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The Ugly Reality of Online Job Applications: How to Stand out from Others

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The Ugly Reality of Online Job Applications: How to Stand out from Others

As I sit here at my Macbook Air contemplating the approach I want to take on this impossible-sounding article, I hear one of my favorite Miranda Lambert songs in the back of my head…

“Hey whatever happened to,

Waitin’ your turn

Doing it all by hand,

‘Cause when everything is handed to you

It’s all only worth as much as the time you put in

It all just seems so good the way we had it

Back before everything became, automatic…”

Don’t get me wrong – I love the internet. I love my email and my instant messenger. I love having all this information and access right at my fingertips. And it’s so damn fast, too.

That’s the problem.

Back in the day, I remember sending resume after resume, cover letter after cover letter, to addresses of employers with position listings that I found in the newspaper or Chronicle of Higher Education. And don’t forget about those Placement Conferences.

Every job application went into its own 8 1/2 x 11 manilla envelope and was taken to the post office, weighed, stamped, and mailed. There was no internet, there was no Monster.com, there was no Indeed.

Having navigated the process of updating every resume, every cover letter, and gathering all of my individually addressed letters of recommendation seemed like a lot of work at the time…but that was okay with me because I completely understood the process and what was expected of me.

Am I a terrible person because I’d like for it to still be that way?

Online job applications can speed things up, make things much easier for the employer to view, sort, and store. If you are on a search committee, you can screen those applications from the comfort of your desk or office and not have to spend the entire day in the Human Resources Office reading and scoring 300 paper applications.

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(I’ve done this before. It’s quite painful.)

But the list of cons is equally as long – online controls can be too limiting, online only applications can inadvertently exclude possible qualified candidates, and it’s quite an investment to get started.

And that’s just from the employer’s side of things.

As a potential employee and candidate, it can be horribly frustrating trying to navigate the online job environment in order to stand out above other candidates. And while it may have seemed a like a great deal of work printing all those paper resumes and taking them to the post office, candidates have to do a great deal more preparation work for an online job application to stand out.

Getting Started

When you’ve identified a position of interest to you and discover the online application, make sure you get very familiar with what is expected in the job application.

From the employer side, I have reviewed many online applications that aren’t complete simply because the candidate didn’t realize what was required for the application.

In our desire to finish the application, we may neglect required items or just gloss them over.

The Balance Careers website shared a great list of items you will need to have in hand and ready to go before you begin filling out that application form. It’s not just your resume and cover letter:

Personal Information Required for an Employment Application

Name

Address, city, state, zip code

Phone number

Email Address

Social security number

Are you eligible to work in the United States?

If you are under age eighteen, do you have an employment certificate?

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Have you been convicted of a felony within the last five years? (information about convictions varies based on state law)

Education and Experience Needed for a Job Application

School(s) attended, degrees, graduation date

Certifications

Skills and qualifications

Grade Point Average (G.P.A.), if this was above 3.50

Extracurricular activities where you held a leadership role

Honor societies

Employment History Required

Employer

Address, phone, email

Supervisor

Job title and responsibilities

Salary

Starting and ending dates of employment (month, day, and year)

Reason for leaving

Permission to contact the previous employer

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References

Name

Job title

Company

Address, phone, email

If you can’t remember the address, city, and zip code of your employer three jobs ago, you’d better look it up before you start your online application. Get all these details together and set them aside. Or better yet, save it as a Google Doc so you have it accessible all the time (you can be old school, too, and just write it down).

Strengthen Your Profile

When was the last time you updated your LinkedIn profile? In the online job environment, LinkedIn can give your candidacy a big boost if you are able to connect things there that might get left out in your application (or not required).

Keppie Careers shares strong advice on how LinkedIn can boost your online footprint:[1]

“Statistics show that over 90% of recruiters are using it to source hires. LinkedIn users post jobs, and when you view the descriptions, you can see who posted it and how you are connected to that person or organization via LinkedIn.

You can also see how many people have applied for the job via LinkedIn. These tools make it useful as a job search/applying for jobs tool.

Many companies will allow you to apply for jobs using a one-click option where you use you LinkedIn profile instead of filling out an application.”

Do Your Research

As you would ANYWAY for your job application, visit the employer’s website and check things out. According to Forbes:[2]

“First, recruiters want to see that you have a special interest in their company. They’re more likely to pursue a candidate who has a history with the company or industry and a story about why they’re applying now. Take the time to learn its mission and values. Then, incorporate those into your job history and cover letter. This will help you stand out among other applicants who applied without doing their homework.”

Workbloom suggests going the extra mile and contacting hiring managers directly.[3] Once again, LinkedIn to the rescue:

“When you complete an online application, use LinkedIn to research who the department head, hiring manager, HR manager, or supervisor is for your desired position.

Then, find out their e-mail and send them a short introduction letting them know you have applied for a specific job and that you are very interested in joining their team.”

Get to Know ATS

ATS stands for Applicant Tracking System. Applicant tracking systems are used by corporations to assist with recruitment and hiring processes. Each system offers a different combination and scope of features, but ATS are primarily used to help hiring companies collect, organize, and filter applicants.

While these are a dream for corporations and organizations, they can be a nightmare for candidates. According to Job Scan:[4]

Corporate recruiters can have their ATS automatically extract information from an applicant’s resume to build a digital applicant profile that can be searched, filtered, and/or ranked. The goal is to quickly cull out anyone who is under-qualified, make the applicant pool smaller, and quickly identify the top candidates.

Unfortunately for job seekers, most ATS lack sophistication and are not able to search and filter candidates reliably. Some highly qualified candidates fall through the cracks and are wrongfully eliminated from the applicant pool because their resume has formatting issues or lacks the correct search keywords.

This is a necessary tradeoff for many hiring professionals with limited time and resources. In order to get noticed, job seekers must optimize their resume for ATS.

Trying to “beat” the ATS’ out there could be as futile as figuring out the Instagram or Facebook algorithms that are ever changing. But The Muse offers these simple four tips on how to get past the “ATS Troll” to get your resume seen:[5]

  1. Keep Formatting Simple
  2. Nail the Correct Keywords
  3. Ditch the Career Objective Section
  4. Use Spell Check

Further, The Muse says,

“At the end of the day, once your resume passes the unfailing eye of the ATS, it will then be scrutinized by a human eye. The good news is that all of the advice for optimizing your resume for ATS is simply good resume practice.”

It seems that much of the online environment is dictated by keywords, algorithms, search engine optimization, and virtual engagement; it’s no wonder we are all so tired by the time we get to the job interview.

Nonetheless, in addition to all the access and information provided by the lovely World Wide Web, it definitely changed the way we pursue our dream jobs (or any job, for that matter).

The good news is that all this extra work gets you more prepared for the interview, when you land it. Consider it Basic Training for your Job Search.

And an extra special thank you to Miranda Lambert whose “Automatic” gave me inspiration to launch this article.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Kris McPeak

Educator, Author, Career Change and Work/Life Balance Guru

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Last Updated on June 1, 2021

10 Effective Ways To Make You a Fast Learner

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10 Effective Ways To Make You a Fast Learner

The importance of learning cannot be underestimated. Learning empowers us to fulfill our ideas and realize our full potential. The speed of gaining new knowledge is practically as important as its volume. Who wouldn’t love to remember tons of information as quickly as possible?

If you want to start learning faster, you need a new approach towards the process which would enable you to comprehend the essence of the matter and relate it with new concepts you encounter.

The following 10 tips will help you become a fast learner:

1. Analyze Your Learning Style

Before you can start experimenting with different studying methods, you need to understand what type of learner you are:

Is your memory associated to sound?

Maybe you can remember what you were reading when a particular song was playing? If this is your case, then you fall into the category of auditory learners.

If you want to start studying more efficiently, then it would be wise to record the lectures and listen to them instead of reading textbooks.

Do you relate information to visual content?

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If you are a visual learner, you should implement images, graphs, charts, infographics, colorful lists, flashcards, and other types of visual content when you study.

Are you a physical learner?

If your learning style is not auditory or visual, then you might be a physical learner. Some students have too much energy; they tap their feet or play with a pen during lectures.

A walk before a lecture will calm your nerves down. You can try studying or listening to audio lectures during a walk. That will help you remember the information more quickly.

2. Use the Right EdTech Tools

Technology has the power of making everything easier. There are plenty of websites, online tools, and smartphone/tablet apps that will boost your skills of planning, writing, time management and brainstorming, etc.

One way of improving your productivity is using flashcards. You can make your own cards, but you can also download pre-made kits online:

  • StudyBlue is one of the best online destinations when it comes to creating and discovering flashcards from all areas of study.
  • If you are looking for a tool that makes the process of brainstorming more effective, then you should try PapersGear.
  • You also need the SelfControl app, which will eliminate all distractions when you need to stay focused.
  • Quizlet is another website you should bookmark; it offers study tools that will transform the learning process into a fun activity.
  • Notella is an app that will help you take quick notes at any time.
  • Brainscape is an educational platform that makes complex subjects easy by relying on cognitive science.
  • You can also try Dragon Dictation, especially if you are an audio learner.

3. Train Your Brain to Accept New Information

Efficient studying is a habit. Your brain needs constant training if you want to improve your focus and complete complex tasks without taking breaks.

One way to achieve this goal is to create a private learning space in your home. You’ll also need a specific time of day that you’ll devote to studying. That will make your brain ready to accept the information it gets, so you’ll notice you’re starting to learn much faster by the day.

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4. Get Some Exercise

You are aware of the fact that physical activity is good for your body, but your brain needs it too!

Light exercise, such as yoga, can help you learn much faster. If you are inactive throughout the day, your body will want to move, so it will be difficult for you to stay focused.

If, on the other hand, you canalize your energy through light training sessions, you will be ready to study productively.

5. Work on the Ambiance

If you have a noisy neighborhood or a working environment full of distractions, you won’t be able to learn or study no matter how hard you try.

If you want to learn quickly, you need a quiet, distraction-free environment that won’t disturb the mind in any way. Such a peaceful place will set you in learning mode as soon as you find yourself in it.

6. Take a Lot of Notes

Only few people are capable of remembering information as they read it. If you don’t belong to this category of privileged learners, then you absolutely need to start taking notes.

This simple learning method will force you to think about the essence of the material. It will also give you a nice framework that will help you review the things you’ve learned.

Write down only the most important information. That will help you remember all the other things you’ve learned.

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Here’re some tips to take notes effectively: Why Successful People Take Notes And How to Make It Your Habit

7. Make Mind Maps

Mind maps are among the best tools to speed up the learning process. Your mind will process information effectively if you create a visual representation of the things you’re about to learn.

You can create a nice mind map in the old-school way: take a large sheet of paper and organize all facts and explanations. Use pictures, note-cards, and other symbols you can think of. Group similar items together and connect them with colorful pens.

Some tips mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

Of course, you can also use an online mind mapping tool if you want to save yourself some time.

8. Experiment with Memorization Methods

Memorizing is often misused in the process of studying. Some people memorize whole sentences, paragraphs and lectures without grasping their essence.

However, memorization can be useful when you need to learn definitions and classifications really quickly. Don’t avoid this technique if you want to fill your brain with information without wasting any time.

Try this if you want to memorize more and faster: How to Memorize More and Faster Than Other People

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9. Find the Right Context

Memorization works solely in times of urgency. If you want to learn in the most effective manner, then you need to have context for information.

Find an aspect that’s interesting for you; try to research for related information, and you’ll discover the joy of learning.

The first step? Jot down as much information and as many ideas as possible: How Simply Jotting Down Ideas Can Make You Smarter

With time, this practice will make you a faster learner.

10. Study Every Day

It will take some time before you get used to a daily studying routine, but your mind will eventually grasp the habit.

The more frequently you study, the less time it will take for you to remember the things you read.

If you start studying as soon as possible after you have learned some new concepts, it won’t take long at all for you to get ready for an exam. Now that sounds really good, doesn’t it?

More to Help You Learn Quicker

Featured photo credit: Becca Tapert via unsplash.com

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