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Online applications perplexing

Dear Joan:

I have started looking for a job after being out of my field for three years (my choice). I worked previously as an IT Manager, and Iím looking for a job in the IT field, although not necessarily in management. When I apply for jobs, Iíve seen many companies now require applicants to fill out an online application via their website, as well as uploading a resume.

Iíve been in my field for fifteen years, and there is no way I can condense the information on my resume into a short paragraph suitable for these online applications. When the online version asks for a description of my prior jobs, I will cut and paste details from my resume, if there is space. If there isnít, I summarize my job in one sentence and say my resume contains more details. Is this sufficient, or must I attempt to condense all my work experience into a paragraph that will fit into the space allotted?

Also, I ran across one company that I really want to work for, that requested that I provide two references from prior jobs on their online application. I was taught not give out references until I am sure I want that job. Also, I always contact my references and tell them every time I give out their name, which I certainly didnít want to do at this point in my job search.

In lieu of providing names, I filled out the field with ďreferences provided after interview.Ē Was this okay to do? I didnít end up getting called for an interview, and Iím wondering if it was because I refused to provide references up front? Is it assumed that a company wonít contact references before interviewing an applicant?

Not sure if it matters, but the company I was hoping to interview with deals largely with manufacturing jobs, even though the job I was applying for was in IT. Is asking for references up front more common when looking for a blue collar position? I would like to apply with this company again for another position, and I donít want to jeopardize my chances by handling this online application wrong.

Answer:

There are many people looking for jobs in this new environment of electronic applications. And if you havenít been on the hunt for a job in a while, it can seem like a rigid barrier you canít cross. To get an up-to-date answer to your question, I contacted an experienced professional who has been on both sides of the recruiting desk. Jill Zoromski has held senior positions with staffing agencies, run recruiting and talent management for corporations, and is now Vice President, Human Resources and Search Practice, Vx Group, where she finds talent for corporate clients.

Here are her thoughts:

ďYour resume and job application actually fill two different purposes, which is why most companies ask you supply both at some point. The most important reason for the online application is to capture your permission to complete a background check prior to an offer, or as a condition of the offer. (You'll see that in the final paragraph on most applications.) Collecting the information up front helps the recruiter to send out the background check as soon as the hiring decision is made, which reduces the wait period. Therefore, it's typically acceptable to cut and paste from your resume or abbreviate when necessary. Just make sure there isn't conflicting information on the two documents.

Regarding the request for two references, I believe that also is being requested up front to eliminate a call later on. Perhaps instead of not providing names, you could indicate you'd like to notify your references prior to any contact. In any case, most recruiters do not conduct reference checks until the very end of the process, so it's highly unlikely that supplying the information up front would lead to surprises.

Lastly, it's tough out there. Anything you can to do "warm up" that online application through networking or an employee referral will help you in your job search.Ē

To Zoromskiís last point, I canít emphasize enough the power of networking. It is still the most important thing you can do to get your next position. Besides the tried and true phone call/lunch meeting/professional organization route, sign up for LinkedIn and then get actively involved in building your connections. It is one of the sites recruiters are mining to find available candidates.

Join some of the LinkedIn group discussions in your field. You will be able to identify other like-minded professionals you can connect to. The site is a major hub of job hunting information and contacts. To reach out to other people on LinkedIn, use the same approach you would use to make a connection in real life. For example, donít just start asking people for information, a link, or a job. Rather, look at their profile to find things in common, or to see what they do, or what theyíve accomplished. Itís always better to start with, ďI saw your profile on LinkedIn and I noticed that (we have a similar career history; worked for the same company in the past; went to the same school; belong to the X group on LinkedIn, etc.Ē)

Applications and resumes serve the same purpose they always have: to screen for potential candidates to interview. As in decades past, itís ďwho you know and who knows youĒ that usually opens the door.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, customized training (leadership skills, presentation skills, internal consulting skills & facilitation skills), team conflict resolution and retreat facilitation.

Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (800) 348-1944, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com

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