13 July 2016

[HOW TO] Beat the Online Job Application Systems - Quick Guide

Online job application systems are traditional recruitment tools that help companies streamline the whole process of sorting candidates before interviews. Like any computer program, they work based on algorithms. On the one hand, it might seem difficult to get around their strict methods of selection.

You can’t really communicate with software the same way you can with a human being. But because these programs are relatively straightforward, there are ways you can use them to your advantage. You can gain an advantage over candidates if you know how these programs work and what they’re looking for.

Here are a couple of things you should know about online job application systems: 

  • These programs are capable of looking through hundreds of applications a day. As such, they have to be as efficient as possible when sifting through all of the profiles. 
  • Most companies rely on ATS (applicant tracking systems) apps to manage their recruitment process. Most large job and resume boards have a partnership with ATS providers. More Major companies, however, tend to have their own dedicated ATS software 
  • They use keywords to identify suitable candidates. Recent ATS programs have more refined means of analyzing applications, but the process is still quite straightforward 
  • The data these programs collect is generally very well regulated by data collection laws 

As a potential candidate, you must bear in mind these aspects to beat the system.

Because these programs have a significant amount of data to look through, often they will be looking for very specific information so that they can speed up the task. Because of this, some candidates may be overlooked, in spite of their brilliant resumes, simply because the software didn’t find the particular word or phrase it was searched. It’s important to remember this, especially if you found yourself getting overlooked over for a job, and can’t really figure out why. It’s very likely the software didn’t notice your CV because of some minor oversight on your part, or because it was looking for very specific things, and didn’t find them.


Because these programs rely on keywords to identify suitable candidates, you’ll have to write up your resume in such a way as to make it stand out for the software first, and for your future employer as well. There are many ways you can identify possible keywords, and use them to your advantage:
·         Do your homework. Find out as much about your company as you can. See what kind of person they might be interested in. Some large businesses usually offer a detailed description of their company in the job posting. This will help you figure out keywords they might be looking for
·         Have more than one resume. If you are applying for multiple jobs, try and vary the words you use. If there is more than one term for the same thing, as long as it’s not too exotic, try out each of them, and see which one works better. 
·         Spruce up your resume when you resend it. If you were overlooked once, it might be a good idea to change the wording on your CV before resubmitting it.
·         Keep it simple. Automated programs have a hard time looking through overly complicated layouts. So try avoiding logos, tables, and fancy designs. They might skip over your resume just because they can’t read it. It is a useful tip when you’re submitting resumes to recruiters as well. Even the choice of font can say a lot about you when applying for a job. For online applications, it’s best if you stick to web-friendly fonts, such as Arial or Calibri. Never use Comic Sans. Ever.
·   Avoid writing important things in the header. Some of these programs can’t recognize information contained in the header or the footer, so it’s best if you just avoid it altogether.

Don’t leave anything out

 If you are filling in an online form, don’t leave any fields blank. Since you can’t really know what these programs are looking for, it’s best just to have everything covered. Some things might appear unimportant to you, but as long as you can put something down, you might as well do it. 

Stay Up to Date with the Latest Openings

Beating online recruiting systems depends on a lot of timing. If you are among the first to apply for a job, you have a better chance of getting noticed, since there are not as many candidates to look through. Most large companies have social media pages, and they will often post job openings. Make sure to follow them, and get regular updates.  

Try Avoiding the System Altogether

Online job application software is a useful tool for recruiters. However, you don’t have to use it if you can avoid it. It might be a good idea to find the contact information, such as an e-mail address or phone number, of someone working at the company. Be sure to apply online first, but after this step is completed, you can also submit your resume straight to the recruiter as well, via e-mail. You can also call if enough time has passed since you sent your CV, and ask about the status of your application. It shows you are interested in the position and are willing to put in the effort to get noticed.


Networking can also help you get a feel of what the company is all about. Knowing someone on the inside can help you adjust even before you get hired. It can also help you stay informed, and find out about the latest job openings before anyone else.
If you’re going to invest in networking, and you should, it would be a good idea to keep your social media pages up to date. Social media pages can be invaluable tools for job hunting. If you have a personal Facebook page, it might be best to set up another account, just for professional use.

Stay Within Your Qualifications

If you are applying online for a job, it’s a good idea to find something that matches your skills and previous work experience. These programs will not be able to recognize the value of individual abilities unless they are programmed to look for them. Keeping your CV update is a sound idea no matter how you are applying for a job. If you look for a job you know you are qualified for and highlight all your relevant skills, you have a better chance of having your resume getting picked by the program.  

Final Tip

Beating the system doesn’t mean cheating it. These programs are designed to filter out attempts at tricking it. If you try this and get caught, this can reflect poorly on the overall impression your employers will have you. And as long as you follow these guidelines, there really is no need to try and cheat it.

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