Searching and applying for jobs is nothing like it used to be. Gone are the days of physically handing in or mailing your resume and waiting for a call about the position. Now, nearly all job search communications happen electronically. Since the employer isn’t likely to see your face and interact with you until you’re invited in for an interview, the paperwork and the way you follow up, must be on point.
From applying to jobs to following up after an interview, here’s everything you need to know about finding employment in the digital age.
Technological advancements in hiring and employee recruitment have exploded over the past 10 years, creating a challenging landscape for job seekers.
The ease of applying for a job through one-click apply buttons on sites, such as LinkedIn and ZipRecruiter, has increased the volume of applications companies now need to sift through. A human can’t review hundreds or thousands of resumes for one position, so human resources (HR) departments have become more apt to rely on applicant tracking systems (ATS) for the first screening.
Challenges aren’t insurmountable, though, and we have tips to help you navigate the world of one-click applications, chatbots, ATS and Zoom as you look for your next job.
Technology has made it faster than ever to apply for a job, but that doesn’t mean the time spent upfront before you click the submit button isn’t critical. Given the volume of applications for each job, employers are likely to be less forgiving of a resume that does not fit the job description or an unintentional typo.
“Ensure your resume is optimized for the ATS and is also easy to read and effective when a recruiter looks at it,” shared Michael Krikheli, co-founder of ZipJob. Craft your resume for an online application to impress both an ATS and HR department screeners:
“Make it easy for the employer to find what they’re looking for by using a clean and uncluttered format with a strong organizational hierarchy,” recommended Amanda Augustine, career expert for resume writing service, TopResume. She added, “When you’re tailoring your resume for a specific position, use the job description as a guide to help you identify the keywords and phrases that should be included to help you pass [the] initial scan.”
The average recruiter spends 6 seconds scanning for six pieces of information in the following order: name, current title and company, previous title and company, start and end date of previous position, the start date of your current position and education, noted Augustine.
It may sound simple, but following all directions, including all required and requested documents, such as resume, cover letter and unofficial transcripts and information, such as professional references, work samples and answers to application questions, can often mean the difference between your application being reviewed on its merits or lost in digital limbo.
Job seekers have a seemingly endless number of options for where to search for a job online. The digital age has seen an increase in niche job boards catering to specific industries or types of roles. Websites like LinkedIn, Indeed and ZipRecruiter, are good places to start.
Candidates may have better luck finding positions that fit their career goals and qualifications when they turn to niche job boards. Ultimately, a candidate who goes directly to the websites of companies they’re interested in to find applicable job postings will spend less time searching and more time applying. [Related article: 13-Networking for Job Seekers: 10 LinkedIn Alternatives]
Augustine suggested that if you know someone who works at the company, look for the application option that allows you to include an employee referral. Once you’ve applied online for the job, ask your connection at the company to pass a copy of your resume along to the hiring manager or internal recruiter in charge of filling the position.
“Studies show you’re 10 times more likely to land a job when your application is accompanied by a referral,” she said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made video calls and Zoom interviews standard in many fields and industries. Job seekers can now research, apply, interview and accept a new position before ever meeting their employers in person.
Being on-camera — via your computer — may feel uncomfortable at first. But remember, you have more control over what is seen (and heard) by a potential employer on-camera from a space you control than you would if you were to go to their offices for an in-person interview.
Consider preparing an interview space in advance to reduce the time and stress it would take to set up the day of your virtual interview:
Organization is the key to a successful job search. Augustine advised setting up a folder on your computer or in the cloud so that you have access while on the go, where you can save a copy of the resumes and cover letters you create and tailor for a particular job opportunity. Since job postings often get removed before the interviews take place, it’s important to copy the job description and paste it into a file so you can reference it later.
“Set up an Excel or Google Sheet to track the jobs to which you apply — the [listing] links, the dates you applied and any other important information or notes, such as the name and contact information of a networking connection you have at the company, the recruiter or the hiring manager,” Augustine told Business News Daily. “Then, you can set reminders on your calendar to follow up on each application appropriately.”
In the digital age, following up on a job application can mean various things in different scenarios. A tracker or job search customer relationship management platform will help you determine if and how to follow up.
After applying for a position, when you know the name of the hiring manager or recruiter, Augustine suggested that “[you] tailor your follow-up and send it directly to the person who matters,” approximately one week after the deadline on the job posting. If it is a rolling deadline or no deadline was mentioned, follow up one week after your initial application was submitted.
If you can figure out who is the hiring manager or the recruiter handling the job opportunity, then use their contact information to follow up in the same tailored manner described above. Do keep it short and positive. Don’t be discouraged if you do not get a response.
However, many employers discourage follow-up emails or phone calls by removing contact information from the job posting. Online applications submitted through an ATS system will often send applicants a confirmation automatically by email. Some companies include a time frame by which you will hear more if your application has progressed to the next stage. Consider these applications in the “don’t call us, we will call you” status.
After an interview, a ‘thank-you’ email within 24 hours is standard. Many candidates will send that email before the end of the business day to keep their names and responses fresh in the interviewer’s mind. Handwritten notes may still be considered appropriate in some parts of the United States, but when applying for a job in most major cities err on the side of expediency rather than tradition. You can always craft a handwritten thank- you note after you accept a job offer.
Mistakes in a job search can result in missed opportunities. Here are a few missteps to avoid when searching and applying for jobs.
Employers develop job descriptions with qualifications to help ensure the candidates they interview and those they hire can do the jobs needed to be done well.
Job seekers should also create descriptions of the type of work, compensation, benefits and location that will best leverage their skills, experiences and meet their career and life needs. This practice will take time and energy as you sift through the hundreds of job postings to decide which ones work best for you.
A position with a company you’ve always admired may sound great at first pass, but ask yourself, will it meet your needs and career goals? This is where job seekers can and should be strategic, taking time to research the job, company and even hiring manager, before spending time customizing resumes, personalizing cover letters and perfecting their lighting for virtual interviews.
Research starts with the job description but extends to local and national media coverage of the company, its social media channels and blog as well as word of mouth from current and former employees. You can also glean information from interactions with managers and current employees via email and Zoom.
Take every opportunity to learn about the environment and people you could be spending 40 hours a week with. Resist the urge to only apply to brand-name companies in your industry. Just like online dating, don’t only judge a book by its cover when you are looking for a long-term (working) relationship.
Savvy job seekers know that the best time to look for a job is before you need or want one. They are continuously connecting, following and building their networks so that they are prepared before they start their search for their next perfect job. [Read When to Look for a Job to learn more.]
Since no two jobs are the same, why send out the same resume, cover letter and work samples? Consider the keywords and the order of the responsibilities listed in the job description. Then reorganize your resume to align with the job posting and ensure keywords are included in your resume. You may have seven years of experience in marketing on social media and websites, but if you don’t include the phrase ‘digital marketing’ in your resume and cover letter, a busy HR team or ATS may not realize you could be a perfect fit for the role.
“Figure out what the most important skills are for the job and reorganize your resume to highlight those accomplishments in your experience first,” recommended Leah Paul, senior director of digital marketing at Paramount when she spoke with Business New Daily. “You want to use the keywords used in the job description, but not verbatim,” said Paul.
Customizing your resume and personalizing your cover letters are just the start. Consider and prepare for each step in your job search and interviewing process like you are building an important relationship. Preparation will keep you from stressing out, so check out, What Not to Do During or After a Job Interview for more advice.
There has never been a time in history when job seekers have had easy, free access to more information than in today’s digital age.
Companies and hiring managers rely on technology in their recruitment and hiring. Successful candidates, who find, interview and accept job offers that allow them to do what they do best every day and meet their personal needs, are leveraging technology to their advantage.
Job seekers can use technology to find job postings and companies that align with their goals and the information they need to customize their resumes, cover letters and applications to speak the employer’s digital language.
Jennifer Post and Shannon Gausepohl contributed to this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.