The Resume Black Hole: Online Applications from a Job Seeker’s Perspective

by Ryan Kohler

Automated applications, with their drop-down menus and seemingly endless empty fields, are all-too-familiar to today’s job seeker. While they may be a boon to employers, who use them to store and organize applicants’ information in a ready-made database, they can be frustrating to the applicants themselves. For the very same reasons employers find online applications appealing-time and ease-many job seekers find them to be a hassle.

While online applications usually generate an automated response to acknowledge receipt, a recent survey by Seven Step RPO, a recruiting services provider, revealed that applicants frequently receive no response upon submitting their resumes and cover letters. Hence the nickname for these automated applications: the “resume black hole.” Although employers don’t like to acknowledge this disservice to potential candidates, the recent survey showed that more than 2,500 job seekers of all skill levels indicated they never heard from companies after submitting an application-and that this “black hole” effect has led them to avoid other online applications. More specifically, here are three features that frustrate job seekers about the automated application process.

1. Applicants receive no response or an automated form letter.

A whopping 25 percent of survey respondents said that they received no acknowledgment from the potential employer that their last online application was even received. (This 25 percent was predominantly made up of senior citizens and millenials, who, arguably and respectively, have less technology savvy and suitable professional experience to fill the available position.) More often than not, even when they do hear back, the only response applicants ever receive is an automatically generated template. For this reason, nearly 50 percent of survey respondents stated that they prefer to seek out a human resources contact via the employers’ website and send a cover letter and resume directly to that contact person, rather than using an online application.

2. Online applications are lengthy and tedious.

Job hunters are busy people because they know that finding a new job can often be a numbers game: the more jobs they apply for, the higher their chances of getting one. Spending hours on a single online application does not fit into this equation, especially when most of the information requested is already listed in detail on their resume. In the Seven Step survey, about 30 percent of respondents said they don’t want to spend more than fifteen minutes filling out an online application.

3. Employers don’t use their online applications wisely to build a talent-pool database.

Obviously, with the vast number of applicants competing over the small number of positions, every job seeker won’t hear back about every job. But, if employers made better use of the databases their online applications automatically generate, they would take the time to engage with candidates who may not be exactly suited to one position but ideal for another one that’s bound to open up in the future. By networking to foster these talent communities, employers can avoid wasting time and energy in the future.


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