Electronic Submissions

By Sharon Naylor

June 3, 2013 5 min read

When companies post their open job positions on online job boards, they often require interested candidates to apply via their online submission form, which asks for details such as salary requirements and education level. You'll upload your resume in addition to this form, and you may also be able to upload a cover letter. When your online application is complete and submitted, it and your resume are in front of the hiring managers who will consider you for the position.

Or so you hope.

Some career coaches and hiring managers have spoken out about how online job applications may not be the best way to apply for a job. Different companies have different policies with regard to online application submissions. It may be that a decision was made to hire from within the company, and the online posting is just a company policy.

Or, as is often the case, online job applications are "scanned" by reading software that looks for keywords and key phrases, applicant alma maters and other details, and the software rejects applications and resumes that it deems lacking in what the company is looking for. So if the software doesn't see the keywords it wants, you may not make the cut. And no human has ever read your application or your resume.

Online job applications can lead to great frustration. Qualified candidates who do not get a call for an in-person interview after a pitch-perfect application are often left befuddled and discouraged.

A growing number of human resources professionals and hiring managers say they will review resumes and cover letters sent directly to them, so search LinkedIn and Facebook for the names of human resources chiefs and managers, see whether you have connections in common, and ask those connections to make an introduction. Most hiring managers say this doesn't offend them. A referral of you from a colleague or friend can create a positive outcome for you both. If they connect with a top-notch candidate for the open job -- you -- that makes them look good to the company.

However, says Roy Cohen, career coach and author of "The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide," "If a job is posted anonymously, you have no choice but to respond online." He advises applicants to be sure "all of the language used to describe the job in the posting (is) 'strung together' so that a review of your resume, either by machine or human, will mirror the key qualifications and skills that are considered necessary and desirable for candidates ... to be taken seriously."

Cohen says, "If you do reach out to a hiring manager, don't expect her to make the first move. Even if your qualifications match the job description word for word, it is up to you to make the (follow-up) call. She may be busy, or your email may be one of dozens she has received. What to say? The obvious: 'I wanted to make sure that you received my resume. I heard about the opening in your department, and I took the initiative to send it to you directly.' If she responds yes, that it was, in fact, received, you can then say, 'That's great! Thank you! I look forward to next steps.' Never shoot yourself in the foot at this crucial point by extending out the conversation unnecessarily or by stalking the hiring manager or sounding awkward and uncomfortable. This should be a quick follow-up call."

Cohen says that some companies don't list the name of the hiring manager, and that you need to be wary of approaching the wrong hiring manager and losing an opportunity. There is also "the very real possibility and rare exception that a hiring manager may be (angry) at being contacted directly," says Cohen. "On the other hand, the more you do the more you are showing both the company and the hiring manager that your interest in working there is genuine. That goes a long way in distinguishing you from all of the other candidates in the pipeline."

"And if the hiring manager is upset that you have not followed protocol, what do you say?" poses Cohen. "That is simple: 'It was not my intention to offend in any way, and I apologize if I did. I was just so excited when I saw the posting, and I knew that you would receive an enormous response. I felt that this would be a way for me to stand out. I believe that my background and qualifications are perfectly matched to this position. But even more important, I want more than anything to work for this company.'"

A direct submission as your primary method or a direct contact in follow-up to an online post can help you beat the thousands of other applicants and get that all-important in-person interview.

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