One of the most common sources of frustration we hear from job seekers is about the “application black hole”, or when an applicant applies for a job but does not receive a response regarding their application. 

Job seekers often ask us, “How can I make my application stand out?” or “What can I do to improve my chances of getting an interview?”. While there’s no sure-fire way to guarantee an interview, the right tools and tricks empower applicants to work smarter, not harder, to get an improved response rate – and that coveted interview. Below, we demystify the application black hole and share our top tips to help job seekers navigate the world of online applications. 

Ensure you meet the minimum requirements listed in the job description.  

Whether you’re applying for the role via a recruiter, a company posting or a job ad, it’s important that you check to make sure you meet the minimum job requirements before applying. These can include skills, years of experience, types of experience and fields of expertise. 

Meeting minimum requirements is especially important when applications are sent through an applicant tracking system (ATS), which is a system that is programmed to scan and rank individual applications according to the keywords, years of experience, and skills a candidate has, among other qualifiers. 

In the instances where somebody is manually reviewing your resume, there’s more wiggle room. If you’ve worked for nine years in a particular field instead of the required 10 that’s listed in the job description, it’s still worth applying to that role. It’s OK to stretch – often hiring managers are interested in related experience, character and drive, but if your requisite skills are not related to what you’re applying for, then you’re going to go down the black hole. 

Consider the perspective of the recruiter or hiring manager. 

Behind the scenes, recruiters can see certain candidate insights that you may not be aware of. For instance, recruiters and hiring managers can see how many positions you’ve applied to on LinkedIn overall. If you’ve been applying to wildly different positions or appear to be blanketing the job market with applications, then you may not be taken seriously as a candidate. While it’s tempting to apply to everything and hope that something sticks, this can actually work against you. It’s far better to apply to positions that resonate or match your skill set.

Proofread your application materials. 

Typos and formatting errors are another common path to the application black hole. It seems like simple advice, but we can’t stress enough how important it is to spell-check and proofread your resumes and cover letters at least twice, or have a friend or family member proofread your materials before you hit “send”. Often, converting documents to PDF can change the formatting, so always check for conversion issues before you follow through with your application. 

We also suggest that candidates go easy on logos and design elements in their resumes. While these can be great for jobs in a creative field, design elements could result in your resume not getting past the ATS filters. 

Incorporate relevant keywords.

If you want an edge on other applicants, you should include key search terms from the job description in your resume. While this is good practice for any type of resume, it’s especially important for an ATS-based system, which matches and ranks the resume to the job description and requirements. 

It’s also best to avoid applying for jobs using a high volume of keywords (called “application blasting”). We find that many job seekers who utilize this hack don’t meet or take into account the minimum job requirements while doing so. Application blasting is ill-advised and often backfires. At the end of the day, you need to meet the ‘minimum requirements’ threshold – not the ‘throw everything into the kitchen sink’ threshold.

Fill out online forms thoroughly. 

Ah, the dreaded online form. Many candidates have told us they find this step is the most burdensome, especially when it’s seemingly replicating parts of your resume. However, these forms are important to fill out properly and thoroughly, as the recruiter, hiring manager or ATS reviews the online form first. If your forms are not filled out correctly and completely, then the job gatekeeper or ATS won’t bother looking at your actual resume, which takes it straight to the black hole. 

In summary, job seekers should follow these recruiter-approved steps to give themselves a leg up:

  • Ensure you meet the minimum requirements listed in the job description.
  • Consider the perspective of the recruiter or hiring manager. 
  • Proofread your application materials.
  • Incorporate relevant keywords.
  • Fill out online forms thoroughly.

We understand how frustrating it is to not hear back about the status of an online job application, but we’re confident the above tips will help improve your chances of success. Good luck and happy job-hunting!