonsense, and the pay & benefits are fine.

    3. Online submission basically wasn’t worth my time. I’ve had -far more- results from using Monster.com. Dice.com & careerbuilder.com: very little.

    Indeed.com may help also.

    It’s amazing to me how an applicant with an excellent match of skills, good experience, & true enthusiasm for their work can be completely ignored for a position. There must be other factors at play here, which I would very much like to find out.

    • It can be very frustrating to apply online and not get any response. This is particularly true when you feel that you are a fit for the job. I only deal in the Financial, CEO and Board Member realm. However, if you want to send me an e-mail at TLevine@AdvantageTalentInc.com, I would be more than happy to send you a private free link on our presentation on how to get through the computer gatekeeper. People who use it typically up the responses they receive through applying online.

      Many job boards are aggregators of information and the information you submit goes to someone else’s data base system. Job boards allow employers to post jobs and download resumes or sell resumes to the employers which are then downloaded to the employer’s data base system. Every resume typically goes through at least one and probably two data base systems. I call these computer “gatekeepers.” If a person uses any preformatted Microsoft or other resume templates, or resumes with lines or pictures the resume many times doesn’t get optimally searched preventing the job seeker from coming up at the top. By the time these types of formatted resumes get through the computer gatekeepers the end user, ‘hiring mangers’, receive an html mess. The best common illustration I can give you is forwarded e-mails. The more that it is forwarded from person to person the more stray markings and gibberish that shows up in the body of the e-mail. Computers only read letters, numbers and returns. The computer data bases run like Boolean searches. If they cannot read the number of years of a skillset or if a person is currently using that skillset, the job seeker will come up with 0 years of experience.

      I know many people share your frustration about not understanding why they were not even contacted when the skillset listed is so close. Sometimes the hiring manager doesn’t know exactly what they want. It is almost like they know when they see it. There are times when the hiring manager offers a job to someone who looks very different from their original description of the perfect employee.

      Best of Luck in the New Year with your job search.

      • Thanks for the response. I did suspect that was an issue in some cases & normally I keep a 2nd resume that’s nothing but text. Perhaps as a rule of thumb
        job hunters should keep two versions of their resume: one for human reading, and one for computer submission?

        Also I wanted to comment on the dissatisfaction I’ve had with a number of recruiters, even with positions with limited applicants and requiring specialized skills (to a degree).

        Unfortunately a number of times, despite all my attempts at being professional and always following up on opportunities, a number of recruiters I’ve dealt with have been slow to respond, and/or do not seem particularly motivated to follow up with openings, even when I’m at the point of being invited for an on-site interview!

        I find that discouraging and it makes me consider reevaluating how I hunt for jobs next time. I’m now thinking I should start with only those recruiters who were really on the ball, and actually gave real feedback.

        Any thoughts on this issue also?

      • I am not very familiar with the way that engineering recruiters work. My answer to your question may not be accurate for your field. Our firm is very involved in the community. We meet many of the Executives that are our Candidates and Clients through professional groups. I like to develop long term relationships. Job candidates are future clients. If there are any professional groups that you can get involved with that might be helpful. The object should not be to collect business cards but to use the interactions to find out about what your peers are facing in the marketplace. Ask your peers what recruiters they have worked with in the past. They will tell you the good and the bad of their experience. When you get feedback make sure you have an idea in your mind about what is important to you when working with a recruiter.

        Best of luck with your job search.

  2. It seems like your article is more for how to effectively apply online, it doesn’t show that it doesn’t work.

    After going through a number of recruiters having them take a huge part of what I should be paid and dealing with crap benefits, I applied for my current position through CareerBuilder, got an interview within a week, and had an offer within two weeks. It pays extremely well and I know many of my colleagues have found positions through the same process.

    Great article, it does show many of the problems with applying for positions online. I just disagree with the fact that it doesn’t work.

    • Dear Rich:
      Thank you for your comments. I think you missed that the title was very tongue in check and was sarcastic. It was titled that way because of the number of blogs and advice givers that are using that title to explain why they think the process does not work. I wanted my blog to come up with these blogs as the counter to the, what I believe is inaccurate information, being spread.

      I totally agree with you that applying for jobs online works! Congratulations on getting a job. You are the perfect example that applying with the appropriate skill set with a solid resume does lead to success. Recently, there have been blogs that use unsupported statistics to say it doesn’t work. Even if these low percentage statistics were true, the actual physical number of people that get jobs from applying online is huge. Corporations and Executive Placement Recruiters post on job boards to fill jobs, not to collect resumes.

      I am sorry to hear you had bad experiences with recruiters. Unfortunately, in every business the people that are bad ruin the image of everyone.

      I would love any other feedback you might want to share with others on your job hunting experience.……the good, the bad and the ugly.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      Best Regards,

    • Rich:
      I forgot to add that the purpose of the article was to show why a person may not be having success using a process that does work. I should have been a little clearer.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s