The Quick Rise, Long Fall, and Mediocre Levelling of Online Applications

Levels Panel

There is no denying it: If you peruse employment or HR related topics on LinkedIn or Forbes, folks are discussing online applications – both grimly and with disdain. If further proof is what tickles your fancy, then look no further than the job seeker cursing at their laptop. Online applications are the way of the future … and NOBODY likes them! This has been the case since Dawson’s Creek premiered (hold your sheepishly sarcastic applause – there’s more!)

The downside today is that standard online applications are increasingly becoming the key reason why companies miss talent and job seekers miss nights of peaceful rest. Luckily, we have solutions. We always do.

Here are three reasons (with accompanying and multiple solutions) that explain the annoying truths of the online application process:

1. The length of a standard online application is often a contentious discussion in our industry.

Is the dawdling pace required to complete an application meant to deter applicants without patience, without basic computer skills, or without the determination to keep cutting and pasting points from their résumé into drop-down bars? BusinessNewsDaily goes so far as to differentiate the time candidates are willing to spend as both generational and dependent on experience. Those with more experience and demonstrated results are less patient than those who are fresh out of school. If time is money, then those used to making that money and the decisions behind it would prefer to get down to business than cut and paste.

However, if you’re serious about your job search you should have a schedule in place where ALL of your job search activities have designated allotments of time. If you plan ahead then you’re psychologically ready to commit an afternoon or a few hours to this process. In other words, don’t go in planning to complete your online application in 20 minutes. 

2.  There is no “non-valuable” position, ever.

Of course, this is not to diminish any type of work; however, while completing online applications for entry-level positions today, one might question why these applications require the same psychological testing as an Airline Pilot or Secret Service Agent. Truthfully, the personality testing speaks to the demands of every position in the 21st Century. If you’re upset that an employer has standards, you’d be wise to look at your own. As mentioned in point 1, be prepared to spend some time completing the psychological assessment.

Note that some online assessments will try to trick you by unexpectedly changing a question posed in the affirmative to a question posed in the negative (this tests your attention to detail). Be sure to read each question over at least twice to ensure you’re not answering on ‘autopilot.’

Example:

  1. What are your strengths?
  2. What are your weaknesses?
  3. Describe three attributes that your ideal employer would not possess.

3.  The technology still isn’t where it should be.

It would be one thing to simply upload your résumé and answer a number of standard questions. It’s another thing to prepare your résumé like a proper job seeker should —that is, customizing it to fit the posting, the position, and the culture of the company to a tee — only to see fragments of what you’ve written disassembled in some sort of format that only a whirling dervish could make sense of.

The other sad state of application technology is when truthful answers cannot be entered because the website won’t allow them. A number of firms have been accused of institutionalized racism when addresses were asked to be entered, but those without a Canadian postal code could not be accepted. And most likely before talk of prejudice began, the job seeker was already lamenting the unlikely need for this information as references aren’t usually asked for at this point. Again, it takes time and if you haven’t allotted it during your job search schedule, you should start doing so.

The best ways possible to circumvent or at least complement your online application is to consider a number of best practices related to accessing the hidden job market. (FYI: This should already be part of your job search schedule).

Key Strategies:

  • Connect with an employer regardless if they are hiring or not. This requires a bold leap, but is easier done when you have crafted in advance a “pitch” to explain how you’d assist and add to the goals of their business.
  • Network beyond HR professionals. Attend Board of Trade and Chamber of Commerce functions and trade shows/conventions where you can meet with staff of all designations. Tip: Be prepared to offer something so that you don’t present yourself as someone just looking for a job — bring ideas and answers!
  • Media research with Google news alerts combined with social media contact is good, but be sure to have insight and ideas to offer, from simple advice to interesting articles. You look best when you present yourself as a trusted resource.

This article provides additional tips. Remember to stay positive — the online application process will improve, and the demand for this change will make it so!

Jason Douglas Smith is a Training Application Coordinator with The Career Foundation, and has successfully directed clients in not only developing personalized job search strategy plans, but in circumnavigating the rigorous demands of applications for Provincially funded retraining. When not working, this self-professed Futurist can often be found reading, writing, and barbecuing in his native Burlington.   

How to Stay Motivated During Your Summer Job Search

A frustrated person holding a tablet displaying an application form.

Recently laid off? Looking for a new job? Here are four tips to ensure you stay motivated during the lazy daze of summer.

Be reasonable.

Set achievable goals. Making unrealistic claims leads to neglecting your responsibilities. Setting goals depends on the person. For example: submitting one résumé per day can be a realistic goal for you, while others may set three résumés per week as a realistic expectation. Twelve résumés in one day may seem achievable to some people; however, if you’re spending less than one hour on readjusting your résumé and cover letter to match the job posting, you’re probably not going to hear back from many employers.

It’s important to know yourself and what you’re capable of. If the goal is too unrealistic, you will have no motivation to pursue it.

Set a time to wake up and get dressed, especially if you’re job searching from home.

Would you go to work with unkempt hair and pajamas still on? If you’re working from home, your house becomes your work – and you need to get ready accordingly. This small change in your morning routine will prepare you for the rest of the day. This will also combat the relaxation vacation vibe that everyone feels in the hot weather. Another trick is to work in a cool environment. Colder air keeps you focussed, so if you have a laptop, try bringing it with you to a local, air-conditioned coffee shop for the day.

Volunteer with an organization.

Having a structured schedule can be important during the summer when relaxation is most tempting. The best way to achieve minor goals and create structure into your daily routine is to volunteer in the field you plan to pursue.  Not only is volunteering a good way to network and gain contacts in your field, but it looks really good on résumés. Employers are looking for experience and volunteering is a great way to get it!

Treat yourself when you’re working hard.

It’s so critical to be kind to yourself. Job hunting can be stressful, and procrastinating on the job search can result in even more stress. One way to combat job search apathy is to reward yourself only when a résumé is submitted. The best way to do this is to develop a tiered system for your achievements. For instance, submitting one résumé may result in a snack, and submitting three personalized résumés could call for a Netflix break or a mid-afternoon lounge by the pool.

If you find yourself constantly giving yourself large rewards for minor achievements, there will be no motivation to push harder to get more done.

By Pam Simpson, a summer student with The Career Foundation.