This blog post is the third of a 5-part series titled “Everything You Need to Know Before you Enter the Job Market.”  Our career expert, Sadie Guzman, will explore the job search process from start to finish to make sure you are fully prepared to land your next career opportunity. Haven’t read the first blog yet? You may find it here.

How to Make Sure Your Job Application is Seen


Last month in this blog series, we covered where to find jobs.  Let’s now dive into one of the most important parts of the job hunt, actually applying and making sure that your resume is seen!  This can also be a frustrating issue for job seekers as we often receive rejection emails, never hear back from the company, or just feel like we are submitting our application into a black hole.  With the strategies below, you will gain insight into the hiring process and be able to ensure that your application has a better chance of being seen by a recruiter!  

Applicant Tracking Systems

Let’s start with a little information about the application process so you as a candidate can understand what is going on in the back end.  One of the biggest changes in the job search market is the use of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).  Applicant Tracking Systems are used by most companies today, large and small, to screen and process candidates’ applications, resumes, and cover letters.  It is software that narrows down candidates quicker to find those that are most qualified.  ATS scans for keywords and experiences (such as job titles, companies, etc.) and gives candidates a ranking based on how their documents align with the job description.  Basically, your application will go through this system before it is seen by the recruiter.  If you don’t get past the system, it could be because you answered a “knockout question” unsatisfactorily, or your documents weren’t aligned with what the recruiter ranked highly in the system based on the job description.  

Tailor Your Resume and Cover Letter

To get through the ATS, tailoring your documents is key! Tailoring means that you change and adjust your resume and cover letter each time based on the requirements and keywords in the job description. Tailoring is not just adjusting one or two words, but it is looking at your resume holistically to align yourself to the role. This could be the way that you organize your information, the words that you use, or even removing information that is not crucial to the position. A way to demonstrate if you are tailoring is to go through the job description and highlight the key skills and phrases. Then put that same language into your documents, if you have the experience, of course!

Ask yourself these questions before you submit your next application- 

  • Does my resume showcase what role I am pursuing? 
  • Did I organize my resume based on what is most relevant to the job?  
  • Did I remove irrelevant information? 
  • Am I using the same keywords and phrases from the job description, mirroring the same language? 
  • Am I following standard ATS formatting guidelines? 

A tool I highly recommend to help with tailoring is Jobscan!  With Jobscan, you can upload your resume and cover letter and get a score based on how aligned you are to the job description and how you would stand up against the ATS.  Then Jobscan will provide some recommendations to improve your documents.  You could also have industry professionals review your documents and provide feedback based on their knowledge of the role and industry. 

Connect with People in the Company

Speaking of people who work in roles you are seeking, they are going to be very important to your search process!  These are the people you should be networking with also to ensure your application is seen.  Networking is very important to the job search process in the United States, and it is estimated that about 85% of positions are obtained through networking.  Do a quick LinkedIn search, and you can find hundreds of posts from members discussing how they obtained their jobs through networking. You should aim to make networking the focus of your search.  Let’s say you see a role at a company that you want to apply for.  I recommend that you start connecting with people you know who already work there or find individuals who work there from LinkedIn.  Send them a connection message indicating who you are, why you are reaching out, and ask to chat with them to learn about the company and the role.  


Another great strategy is to connect with recruiters.  These days, recruiters are very active on LinkedIn, and most are willing to chat with candidates if they have the time.  Recruiters want to find the best people for the job and want to make the hiring process easier.  Try reaching out to recruiters who work at the company you are applying to and ask to speak with them about the role.  Networking with recruiters and other industry professionals can often lead to getting an interview for a position without even applying, getting you through the process quicker!  

Obtain Referrals 

A part of networking is obtaining referrals, and employee referral systems can give you a leg up in the job search process.  A referral is essentially someone in the company recommending you as a good candidate, giving you an inside path.  This process can work differently for each company.  It could be that your colleague passes your name along to the hiring manager or that you list your colleague’s name on the application.  We all want to work with people we know and trust, and this process increases the chances that the company will hire a better candidate and saves the company time and money in the long run.  This process is not only to your benefit, but the recruiter’s as well.  


If you know someone who works in the company you are applying for, ask them to refer you for the role!  If you don’t know someone, start building connections with industry professionals and this could lead to an eventual referral.   

Update and Align your LinkedIn Profile 

Finally, when you apply to a company, you should expect that the recruiter or hiring manager will look at your online presence, especially your LinkedIn profile.  You will want to make sure that your LinkedIn profile is not only up to date, but that it aligns with the documents you submitted in your applications.  Look at your candidacy holistically and make sure that your career plans and experiences are clear and consistent for recruiters.  Your profile shouldn’t say you are seeking a different role or have outdated information.  Overall, you just want to make things easy to understand for recruiters and give them information that makes them want to connect with you further in an interview! 


With these strategies, you will become more confident as you apply knowing that you put your best application forward.  In the next blog post, we will explore how to nail your interview! 

Sadie Guzman has over 7 years of experience in the career services field, supporting job seekers to achieve their career goals.  She is passionate about hiring trends, recruiting best practices, and demystifying job search myths, and considers herself an advocate for those seeking employment. She currently serves as the Associate Director for MIS Career Management in the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona, where she advises graduate students on all aspects of career development and connects employers, alumni, and students.  In her free time, Sadie loves traveling, spending time with her husband and Pomeranian, and playing in an adult kickball league!

Connect with Sadie on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sadieguzman/

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