How to improve your chances of finding employment with an online job search


Long gone are the days of reading the help wanted classified ads and securing a phone number, name and address to talk with an employer about a job opening.

If you’re looking for a job today, you’re applying online. This change for job seekers is huge. I read recently that only the top two percent of job applicants actually get interviews after applying online for openings.

Two percent.

Wow. No wonder many of you are not hearing back from the companies that you applied to online.

But why only the top two percent? Because of theApplicant Tracking System.

According to the blog, 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies filter job applicants and resumes through ATS before a live person reads through job applications.

Job seekers who understand this software and how companies are using it can have a competitive advantage in the search process.

ATS handles recruitment materials — applications, resumes, and cover letters — for a company. It helps recruitment teams track candidates and screen those without the required skills and qualifications.

The software saves companies time and money and helps them keep track of key metrics of job candidates and provides recruiters a way to easily identify and engage the best candidates, eliminating the paper process, automating communications, and managing the recruiting work flows.

In other words, the system is likely here to stay and become even more widely used.

According to Aaron Smith, associate director for research on internet and technology issues at the Pew Research Center survey, “the internet is a central resource for Americans looking for work, but a notable minority lack confidence in their digital job-seeking skills.”

Simply put, if you’re looking for a job using the internet, you are one of thousands of frustrated job seekers that hit submit and wait while your cover letter, resume and reference disappear without trace into a black hole.

Sami Holzman a senior at Ashland University, Ashland, Ohio, knows the job search anxiety. A double major in digital media production and journalism, Holzman said she has applied for 30 jobs in a month and has only head back from about five of the businesses. “To say the least, the experience has been frustrating,” she said.

Here are several suggestions to consider when applying online:

▪  Submit your resume and cover letter with the application. Because the ATS is reviewing to match your total packet with the job essential requirements, be sure to include all the application materials.

Read the job description carefully, paying close attention to requirements, such as years of experience, education and certifications and skills. If you overlook these simple sections you will certainly be traveling down the black hole.

▪  Keyword usage is essential. Want to work for a Fortune 500 company? These places attract thousands of applicants so you need to optimize all of your job search materials to become competitive.

One way is by knowing how to use keyword, essentially the same way they are used for search engine optimization. Start by creating a list of keywords that describe your skills, qualifications and achievements and determine which words best match the job opening.

Any company using the ATS software will require you to invest time and effort in maximizing your keyword usage.

Review the essential job duties and responsibilities and incorporate keywords into your candidate packet based on that. Your application and cover letter should reflect keywords as well. The usage, frequencies and words placed in optimal location is important.

▪  Researching information about the position and company. If you are taking time to complete an application also take time to research the place you’re applying to in order to learn about how you match with the position and company. The company website is an excellent starting place to search and understand their vision, mission and values, goals, priorities, product, and company culture. This is good information to incorporate into your cover letter as well.

▪  Follow-up with recruiters or hiring managers. Once you’ve applied, it is a great practice to follow up by email or phone to express your continued interest in a position. If you are serious about applying to a job you should take time to identify who to follow up about the status of your application. Gone are the days of just applying to one job after another without following up. But, if the application specifically says not to call or contact the business, don’t.

▪  Staying power is a must. Whatever you do, don’t quit in the middle of completing an application. According to a CareerBuilder survey, 60 percent of job seekers quit in the middle of filling out online job applications because of their length or complexity.

You should plan and prepare to have all job search materials in front of you before logging on to the site.

Resiliency is a must in today’s job search. The reality is that job seekers are using the internet more, not less. “Online employment resources now rival personal and professional networks as a top source of job information,” Smith’s Pew Research survey reports.

▪  Look beyond job listings: The good news for Holzman is she didn’t place her entire strategy with online job searching. She was diligent in learning how to network within LinkedIn, attending job search workshops, meeting with career services professionals and following up with leads. And she landed a great job as a leadership consultant with her national sorority office.

I hope that you have a happy ending to your job search, too.

Lenroy Jones has dedicated his life to coaching and supporting career seekers to pursue their passion and purpose. Join him on LinkedIn, “like” him at or follow him on Twitter at @CareerDudeTweet.