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Job Search Woes: Online Application Edition
July 23, 2014 2:04 PM   Subscribe

I am just a couple weeks from receiving my bachelor's degree, and thanks to my college career counselor I feel like I now know what I'm doing when it comes to resumes, cover letters, and the interview process. I'm applying for an administrative/HR position, and the company's online application has be concerned that I don't look like as good a candidate. Should I mail the resume/cover letter in, or deliver it personally, and ignore the online app?

The bits that have made me pause so far: There is no place to insert a cover letter; only a resume (okay, I thought, I'll just combine them into a single two-page file). They then wanted to know my address (something I have not wanted to include on my resumes because I don't want to be turned down due to needing to relocate). Also, they asked about travel and offered a dropdown menu, wherein my actual answer (I'm open to travel, but it isn't necessary) is not one of the options or close to one of the offered options. Now, I've reached a page that is asking me to click one option on a bulleted list of salary requirements - I don't want to talk salary until I've got an offer, first of all, and secondly the range I think is reasonable is right between two of their options, meaning I may be either undervaluing myself or pricing myself out. Finally, the ad states they want administrative experience, which I have plenty of, but the application asks for HR-specific experience, which I do not have - but I am confident my experience carries over perfectly well. I don't want to answer "none," but I also don't want to lie. There don't seem to be many good options here.

As I feel it likely that these sorts of problems will come up again if/when I fill out another similar form, I figured I'd get the opinion of some others who have been doing this longer than I have. Should I go ahead and fill out the application as-is, and hope for the best? Or turn in my high-quality resume and cover letter directly to the office, and only fill out the online app if I'm specifically told to do so?

Thanks in advance!
posted by Urban Winter to Work & Money (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Unfortunately a lot of the online forms SUCK. Especially large companies with bureaucratic HR (Taleo is one of the worst systems I've seen as an applicant, and I've heard the back-end is no picnic either).

Unfortunately you need to just try to work within the parameters of the form. Answer as best as you can. They don't want you mailing or hand-delivering your application. Things have changed a lot in the past few years with electronic applications.

The *only* way you can get around online apps is if you have a direct contact to the hiring manager and you can email your resume and CL to them directly. This only works if you know them or know someone who knows them (LinkedIn can help). Often you'll also have to apply online to get yourself in the system, but getting your app in front of a hiring manager can bump you to the top and also help you present yourself more accurately.

Try not to get too hung up on one application, you'll just pull your hair out. There are fortunately some companies using less ridiculous systems, and many of them just ask you to email your resume and CL. (BTW in that case, it's convention to put your cover letter in the body of the email and attach your resume as a PDF.)

I've learned a lot about applying, resumes, cover letters, new norms, etc at Ask a Manager, I highly recommend it!
posted by radioamy at 2:25 PM on July 23 [5 favorites]


Okay, here's the thing.

Cover letter, not really a thing. If there's place to add one, great, if there's not, they aren't going to read it anyway.

As for travel, they're not asking how much you WANT, they're asking how much you'd be okay with DOING! So 100% is a the best answer.

You HAVE to do the on-line application, that's how you'll be screened. If you mail something to them, it will be shredded without being reviewed, unless it's a really small company, or you're sending it to someone who can hand it to the hiring manager.

As for salary, go to Glassdoor and review what their ranges say for that position, location and company. Use that as a guide.

If they're asking for HR experience, they MEAN it. If you don't have it, put none, and be prepared to be moved over to the side, because there WILL be people who have it, who they will want to hire.

Now, if you have HR Admin experience from an internship or volunteer work, put it on your resume and then tick the box.

The best place to apply for jobs is through Linked In. It just IS. So put a profile up, get a professional picture to add to your profile and put your resume in your profile (job by job, task by task, achievement by achievement.) If you want, me-mail me and I'll Link with your.

As for address, just put in whatever, they'll ask you if you'll relocate and you can discuss it at that time.

Places have these on-line forms because they work for them. You may have a better chance at a small organization, where you can submit via email with your cover letter, and where the pay is worse so they can take a chance and train you.

Another option is to work for an HR company, like Paychex or Kronos or something like that. Then you'll get the HR experience via osmosis, rather than working in an HR department.

In the meantime, find out what the software used in HR and LEARN it. That way you can put it on your resume.

Good luck, it's a bit trial and error. I was laid off last week. I have 88 applications out there right now. I'm getting called left right and center, but you really have to apply all over the place to get that kind of response.

Also, there are USAjobs, paid internships that may prove valuable. Working for the feds is a GREAT gig an you can learn a LOT.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:29 PM on July 23 [7 favorites]


Should I go ahead and fill out the application as-is, and hope for the best? Or turn in my high-quality resume and cover letter directly to the office, and only fill out the online app if I'm specifically told to do so?
Yes, you need to fill out the online application. Most businesses have an applicant management system and you won't be considered if you're not in it. If you know someone at the business, it'd be great to also have your friend email the resume to the hiring manager - but you need to additionally fill out the online app.

Or deliver it personally, and ignore the online app?
Never, ever do this unless you're applying at a restaurant or service-level job

There is no place to insert a cover letter.
Some companies don't want a cover letter. You can include it beneath your resume in your attached doc, if you think it will help you, but start with your resume, because that's what they've indicated that they want to see.

They then wanted to know my address.
Every single job you ever apply for will ask you for this. You can't really opt-out. If you do know someone in that location, you could ask if you could borrow their address for the application. But keep in mind that they may call you and expect you to be able to interview very quickly - which may be trickier if you live far away, but they think you live in town.

They asked about travel and offered a dropdown menu, wherein my actual answer (I'm open to travel, but it isn't necessary) is not one of the options.

You're over-thinking this - this is something that can be discussed in more detail down the line. Look at the job posting. Does it require travel? If so, select the answer that most closely matches the job posting. If not, it doesn't matter. Nuanced answers are for interviews, not drop-down menus.

A page that is asking me to click one option on a bulleted list of salary requirements...
Again, you likely won't be held to the exact amount you select in the drop-down. If you can not select an answer and still proceed to the next page, do that. If you have to select one, I'd lean towards the lower one since you're coming right out of school, but you can always state your actual salary expectations later.

Finally, the ad states they want administrative experience, which I have plenty of, but the application asks for HR-specific experience, which I do not have - but I am confident my experience carries over perfectly well. I don't want to answer "none," but I also don't want to lie.
Again, you have to do the best you can. It may be that the ad isn't accurate and they actually want someone with HR experience. It may be that the online system is incorrect and they just want admin experience. Either way, answer honestly and add information as needed. Keep in mind that even if the job doesn't require HR experience, anyone with HR experience will likely get an interview before you do. Sorry to be a downer, but when you're in this starting-off stage it's important to apply for lots of jobs, focus on networking as much as humanly possible, and not get too invested in any one job.

*For reference, I used to work in recruiting.
posted by leitmotif at 2:29 PM on July 23 [4 favorites]


I would just fill out the online application assuming you don't know anyone at the company. It's a big enough company to have an online system so they will get applications electronically and probably forward your app via email to the hiring manager if they are interested. They aren't going to take the time to scan it.

Put your address and in your cover letter reference your desire to relocate to the area without expectation of relocation expenses if that is the case.

For travel, are the values percentages? They probably want to know how much you are WILLING to travel. So pick something you would be willing to do. If you select 20% and there is actually no travel involved in the position, it won't knock you out.

For salary, what they are looking for is to see if you want something substantially more than they are willing to pay for the position so if it's a required field, select something. In my experience, it was required because anyone wanting more than the range was not considered. It wasn't worth interviewing them only to find out we couldn't meet salary expectations.

For the experience, don't lie because they will be able to see the lack of it on the resume or in a phone interview. BUT think long and hard about if you have any thing that might be construed as HR experience. For example, if asked, I have 5 years of financial services experience. I worked in IT and not the business so no it's not like I could advise someone on their retirement investments but I worked at a financial services company.

Those are my suggestions from working in a position of doing a lot of hiring and working with HR on those at a Fortune 100 company. We wouldn't even consider an applicant until they filled out the online form.
posted by polkadot at 2:33 PM on July 23


Oops Misread
posted by polkadot at 2:34 PM on July 23


AT&T has Development Programs where they take you in and train you in specific areas, check those out. Your address won't matter because you'll be training for a few months, then you'll be assigned to a particular area.

Human Resources Leadership Development

Other large companies have similar programs so google them. Also, what about campus recruiting?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:39 PM on July 23 [1 favorite]


In this case it definitely sounds like you need to go through the online application, and you've gotten some really good advice here. However, for future reference (and others' benefit) I'd like to gently disagree with the blanket statement that you won't be considered if you don't fill out the application. I have several times got interviews (and offers) at companies with these horrible online application forms, and I have literally never in my life filled one out. Not once. The trick is, I have always either known someone in the company who could refer me, or I made contact with a recruiter via LinkedIn and had a conversation about the opportunity. I'm sure that there are companies which will still force you to do the application then, but it haven't encountered one (and many of them have been big companies you've definitely heard of).
posted by primethyme at 6:03 PM on July 23


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