Many job seekers feel applying online on a company’s career site is like throwing their resume into a black hole; it will never be seen again. Why do companies require this step?
I have found three main reasons why employers force applicants to apply online.
1) Organization and Efficiency: With the advent of the internet and online applications, the number of resumes sent to a hiring organization has skyrocketed. Receiving hundreds of applications for a single job posting is not unusual, employers need some way to organize the deluge of applications. Compounding the issue is the cutting of HR/recruiting staffs in an effort to control costs and increase profits. Online application databases such as Taleo, Brassring, or other similar technologies allow fewer recruiters to sift through more applications than their counterparts 15 years ago.
In addition, having applicants in a central database allows organizations to easily create correspondence (offer letters, rejection letters, etc.) and move individual records in
2) Filtering: A few years ago, a manager I know needed to backfill an administrative assistant position within his office because the current employee in the role had been promoted. As with most hiring managers, recruiting and hiring this person was an additional task that was assigned to him – it was not part of his daily or primary duties. When hundreds of applications came in for the position, he needed some way to filter through the applications.
Enter the applicant tracking system, or ATS (ex: Taleo and Brassring). ATS allow the hiring manager to enter in criteria to filter applications. Gone are applicants more than 30 miles from the work site (done through zip code filter), eliminate any applicant who do not have a Bachelors degree (filter the Education entries), keep applicants who have certain key words, typically technical skills, in their applications (Excel, Salesforce, Access, SEO, Bloomberg Terminal, etc.). ATS can take a pile of 1000 applications and allow the user to filter to a more manageable number, and higher overall quality, of applications to review.
3) OFCCP Compliance: The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs is housed within the Department of Labor and its stated mission is:
The purpose of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs is to enforce, for the benefit of job seekers and wage earners, the contractual promise of affirmative action and equal employment opportunity required of those who do business with the Federal government.
What does this mean to an applicant? Any company that does business with the Federal government is subject to OFCCP audits if questions arise about the company’s hiring practices. Let’s take Boeing for example: say they have a contract with the Federal government to build a new fighter for the Air Force. Officials from OFCCP can audit Boeing and inquire how John Q. Engineer was hired into Boeing. Boeing must be able to track what job John Q. Engineer was hired into, who applied for that same job, the filtering criteria used to eliminate 90% of the applicants, etc. Basically, the federal government could inquire how any Boeing employee came into the company and the company would need to prove there was no favoritism/nepotism/illegal hire-isms that led to the hiring of the individual.
The only way Boeing could possibly keep track of who applied for what job, what filtering criteria was used to narrow the field, etc. is to keep records on a central database. Again, enter the Applicant Tracking System as it houses all applicants, the filters used to arrive at the final group who received phone screens or interviews. The risks of losing a government contract are so high that employers need everyone to go through a central portal in order to ensure no one record was overlooked.
As an applicant, you may not like to hear that your resume may not be read, that is just filtered out because your application did not have the right keywords or you live 5 miles too far from the work site. The fact is that this happens, and probably more often than one would think. Still, knowing what you are up against, one can now strategize on how to counter the ATS.
Tomorrow – strategies for not allowing yourself to be at the mercy of the ATS.