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In the social media age that we are in, it is still hard to believe that people need to apply for a position they are interested in. Perhaps someone is designing an intuitive chip that submits your interest on your behalf without you ever having to do anything but nod, but until then, there are only a few ways to reach employers. The same ways that we have thrown our hat in the ring for years – through a resume and an application.

And yet, in the past few weeks I have had a few people ask me if applying for a position is still… necessary. Someone mentioned that they were given advice to only carry business cards with their online resume link, to hand out to potential employers – and that if they matched a position, they would be called in for an interview. That literally made me pause. And a small caveat – I do think there is ample opportunity for changes, and I’m sure within the next few years how we express interest in a position will change. But until then… let me share some cold hard truths with you (particularly new grads or those new to the workforce):

Why Resumes and Applications are Necessary

  • Most companies, particularly large ones, are not able to even consider a candidate until they have completed an online application. These applications are critical for companies from a legal perspective, diversity initiatives, recruitment statistics, and more. But know this: you are not going to be extended an offer without first completing their online application.
  • External recruiters may take the time to go to your online resume site, but corporate in-house recruiters are not going to then seek you out. Unless you are truly outstanding – and even then, it is not very likely. Here is the difference: external recruiters or “headhunters” as they used to be called, are responsible for finding talent to fill a position. And their pay is tied to how quickly they can fill the positions they manage for the companies they consult with. So they are interested in finding YOU. However, in-house recruiters, particularly at large companies, have candidates coming to them – at very high numbers. So unless you applied and your resume came across their desk, or are a referral from a very important person within the company, or have a very niche skill set that they are desperately seeking, they simply do not have the time or need to find you.
  • If you’re not front-and-center, you are forgotten. Recruiters print out fewer resumes these days, but guess how they organize things now? Through their online applicant tracking system – the program that captures your information when you apply. So if you didn’t go through official channels, there is no (easy) way for you to be considered in the same group as the other candidates. And a business card and a resume link, is easy to misplace in the land of thousands of resumes.
  • Many recruiters are managing several different open positions (sometimes upwards of 30 and more). So when you hand them your card or send a resume link, it is virtually impossible for them to keep track of which position you expressed interest in. Especially when an online application explicitly tells them on your behalf.
  • Recruiters like consistency in presentation. It is easier for them to assess skills, backgrounds, qualifications, etc. for all candidates when the baseline is presented in the same manner. When you have 30+ positions and at least 200 people applying for each one (give or take), you have to train your brain to look for certain markers. And this only happens when everything is presented consistently. Trust me – you don’t want to be the one candidate who makes the recruiter work harder to “figure you out.”

What Do I Recommend?

Having a solid resume is critically important to be a viable candidate, so be sure that you still concentrate on the standard process. It is also a great idea to have an online resume in addition to your LinkedIn profile. But know this – if you do create an online resume, it needs to be professional looking and stay up to date. And this can trip you up if you are applying for more than one type of position, or seeking employment in various locations. There is nothing more off-putting than taking the time to link to an external resume and have it be a hot mess. And of course, leverage your LinkedIn account as often as possible.

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