Why Online Job Applications Fail: Top 5 Reasons (Update)

Ronda Suder, Resume Writer

8 min read

Thinking man looking at dual monitor set up.

Are you currently in the market for a new job and still trying to figure out the best way to facilitate your job search? If you’re like many job seekers these days, you’re probably planning to use the internet to your advantage.

So, is applying for jobs online a waste of time? Well, it’s complicated.

In this post, we cover:

Expert Tip

If you limit yourself to just applying for jobs online, you could be wasting your time. To maximize your chances of getting that dream job, focus on more productive job-seeking strategies.

Why Applying for Jobs Is a Waste of Time

It's true that some people do find employment by applying for jobs online. For most people, though, it’s a hit-or-miss proposition. In fact, you can typically find a job faster using other, more traditional job search options. That’s not to suggest that online applications shouldn’t be a part of your strategy; they just shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all of that plan.

Let’s examine five of the main reasons why applying for jobs is a waste of time, followed by a look at four tips that can help you to find a job faster.

1. It's time consuming and tedious

Many online job applications look like they were created in a laboratory by mad scientists. As such, these applications can take hours to complete. They also often ask questions that job applicants may not feel comfortable answering.

When you couple that with the low odds you have of being called for a job interview, it’s easy to see how applying for jobs is a waste of time when your time and energy could be better spent pursuing a different strategy. So, while online applications and resume submissions may not be a complete waste of time, they are certainly not the best use of your limited time resources.

2. Everyone else is doing it, too

Since it's easy to apply for jobs online, there may be hundreds or thousands of other applicants - especially if you apply with your LinkedIn profile. You might be in the top 25% if you have exactly the right qualifications, experience, and a perfectly tailored resume… but this is a really long shot.

The average job posting has 250 applicants. Only 4 to 6 will get an interview, and only 1 will be offered the job. This is why it's so hard and feels impossible to get a job sometimes! It’s also why applying for jobs is a waste of time - or often can be - under circumstances like these.

3. It can extinguish your enthusiasm

We’ve seen it so often that it’s practically routine: job seekers lose enthusiasm as their search drags on over weeks and weeks. That phenomenon is natural, so it’s important to avoid strategies that exacerbate the frustration.

Online job applications can quickly erode enthusiasm if you get to the point that you feel applying for jobs is a waste of time – the impersonal nature of the process takes its inevitable toll. Just consider the facts:

  • Many online applications are so generic that they prevent you from effectively showcasing your unique qualifications.

  • The lack of human contact can be extremely discouraging for a job seeker.

  • You may not hear from anyone at the company for weeks after you apply – if you hear from them at all.

  • Far too many applications are designed haphazardly. Others are on websites that don’t work properly. You can easily lose enthusiasm dealing with those broken systems.

4. The process is slow

If you choose to rely on the internet as your primary job application outlet, be prepared for lengthy delays. This type of hiring process often results in weeks of wondering whether anyone’s even seen your resume or application. Sadly, there’s always a strong likelihood that your online application simply falls to the wayside, since many companies rely on automated systems to sift through candidate submissions. 

Unfortunately, many of those companies have no process in place to let you know if you've been rejected – which can leave you in limbo for weeks. That’s simply not a productive way to spend your job-seeking time.

5. It has a low success rate

Of course, the best reason why you might want to consider other job searching options is also the simplest: online applications just aren’t that effective. Estimates for online job search success can range from as low as 2% to as high as 5% - and that higher estimate is generous in the extreme.

The fact is that most applicants are forced to submit scores of applications online just to get a single interview. That can translate into months of job seeking before you ever land a job, which can certainly justify the belief that applying for jobs online is a waste of time. 

Four options that are better than applying for jobs online

So, if the internet approach to applying for jobs is a waste of time, what is the better approach?

Keep in mind that no one is suggesting that you shouldn’t include internet applications as part of your broader job hunting strategy. Just don’t rely on it as your primary job search option. Instead, incorporate other options in your strategy.

Here are some of the better options that you can use to increase your chances of success:

1. Make full use of your network

All those networking contacts you’ve been making throughout your life can come in handy during a job search. Ask them to notify you of job openings as they become aware of them. If there’s a position open at a contact’s company, ask for a referral or recommendation. This type of job-search effort can be one of the most productive and fastest ways to get a great job that you need.

2. Polish your resume and optimize for the ATS

Focus on your resume. Since you’re going to be submitting it anywhere you apply, make sure that everything is as great as it can be. Revise it as needed to really sell your skill set and make proper use of specific keywords to ensure that it gets past the applicant tracking systems. Remember, your resume is your single greatest tool when it comes to getting yourself in front of an interviewer.

3. Reach out directly to employers

Reaching out directly to potential employers and hiring managers could be really effective. Most hiring managers still appreciate a strong candidate who’s ambitious and driven enough to hit the pavement and directly ask for that job. Don't be afraid to get creative to get your foot in that door!

Make a list of a few companies you want to work for and try to find the hiring manager in charge. When you do--shoot them an email with your resume and cover letter and ask if they have any open positions. Follow up once or twice, but don't be a pest.

4. Use LinkedIn

Remember how we told you that the internet has its place within any job search strategy? LinkedIn is a perfect example of that truth. As social media goes, LinkedIn is one platform that’s worth its weight in digital gold.

Update your LinkedIn profile and use it to flesh out your professional persona. And, of course, your LinkedIn network can be a valuable resource for learning about new job opportunities. Over 90% of hiring managers and recruiters utilize LinkedIn when searching for candidates so make sure your profile is up to date and get active!

Applying for jobs is a waste of time if the internet is your only strategy

The world has changed in many ways over the last several decades, but we’re not quite at the point where we can all land a job by staring at a computer screen. At times, applying for jobs is a waste of time if online applications are your only strategy. 

Conversely, applying for jobs online can be useful at times, but you will probably want to focus on other options as well. A more comprehensive strategy should help you to shorten your job search and land that great job offer you deserve.

Wondering if your resume is the best it can be to share with your network and apply for jobs? Why not submit it for a free resume review to find out?

Recommended reading:

Written by

Ronda Suder, Professional Writer

With a drive to foster safety and expand possibilities through writing, performing, and working with others, Ronda brings 25 years of combined experience in HR, recruiting, career advice, communications, mental and behavioral health, and storytelling to her work. She’s a certified career coach and holds a Master’s in Human Resources, a Master’s in Film and Media Production, and a Master’s in Counseling and Development. As a writer, she’s covered topics ranging from finance and rock mining to leadership and internet technology, with a passion for career advice and mental-health-related topics. When she’s not at her computer, Ronda enjoys connecting with others, personal growth and development, spending time with her beloved pooch, and entertainment through movies, television, acting, and other artistic endeavors. You can connect with Ronda on LinkedIn and through her website.

Person working on laptop outside. ZipJob Branded.

Our resume services get results.

We’ve helped change over 30,000 careers.