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4 Strategies for Conquering Online Job Application Systems

4 Strategies for Conquering Online Job Application Systems

If you’re like the majority of job seekers, you spend quite a bit of time searching for jobs online. While there are lots of other job search methods—networking, company research, career fairs, recruiters, and the like—once you finally find a job opening, many companies will direct you to their online job application process no matter how you found it in the first place.

Online job application systems, also known as applicant tracking systems (ATS), are used by large and small companies alike to compile job applicants and their information in one big database, where they can quickly search for and find what they need. Companies also argue that using ATS helps them to put job seekers on a level playing field so they can make unbiased decisions.

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However you arrive at an ATS, the prospect of entering your professional information into a computer system and sending it into a seemingly large black hole is both scary and exhausting, but there are things you can do to make your application stand out, both to the computer system AND to human beings at the other end. Here are 4 tips to maximize your applications in these large online job application systems:

1. Change the content of your resume for every job.

This might seem time-consuming but it makes a big difference because when a recruiter searches their ATS for specific resume keywords, yours will actually come up! Additionally, some ATS are set up to auto-sort applicants based on specific keywords, so these help the computer identify you as a qualified applicant as well. The job description is a great place to mine for keywords, and you can place them throughout your resume wherever they make sense. And, though it hopefully goes without saying, use only the keywords that are true to your professional experience.

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2. Be the first to submit your application.

Recruiters admit that when they search an ATS for potential candidates, they stop after they find what they need. It’s just like when you search the web for information: do you go past the first one or two pages of search results, or do you stick with whatever results came up in those first pages? If your resume isn’t one of the first to pop up, the odds are low that they’ll search long enough to find your application. Use the variety of alerts that most job search websites offer —texts, emails, etc.—to be alerted as soon as a new job is posted so that you can apply right away.

3. Don’t skip boxes: fill everything out.

Depending on how companies and recruiters have their ATS set up, they may only require certain boxes and information be filled out. This doesn’t mean that you should skip the non-required boxes: the reason you should fill out every piece of information is that the more content you add to your application, the more searchable content you’ve given. This can help your application wind its way through the system and make it to the recruiter.

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4. Use basic, simple formatting for your resume.

Resumes have received quite the makeover in the last few years: from infographic styles to beautifully-designed, graphic-heavy versions, resumes are looking pretty good! Unfortunately, ATS are simply no good at reading these fancy resumes, and the less text they can identify, the lower your chances of making it past the computer to a human being.

To make sure your resume is formatted for a computer reader, ditch the graphics and special characters, use web-safe fonts like Arial, Georgia, and Tahoma, beef up your skills section with lots of keywords and industry-specific qualifications, spell out abbreviations and acronyms in addition to using the acronyms, and check your spelling: computers can’t read keywords that are misspelled!

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Ultimately, the key is to help computers realize that you are a well-qualified candidate, and these tips should help your online job applications navigate the black hole of applicant-tracking systems so that they eventually reach a human being.

Featured photo credit:  short depth of field focus on a job application via Shutterstock

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Brie Weiler Reynolds

Senior Career Specialist at FlexJobs

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5 Powerful Ideas on How to Be Productive at Work

5 Powerful Ideas on How to Be Productive at Work

Not being able to stay productive at work is a problem that everyone runs into at some point; no matter how much you like your job, there are certain factors that prevent you from staying at maximum proficiency throughout the whole day.

A lack of productive focus at work can lead to extra stress on yourself, missed deadlines, passed opportunities, raise denial, demotion and even termination.

So, if you are someone who has trouble with your productivity, here are five effective tips on how to be productive at work:

1. Take breaks

First and foremost, it’s important for you to take regular breaks. Trying to work throughout the whole day will tire your brain, which will then cause you to doze off and think about something else.

If you keep working your brain, it will fill up and get jumbled with information—sort of like a computer hard drive. Taking a break would be like resetting your computer so that it can start afresh, or de-fragmenting the data so that all the information is in order.

This is a great thing because it allows you to solve problems you were unable to solve previously, by seeing it differently; if you are able to organize your thoughts properly, you will be able to take in new information more easily.

There have even been studies about methods of saving time and staying proficient, and taking breaks is one of the leading factors.

According to Christine Hohlbaum, the author of The Power of Slow: 101 Ways to Save Time in Our 24/7 World, eating lunch away from your work area every day will greatly increase your productivity. Eating in your work area will give you the illusion that you are working, but whether you like it or not, your brain will begin to wander and think of something else and then you will be working tirelessly with no progress.

It’s important to take breaks before and during work too: if you come to work in a rush because you woke up late, your mind will not be mentally prepared for the day ahead, and you will spend the first 10 to 15 minutes trying to get organized and composed before you can actually start working.

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Instead, you should try to wake up 20 minutes earlier than the time it would take you to “just get” to work. Take that time to stare off into space and not worry about anything.

If you do this, your brain will be empty and ready for all the challenges it has coming for the next few hours.

If your employer only allows a set amount of breaks during the workday, that doesn’t mean you can’t just get up and walk around for a quick break every now and then.

Even if it’s only 5 minutes, it will refresh your brain and you will gain renewed energy to do your job.

Learn more about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

2. Pace yourself and balance your workload

One problem that most people run into is that they underestimate the amount of work they have to do, and end up doing 50% of the work in the last 20% of the time they have to do it. This is due to an issue of balancing one’s workload.

When you receive a project, or are doing a job you normally do, take some time to really plan out your work schedule.

Consider how much time it took you to do this last time; determine how you can break the project into smaller parts and which can only be accomplished on certain days, and whether anything might come up that could interfere with your plan.

All of these questions are important for starting on a project, and when answered, they will help you stay productive throughout each day.

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For example, if you needed to design a project to map out the amount of aid offered in various regions after Hurricane Sandy, you can break it up as follows:

You will need to know what organizations are offering help to begin with, how much aid those organizations gave or plan to give, which regions were hit by Sandy, and which regions suffered the greatest losses.

You start this project on a Thursday and know you have until Tuesday to gather this information.

In order to stay productive, you need to plan out your work week—now you know you can find out which organizations are involved in helping the Hurricane Sandy Victims any day since that information is online, but gathering information on the organizations may require you to call them.

Since phone calls can only be done during week days, you have to plan on gathering all of that information before the weekend comes.

That is just one example of a situation in which pre-planning your project will help you stay productive; had you researched the affected regions first, you would not have received the info on the organizations until the weekend, and may have missed your chance to call them.

That, in turn, would have wasted time you could have spent working on this project to finish it.

Knowing what you need to do, when you can do it, and how long it will take you, is important in balancing your workload and being more productive and efficient.

3. Put your work first

This is an issue that usually occurs with young people who are new to the workforce: they’re often tempted with offers to go out at midday, and then come back lost in thought and unfocused on their work-related tasks.

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While it is important to take breaks, your breaks should consist of you clearing your mind, not loading it up with other less important information—like sports.

However, that is not the only situation where you need to worry about putting your work first before all else.

In a work environment, the senior employees will oftentimes push some of their menial tasks onto the newer employees. If you fall into that category, you need to know that their work is not your work, so if you have tasks that need to be done, you need to do it first.

If you are a new employee, you must learn to say no to other people even when it means you may not be in their good graces anymore. You can help others out once your work is done, but you are paid to do your own work, not anyone else’s.

4. Don’t open your browser unless you need them

In this day and age, everyone is constantly monitoring their social network. This is a major pain point for companies, which is why many don’t allow employees to access their social networks on company workstations.

When you are at work, disconnect the internet from your phone and keep your browsers closed so you’re not tempted to log onto your social media accounts or browse any sites that are not work-related.

If you keep your browsers closed and phone tucked away, only to be used in an emergency, you will find yourself being a more productive employee right away. 

5. Try to be happy and optimistic

If you always have a negative outlook on life, you will be more distracted and less motivated to get work done, so it’s important for you to start your day off right.

This can be done by having a good breakfast or by taking time in the morning to watch one of your favorite TV shows before work.

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If you are happy, you will find yourself able to work much more productively as your mind won’t wander into worrying about something else.

Also, if you stay optimistic and keep telling yourself that you can do whatever you set your mind to, the tasks will seem much less daunting and will go by much more quickly.

Take a look at more effective ways to stay positive at work:

15 Ways To Stay Positive At Work

Happiness and optimism are the keys to being a productive and happy employee.

All in all, heed the five tips above and you will find yourself being one of the most productive people at your company.

While you do not need to master them all, each and every one of them will help you become a better and more efficient employee.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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