August 19, 2011
Why applying online first is a waste of time
I recently gave a presentation called Career Search Optimization to professionals in transition, emphasizing the need to become more strategic if they want to find their ideal job. Many, if not all, job seekers are so focused on advertised openings that they often miss out on what's most important to them.
It's a little like dating. You can troll dating websites, see who is available and send customized emails asking them out, or you can take a step back and ask yourself, "What do I want?" By identifying your values and goals, you're likely to zero in on the few people who would be a good fit for you long-term -- many of whom might not be online.
The same goes for finding a job: Being more strategic will help you find your ideal match. Here are five reasons why you shouldn't apply online first:
The employer gets too many résumés. Local employers have told me that they receive anywhere from 350 to 1,600 applications for just one opening. If a job is posted on Craigslist, a company might receive from 100 to 400 résumés in just one hour. Employers are flooded with applicants -- over 90 percent of whom aren't qualified or aren't a good fit -- and chances are high that your résumé will get lost among them.
The employer's needs aren't clear. Most employers don't receive formal training on how to write a job description. Many rely on HR templates that come with the human resources information system (HRIS) or even from other companies. If you see a job posting by Starbucks, for example, the hiring manager's specific needs -- say, someone with a strong retail-operations background -- won't necessarily be identified. So even if you send a résumé tailored to the ad, you're just customizing it to the template, not the actual job.
The employer has several filters. In previous columns, I've talked about how employers screen your résumé, how they profile you on social-media sites and how that information helps to determine whether they speak to you. There are too many filters that screen you out, and you'll likely be rejected before a human sees your application.
The employer could blacklist you. I've discussed various reasons why employers would blacklist an applicant. They might not use such a harsh word, but most companies have a "do not hire"/"do not look at this applicant"/"not a good fit for our company or culture" list. These are generally maintained for seven to 10 years. If you rub an employer the wrong way, you could land on its blacklist, which would greatly reduce your chances of working there.
The employer may prefer another method. In my column "Where you come from matters," I discussed the variety of ways that employers hire. While Expedia prefers employee referrals, for example, certain departments at the University of Washington prefer applicants who apply through The Seattle Times. Knowing which method the company prefers could determine whether your application is reviewed.
Before applying online to an advertised opening, take the time to learn about the employer's needs and hiring preferences. I want to caution you, however, that you probably won't find the job you want. To find happiness and build a successful career, you'll need to become even more strategic. Start by asking yourself questions such as: "What do I want?" "Why do I want that?" "Whose help am I going to need?" and "How am I going to get there?"
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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