Online Applications and Keywords

With the rise of online applications, and huge volumes of them to deal with, a system called the Application Tracking System or Candidate Tracking System has been becoming widely used.

This is a screening system, as well as a document tracker and audit of applications.

It can contain job ads, resume tracking systems, and, naturally, applicant tracking. It also automatically creates interview requests for applicants. In effect it's an online and in-house search engine, and a database, and extracts information from applications for processing.

That's why the system is so widely used. It's much more efficient than handling large amounts of data manually.

It reads your application, looking for keywords. These keywords are usually contained in the body of the job advertisement, and are very important for your application to survive the screening process.

Keywords are words used to identify documents and web pages for searches. It's quite natural that keywords are the basis of screening processes. The employer decides which words are most appropriate for a CV and application for a job.

There are online sources for 'employment keywords'. It's worth doing a search, because there are literally millions of entries under that search.

However, every job application and every employer is different.

Don't do your application on auto pilot.

Even with all this information, this is only the start. You have to use the right keywords, while providing all the information required.

If one person has 100% match on keywords and another has 60%, it's no surprise who gets the interview, and probably the job.

This is an actual comparison between applicants, so it is competitive.

The employer may have decided to screen out all applications which are less than 95% in screening. If there are a lot of applicants, the number will be high.

You need to consciously check both your application and the job ad for a good match for keywords.

If you're a payroll accountant, the keywords would be:

Accounts, accountancy, payroll, wages, salaries, MYOB, bank reconciliation, payroll tax, deductions, reports.

As you can see, all highly relevant to the job. This is a simple way of finding the important information. Applications containing all keywords will pass through for direct consideration.

Keywords are a particularly useful method of keeping track of what information you're giving an employer.

Look at the ad.

What are the most obvious keywords? (Every job has a basic description and the keywords are usually nouns)

Does your application contain all of them?

How about your CV? How often do the keywords occur?

If you see in a job ad a particular expression, like 'relationships' or 'team building' these are standard terminology in the HR profession and can be expected to be keywords. These are common denominator words, occurring across a range of jobs and professions.

In your own career work, have a look at a few ads, and see how many common elements there are in them.

Because the ATS is a standardized method, you can be pretty sure that these ads are at least partly generic, and their content contains common keywords.

Then look at the individual characteristics of the particular job.

What stands out?

This is a practical system, and has to function using a machine's reading abilities.

Remember, a human being might know what you mean, but a machine won't.

You don't have to use the words 'accounts' in the case above a million times. It does need to be there, though, and a few mentions would be normal.

Electronic Forms

Some applications are also on electronic forms, which is a simpler method of standardizing basic information.

The same basic principles apply, although it should be understood it's not the same system.

Electronic forms are designed to work on a database. They extract standardized data. They can be read by something like the ATS, but can also receive manual scrutiny in smaller firms, or simply be printed out as hard copy. They're a bit simpler, but they have their own way of doing the same job.

You should consider forms to be electronically screened, and treat them in the same way. Screening methods vary, but the basic concept of keywords and addressing specific requirements is pretty much the same.

Remember, with any application, in any format:

Content counts.

Always make sure your application contains the information required.

On a form, you're pretty much restricted to what the form allows. Writing cover letters online can be frustrating, and some don't look too good. Sometimes there's a character limit.

Generally it's better to attach your own cover letter. Most have attachment facilities, and you can easily attach your cover letter and your CV.

Make sure you're providing them in an easy to read, standard format, like Microsoft Word. If the attachment won't open, it's back to square one, and you've wasted a lot of your own time.

Don't be put off by the technology.

It can help you.

If you find, using these methods, that you're getting more interviews, you're doing it right. Just keep working on it. If not, you know there's more you need to do. Get feedback, advice, any insights you can, from employers.

Like any computer system, it's really a matter of knowing how it works.