There isn’t any room for guesswork in applying for jobs online. It’s really simple. Follow the instructions in the job posting. Companies think less (or will ignore) applicants who don’t follow the instructions. If the listing says send a cover letter, write one. If the listing says apply online at CareerBuilder, do so. When the help wanted ad says send a PDF, don’t send a Word document.
Directly at their company web site.
By email, to a general human resources email box or to an individual.
From a job site (you will have uploaded your resume to the site).
Follow the instructions in the job posting. Keep track, as I said, of where you applied, so you can manage your job search.
When companies want you to apply for jobs at the company web site, you may probably need to complete an online application rather than submitting your resume. That’s because the company is using a hiring system that tracks applicants from the time they apply to the time they get hired.
The easiest way to complete these applications is to copy and paste the information from your resume into the application. If there’s an option to upload your cover letter, write a letter, then paste it into the box provided.
Following up when you have applied for a job online can be tricky. Many companies don’t list a contact person because they don’t want to be bombarded with phone calls and emails. They want to follow up with those candidates they are interested in and not have to deal with the rest of them.
There is a school of thought that believes you should track down a contact person (hiring manager, supervisor, etc.) and follow up on your application, regardless of what’s listed in the help wanted ad. I don’t think that makes sense. It’s better to be respectful of the employer’s wishes and if the ad says no calls, don’t call. Rather, follow up with an email a week or so after you’ve submitted your materials to check on the status of your application.
Follow Up Timing
When you follow up by email, send a message a week or two after you applied. Unless the message bounced, and if it did you’ll get a copy in your email In Box, presume the recruiter or hiring manager got it. Don’t bombard them with email messages.
If you follow up with a phone call, try and call early in the morning. People are more likely to pick up their phone before they are caught up in a busy workload. Again, call a week or so after you applied.
When You Don’t Hear Back
Unfortunately, many employers are really bad at following up. I know people who have sent hundreds of resumes and only received a few replies. If you don’t hear back soon after applying, follow up, and if you still don’t get a response, forget it.
The trend is for companies to follow up only with candidates they are interested in. In the past, you’d get a letter or a postcard saying the job was filled. Now, you’re lucky if you get an email. Part of the reason is that with the changeover to online recruiting, there are many more applications than are manageable for every job opening.
If you have a connection at the company, ask him or her if they can check on the status of your resume. They may also be able to give it a closer look and get you into contention for the job.
Don’t feel badly if you don’t get a response, even though it is annoying when you put a lot of work into your cover letter and you think the job is perfect for you. Your idea of perfect may not come close to the employer’s vision of the perfect employee. This is the nature of the job search business, right or wrong, that’s how it works.
Don’t Stop and Don’t Wait
There is a danger when you’ve sent a couple of resumes, when the interviews start trickling in, and when it looks like you might get an offer, to stop and wait to see what happens. What’s dangerous is that you don’t know for certain that you’ve got a job until you have a definitive offer.
One job seeker I worked with did a really good job of juggling multiple potential jobs. She scheduled first and second interviews, delayed some when she thought she was close to getting an offer on another, and overall, she did all the right things. Then she thought she had a offer from a company, so she declined further interviews with the others and stopped sending her resume.
What she had wasn’t an offer. It was a vague e-mail saying we are interested in hiring you. There was no salary mentioned, no benefits listed, nothing definitive that she should have construed as an offer that met her requirements. It took her two weeks to get an actual dollar and cents offer from the hiring manager. It wasn’t even close to what she had expected to get and wasn’t a salary she would accept under any circumstances.
The moral of the story is to keep plugging away; look for jobs, apply for jobs, interview, until you have the right (salary, benefits, perks, hours) written offer from a company that you want to work for. That’s when you can consider yourself hired.