Some of the most common questions I hear are about online job applications. No doubt that they are one of the most popular job-search options today. They're convenient for employers and easy for applicants to complete – but a lot of candidates struggle to get a call back after sending through an online application.
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Recently, a candidate reached out to me and asked: I keep applying for jobs online and hearing nothing back! What am I doing wrong?
This could be happening for a number of reasons. When you are applying for jobs that are advertised online, you need to keep in mind that hundreds of other job seekers could be applying to those very same jobs.
Furthermore, applying for any job should take time. If you are submitting applications with the same resume and cover letter you always use, there is a good chance you will get passed over.
So, how do you stand out from the crowd when it comes to online applications?
1. Do Your Research
The first thing to do when you find a job that you want to apply for is research. Spend some time reading the company's website and social media pages. Learn about it and think about why you want to work there. Why does the company and position excite you? What value can you add?
(If the role is advertised through a recruitment agency and they do not tell you who the company is, move on to the next step.)
When you have clearly figured out why you are interested in this company and role, you should take some time to really study the job advertisement and position description, if it is available. What is the employer looking for in terms of skills, experience, and cultural fit? Once you have an understanding of these things, it's time to start telling some stories!
2. Draft Your Stories
At this stage, it's okay to ramble if you need to. Write as many stories about how you fit each of the company's criteria as you like. Focus on achievements and outcomes. Once you have put all your stories down, pick your favorites. This material will be what you use to create your cover letter and customize your resume.
3. Customize Your Cover Letter and Resume
Your cover letter is essentially your sales pitch. You want the person reading it to get an understanding of who you are and what you can do for them. Let your personality shine through; be your normal charming self when you write a cover letter. A bland letter isn't going to make someone want to pick up the phone.
When you are finished writing your first draft, read it out loud to see how it sounds. Does it flow well? Does it sound like you? If not, keep editing and tweaking it until you are happy.
Next is your resume. A lot of resumes offer very little tangible information and condense previous work experience into a few small bullet points. These bullet points are important because they will give the hiring team an idea of what you did in your past roles, but I can guarantee that you have achieved far more than what fits into a few bullets.
Go back to the stories you wrote. What did you achieve in each of your roles that is relevant to the position you are applying for? Add one or two achievements under each of your previous roles to give the hiring team a better understanding of what you can accomplish. Keep these short and to the point so they are easy to digest.
You've Lodged a Fantastic Online Application; What's Next?
Follow up! Lodging an application is just the first step. A day or two after lodging it, pick up the phone and call the hiring team. The goal here is to introduce yourself and to get on their radar. Ask if there is any further information you can provide, or ask a question about the role or company. Open those lines of communication and start building a relationship with the company. If the hiring manager takes time to answer questions and speak to you further about the role, send a quick thank-you email afterward to let them know you appreciate it.
If you are unsuccessful at any stage of the process, ask for feedback to help you in future applications. If you are really passionate about working for that particular company, let them know and ask to be kept on file for future roles or considered for other current roles that you might be suited for.
Finally, it's important not to rely on your online applications alone. Be proactive, utilize your network, and let people know you are looking for work! Call companies that you would love to work with and speak to people who might be able to help. Go to networking events and make new connections. Take charge of your job search!
Stacey Gleeson is the founder and job search/interview coach at Primed Interviews. If you have a question about your job search, send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.