Online Job Applications: What’s the Point?

Navigating the Online Job Application Process

Why do you have to fill out online job applications? Shouldn’t your resume be enough? Why not just send a link to your LinkedIn profile? Companies should just Google you and make a hiring decision, right? Not quite. Well, at least not yet for most employers.

Online employment applications have been called “black holes” by some and there is much advice on how to avoid them. At the end of the day — for better or worse — many employers still require that you complete theirs.

So, what’s the point?

By filling out the application, you become a bona fide job applicant and can be considered for current job openings. Many companies use online applications that are linked to back-end applicant tracking systems (ATS). These systems are in place for a few reasons. For example, they:

  1. Become a searchable database of interested job seekers.
  2. Help recruiters store and manage candidate information.
  3. Allow hiring teams to send candidate communications.
  4. Give recruiters and HR leaders access to important hiring data.
  5. Help companies ensure compliance with federal regulations.


Some online job applications may take five minutes to complete, while others could take up to half an hour or more. Some might allow you to upload a resume which then pre-fills fields (called “parsing”). Some might allow you to login in with a social media account. Others may include screening questions in addition to the application fields. Regardless, give yourself plenty of time to thoughtfully complete your applications. Filling out several applications during your lunch break may be wishful thinking.


I’ve seen some job seekers complain about having to fill out job applications during chats. Some have even admitted to not applying at all because they thought the application was too long. While I can absolutely understand the desire for a quick and easy apply method …

I can’t help but wonder … 

If you’re unemployed or otherwise in the job search, and you’ve found a great job with a company that you want to work for, why would you not fill out the application? Those 30 minutes could change your entire future and put you on a path toward career success! It’s not like we’re living in the 1980s and 90s when you first had to drive to a place of employment, pick up and then fill out a paper application.

While filling out applications may seem archaic, inconvenient and a complete waste of time, there are actually good reasons for their existence. My advice is to be thorough when completing online job applications; don’t leave blank fields or enter “see resume.”  Often times, it’s the information within your application that an HR representative uses to determine whether you meet the job requirements. The information that you enter is all a recruiter may have to go on when deciding whether or not to call you.

A job – a career – is a pretty big deal.

Filling out an application may just be time well spent.


How much time do you spend filling out applications?

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Shannon Smedstad

Shannon Smedstad has nearly 20 years of recruitment, employer branding, and communications experience. Currently, she serves as the Principal Employer Brand Strategist at exaqueo. Previously, she held employer branding and recruiting leadership roles at CEB and GEICO. She’s a work at home mom raising two awesome girls who also enjoys reading, running, leading a Girl Scout troop, and her morning coffee. You can connect with Shannon on LinkedIn and Twitter.


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