Online job applications are a pain in the a$$

Looking for jobs usually begins with updating a résumé. Care is taken not only to tout job responsibilities and accomplishments but also to make the résumé visually attractive. Job seekers carefully select fonts and text sizes. They play with white space and bullets. Then when everything is just right these job seekers are forced to upload their finally honed summary of self into online job applications that promptly chew it to shreds. Line breaks disappear. Bullets become unreadable characters. Titles get cut off and dates need to be reentered. A seasoned professional gets wedged into a form more appropriate for a kid getting his first part time job.

I am currently looking for a new job. I spend as much as an hour customizing my résumé for a specific postion and composing an appropriate cover letter only to be faced with the additional busy work of cleaning up that same data after it has been crammed unceremoniously into an online job applications. The process of correcting data loaded to online job applications usually takes at least 15 minutes and for some forms has taken almost an hour.

There should be a standard for job applications. You could enter your data once into a website that would then let you a download a file of your résumé perfectly encoded to load cleanly into any online job application. Encoding formats like XML exists specifically for such a purpose. Of course standardization assumes that every company with online job applications would adopt the standard just to make life easier for applicants. That seems unlikely.

Because of the work involved with filling out online job applications my willingness to deal with an overly involved online form is directly related to my level of interest in the job. There have been several online job applications that I quit filling out because my enthusiasm for the job prospect wasn’t high enough for me to want to bother with the form. Perhaps part of the purpose of online job applications is to serve as a gauntlet to test the seriousness of the applicants.

Remember résumé paper? A résumé was so important to professional image that job applicants chose special paper with the meticulousness of Patrick Bateman designing a business card. Today’s hiring managers will never know if I view my career more as eggshell linen or ivory cotton. All they care is that I fill in the boxes marked as “required fields,” which is discouraging for those of us who feel our creativity is our greatest asset.

Online job applications remove personality from the selection process. How much do well-written cover letters and carefully designed résumés matter in a world of keywords and automated rankings? I wish I knew.

If you want to put me out of my online job application misery please hire me.

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