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Part 1: "I’ve applied for so many jobs but haven’t had a response. Why?"

Updated: Mar 27, 2021

This question comes up time and again in sessions with our volunteer specialists. So we’ve put together a 2 part series with international recruiter and certified career coach Lois Freeke.

In part 1, Lois explains why this happens, and how you can improve your chances of getting a hit with an online job application.

Applying for jobs through job boards like Seek can be disheartening when you don’t hear back. What’s going on?

If you’re applying online, your chances of getting a response are around 6%. The job market is even more competitive than usual at the moment, so you need to maximise your chances of landing a job more quickly.

If you apply for jobs online, you have a better chance if you meet 90% to 100% of the criteria on the job description, even so you still join a very big queue of applicants. Many people, however, make mistakes with their application, so their chances of getting a job via job boards become very slim.

Does that mean I should give up applying for jobs online?

No. It makes sense to utilise all the opportunities that are available, and job boards are one of many channels job seekers can use. They are also a great start for indicating where opportunities lie, but there are some points to be aware of.

I can tell you that recruiters get hundreds of applications per position, especially at the moment – you have to make sure you stand out, and only one person is usually going to be successful in landing the job, unfortunately.

It’s not the most efficient way of applying for a job, but it is the path of least resistance and so many job seekers rely on job boards. The flip side of this is that people are often in distress and desperate to get a job, and when they don’t get a response, which is statistically likely when relying on job boards alone, it can be shattering for them.

How can we improve our chances of getting a hit with an online application?

There are two key things to know. Firstly, the applications are not always being read by an expert who knows the job function well, so they might not know how to interpret your information and compare it to the ad. They’re just looking at the job descriptions and ticking boxes where your experience appears to match. Therefore your application needs to use the same phraseology as the job advertisement.

Secondly, organisations are increasingly using automated HR recruitment software, so you need to make sure your application can be read by the applicant tracking system, (or ATS).

As an experienced recruiter, what are your top tips for online applications?

1. Be selective about what you apply for. Apply for jobs you’re qualified for, or have directly transferable skills for. So many people apply for jobs for which they have no experience or qualifications, which wastes their time and adds to their distress

2. Match your cover letter and resume to the job opportunity. You need to rewrite both using the same phrases and words in the job post.

If it says ‘passion for customers’, you should write that, instead of ‘customer centric’, for example. Your application needs to position you for the job. If you’ve been a customer sales executive but are applying for a customer service representative, your application has to match the key words and phrases.

If your job title is the same function as the job you are applying for, but has a different title, put the target job title in brackets on your resume. As long as you are being honest, you do have the licence to do this. When it comes to listing your specific skills, make sure you refer to them in your resume exactly as the ad states.

3. Don’t convert your application to PDF – leave it in Word.

If you’re uploading your application online, your application could be read by an ATS, so there are certain things you have to do to match your resume to ensure it gets through this stage.

For example, not all automated systems can read a PDF, it can sometimes be read as a photograph, so it can score your application zero – even if you meet all the criteria. It can’t always read information in a graph or table either if it is constructed in the wrong way, so don’t present information in that way, or if you do use a graph, put the key information into the main body of the document as well, to ensure it will be read.

4. Be aware of how a recruiter reads your resume.

Recruiters are inundated with hundreds of applications. They spend about 6 seconds scanning your resume at first glance, so the top section of a resume is your prime real estate, as that is where the recruiter looks to get a snap shot of your suitability for the role. If you’re not immediately showing what you have delivered, and how you are a strong candidate for the target job you are applying for, they probably won’t read on. It’s about structure, the way you submit your application, and the way you write it.

5. Tailor your resume to the job described. Don’t appear generalist. Address the key skills that are set out in the ad.

6. Follow the instructions in the ad. If it asks for a cover letter, provide one.

7. Proof read your resume and the job application cover letter. I often get applications that aren’t well written, or have lots of basic mistakes – spelling, grammatical mistakes, and different fonts and colours.

Or even worse, applications are addressed to the wrong person or company, or for a different job.

Most of all, come and talk to one of the specialist consultants at Project Displaced for guidance or sign up for one of our free resume writing or job market webinars. We’ll help you with your resume and cover letter, to give you the best possible chance of winning your next job.

In part 2 of this series, Lois will provide her insights into alternative (and arguably more effective) ways of job hunting. Return to the blog next week to find out what they are.

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