Bradley University senior Jessica McNellis applied for 40 jobs online
before she found the right fit.
"For the past year I've been going through different online websites that have jobs, like CareerBuilder and LinkedIn, and have been mass applying to places in my areas of interest," the Downers Grove native said. "Then I'd go to the home pages of companies I was interested in working for and looking at their career page."
While 40 applications might seem like a lot, McNellis knew finding a job would take a lot of work. That's why the journalism major with minors in marketing and professional writing started applying last September before finding her job with a marketing consulting company out of Naperville.
"I know people that have applied for about the same number of jobs and not gotten a single response," McNellis said.
Employers cast a wide net with online job listings and digital applications.
When one company could review dozens, hundreds or even thousands of applications, getting lost in the shuffle is easy.
Job seekers must be persistent and should plan on sending out many applications, one career adviser said.
"If a student receives one or two responses out of 100 applications they're actually doing pretty well," said Stephanie Kinkaid, program coordinator at the Wackerle Career and Leadership Center at Monmouth College. "If you can devote the time and energy to applying for jobs, there are jobs out there."
Another challenge applicants face when trying to stand out is that there's no guarantee the application they spend hours completing will even be seen by a human being.
"Most of the time an actual person does not see your resume when you apply online," Kinkaid said. "(Networking) is still the most effective way to get a job."
Using his social network worked for Bradley senior Brian Sreniawski, who struck gold after applying for only three jobs online.
"When I worked with my sister (who works in the industry) she gave me advice on what kind of camp to look for," the Naperville native said. "For the most part, I let the system choose me."
One day after graduating with a degree in television arts and electronic media and a minor in religious studies, Sreniawski will head to New York to take over as program director for a summer camp.
Sreniawski applied to a system of 25 camps online. When submitting his application and interviewing, he didn't know if, or where, he would get a job offer.
In the digital age, the term "networking" has taken on a new meaning.
Sreniawski got his job offer after working in similar camps for more than five years and using Facebook to keep in touch with coworkers and former employers.
In the world of paper resumes, networking meant calling everyone in your Rolodex. Now, it's creating online profiles and reaching out in other ways.
"I tell students: ask your friends, ask your family," Kinkaid said. "Use Facebook, LinkedIn and attend job fairs because those are all ways to get an in with a company."
That means not only double checking the spelling on your cover letter, but making sure photos and posts online won't send a red flag to potential employers.
"I would recommend that applicants clean up their social media profiles," Kinkaid said.
The key, career counselors say, is word choice when submitting a digital application.
Many employers use a computerized tracking system that sorts resumes by looking for key words and phrases.
Read the job posting carefully, Kinkaid advises, and look for those important qualities an employer might be seeking.
"If the posting specifically mentions marketing analysis, and if you've really done that, use those specific words to describe those accomplishments," Kinkaid said. "You're describing your own responsibilities from a job that you have. Those are ways for your resume to be picked up by a tracking system."
Finding those key words might be more difficult than scanning a job listing. Market research such as reading listings for similar jobs and researching the company can provide more insight than a paragraph posted on a website.
"If you can, get a full job description and what that's going to entail, and addressing each of those needs in your application," said David Vaughn, business services leader at Workforce Network in Peoria. "That's very time consuming because you're tailoring your resume to every job you're applying for."
While time consuming, that market research can pay off big time when your application turns up on top of a mountainous pile of resumes.
"They're going to be much more interested in your application, your resume," Vaughn said. "Digging deeper beyond what's maybe in just a short advertisement can put you head and shoulders above the rest."
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