Job Application Lifespan: Observations from the Job Hunt

resume-cartoonFor several months I have been trying to get out of the freelancing business and into a more permanent position within the publishing, marketing, or public relations industries. Since I send out so many applications, I meticulously keep track of when I send out my applications and when I receive the responses. Today I made a rather interesting discovery.

Positive Responses = nearly all of the employers who wanted to start the interview process with me responded within 1-10 days of when I sent the initial application.

Negative Responses = of the few employers who even bothered to send rejection letters, most of those letters did not arrive until 2+ months after I had submitted my initial application.

So what could this discovery mean for job hunters like you and me?

First of all, realize that I have only submitted online form-based and direct email applications. I have not submitted any snail-mail or in-person applications, so I don’t have any data for those pretty much antiquated forms of finding a job.

With the online applications, it is possible that some of my resumes are getting noticed within 1-10 days simply because I’m including information that the recruiting software is specifically looking to find.

Right here you might be wondering what kind of software I’m talking about, especially if it’s something that is standing between you and your next job.

Recruiting software programs, also known an applicant tracking systems (ATS), allow hiring managers to use technology to make the hiring process simpler. In layman’s terms, instead of taking countless hours to review every single applicant’s resume and information, a software program scans through all the data and determines the best candidates based on certain information plugged-in by the user (hiring manager). Of course, that means that the first few rounds of resume review may never be done by an actual person.

For more info on recruiting software, read this interesting article on Software Advice.

As I was saying, since I try to apply to positions for which I am fully qualified, I might be meeting all of the hiring manager’s basic criteria, which is why the software places me in the queue for immediate action.

Not all employers use recruiting software, and some still prefer to go old-school with the classic 6-second resume scan. However, more often than not, the bulk of hiring managers are moving toward using ATSs just to handle the sheer volume of applicants. Plus, the software acts as a pretty good buffer system, as it can kick out the posers right away.

Since the technology can scan through your information faster than you can blink, it is not surprising that HR managers are connecting with candidates in a mere matter of days.

While the change in technology may explain why I’m receiving positive responses so quickly, I couldn’t help but wonder if my data and my experiences represented a unique anomaly that may not hold true to other jobseekers. After all, I’m a trained writer who knows how to create near perfect resumes and cover letters. Compared to other job hunters, I do have a bit of an edge that could make my experiences drastically different. So, I decided to do a little digging.

According to Vivian Giang’s article, “When You Should Expect to Hear Back after Applying for a Job,” her research indicated that the majority of employers will respond to candidates who submit applications during the first few days after the original job advertisement has been posted. After those first few days, according to Giang’s data, employers become significantly less responsive. Her research suggests that the drop in employer responses after those first few days could be the result of many factors, such as workload size or lack of availability to deal with recruitment. Employers still responded to candidates after these initial first days, but the responses were erratic, as if the employer was like, “Oh yeah! I posted a job advertisement last week. I better see who’s responded.”

Christian Fisher’s article, “How Long Does it Take to Hear Back about a Job Application?”, points out how different types of employers can also affect the length of time  it may take hiring managers to respond to applicants. For instance, the larger the company, the larger the amount of applications received, which means bigger corporations are more likely to use recruitment software just to manage the hundreds of applications they receive every day. As another example, government organizations also use recruitment software, but since most of their hiring decisions are made by committees and often require significant background checks, it may take months before applicants hear back from these potential employers.

Therefore, based on my own experiences and my research, I would say that the lifespan of each job application is dependent upon any or all of the following factors:

  • Your ability to please the recruitment software
  • When the job was first posted
  • Type of employer

Due to the preference and dependence upon technology, in most cases the lifespan of each of your job applications will be short-lived. It’s unfortunate, but true.

To increase the lifespan of your applications, and potentially boost your chances of getting positive responses that could lead to job offers, keep the following two tips in mind:

#1 Check the Posting Date

calendarAn online job advertisement that is older than 3-5 days probably won’t be worth your time. If the information from Giang’s article is accurate, hiring managers get really hyper the first couple of days after they post the job, but then they either become overwhelmed with the amount of applications or distracted with other projects.

Unless you’re applying to a position that mentions a first review date, which is very common with government jobs, any application you send in to these older job postings will probably not get reviewed.  Why waste your time by sending in a virtually dead application anyway?

#2 Keep an Eye on Those Keywords

icon-seoIf you read enough job postings, you start to notice a trend of certain words being repeated. Those words are the keywords most associated with any particular position. You want to try to include those words in your cover letters and resumes.

Why do you want to do this?

First of all, remember that computer software will be scanning your information first. The words the program is looking for are the same words the hiring manager has plugged in, and, in most cases, those words have been copied and pasted directly from the original job advertisement. Furthermore, from a psychological point of view, before hiring managers review resumes, they generally read the job advertisement to refresh their memories. If you include similar verbiage in your resume and cover letter, hiring managers will be more likely to see you as a match to what the company wants.


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