PORTLAND - These days, the first step in finding a job is often filling out an online application form.
But the process can seem impersonal and even frustrating.
Applications may seem to disappear into an internet black hole. One local employment expert says keywords are the key to getting past the gauntlet of the online application filtering process.
“The resumes that have the best matches rise to the top,” says Pat Kendall of Advanced Resume Concepts.
Online applications have advantages for both employers and candidates. It’s how most of the job-seekers at a recent job fair for Orchard Supply Hardware landed their interviews.
“Online gives a person the opportunity to take their time, to really look into the company,” says Julie Ober, a job hunter who applied online before attending an Orchard hiring event.
The screening benefits are a big plus for employers.
“At last count we've had 500 people (apply),” says Joe Kelley of Orchard Supply Hardware.
Online applications go back to the mid-1980s, when companies first started using applicant tracking systems.
The online process saves employers time and money, but an applicant’s information lands in an impersonal database.
Kendall, called the “Res-Lady,” has written several books about e-resumes. She says the most important filtering factor is the proper use of keywords.
“If your resume doesn't have the right keywords, it is going into the black hole.”
Kendall recommends scrutinizing the job posting for clues to the key words. She says the way to get noticed is to use the words listed by the company in the job title, functions, requirements and qualifications.
A good trick for identifying the key words for a certain type of job, is to find three different online postings for the position, and notice which key words show up the most, says Kendall.
Kendall also warns not to assume that just because you know you have a skill, that the employer will realize that.
“A lot of people when they read an ad, they think 'oh, I have that, I have that, I have that skill,' but they don't look on their resume to see if that word is used.”
Kendall says applicants need to remember that computers, unlike human application reviewers, can’t “read between the lines.” Applicants must spell out their skills to get noticed.
Another vital rule, says Kendall, is to follow directions carefully and give the company what they ask for.
“If you send in a word file or a PDF and they asked for text, for sure you're going in to the black hole of oblivion.”
KGW Reporter Joe Smith contributed to this report