What Happens To My Resume After I Click Apply? Plus Tips for Success

Updated June 24, 2022

The online job application process has made it significantly easier to apply for available positions. While you may apply for several jobs per day from your computer, you probably don’t know what happens to your resume after you apply. Sometimes you’ll receive a response from the recruiter, other times you may never hear back at all. In this article, we discuss the application process so you can better understand what is happening with your resume after applying for a position. We also provide a series of tips that will help you best position yourself for success throughout the application and interview process.

Key takeaways

  • Applicant tracking systems scan resumes and filter for qualified candidates.

  • Be sure to tailor your resume to the job you are applying for. Review the job description and include relevant skills, keywords and experience the company is looking for within your resume and cover letter.

  • Be sure not to lie or over-optimize your resume in an attempt to trick the system as there are sometimes safeguards in place that will flag candidates who do so.

What happens after I submit my resume?

There is no set process that companies follow during the hiring process. Some companies have concrete steps that they must follow, while other organizations are more casual in their candidate review process. The job application process will vary depending on the position and the industry. Some companies will interview and hire you in a matter of days. Other roles in different companies can take up to six months to fill, with multiple interviews and pre-employment tests involved.

If you are applying for jobs, you can usually gain a basic understanding of the steps even if there is not a set process. Below is an in-depth explanation of each step a company usually takes when hiring:

A software system scans for keywords

Reviewing a hundred resumes is a tedious process. As a result, many companies have invested in software tools that collect and sort through resumes to help narrow the field of relevant applicants. Often referred to as applicant tracking systems (ATS), these tools allow employers to collect, sort and manage the entire hiring process for any given position.

What does this mean for you? Applicant tracking systems compare the skills listed on your resume with keywords and phrases mentioned in the job listing. For example, if a company needs a Java developer with five years of experience, the ATS will scan your resume for Java and the amount of experience. The ATS will also scan for relevant job titles and additional job prerequisites designated by the company.

While there is no set timeline for how long this initial step will take, it is likely to last several days to several weeks before the company has a large enough pool of candidates ready for manual review.

A recruiter completes preliminary candidate reviews

Once the applicant tracking system selects the top resumes, the recruiting team takes over. This part of the selection process can vary from company to company depending on several factors including organizational size and structure, as well as the type of role you are applying for. Generally, the recruitment team will review the shortlist of candidates and inspect for information that applicant tracking systems might miss or aren’t capable of deciphering. This can include:

  • Quality of educational background

  • Soft skills

  • Volunteer work

  • Work experience details

During the review process, recruiters will remove any applications that slipped through the software check or don't meet the company's qualifications. They will also sort the resumes so they can contact higher-matching candidates first.

Utilize a simple, easy-to-read resume template along with clear, concise language in your resume and cover letter. This will help both the applicant tracking system and recruiters quickly digest the relevant information in your application documents.

The direct manager reviews the resumes

At this stage, the recruiting team will often share the strongest applicants with the hiring team for review. The hiring team will then go through the process of manually reviewing candidates and creating a shortlist for the recruiters to have an initial interview. Oftentimes, they will also keep a small list of additional candidates as alternates in case the top group are not the right fit or already accepted other offers.

This can be a lengthy step as hiring team’s already have their typical daily responsibilities plus the addition of potential candidate review. Do not let the length of time it may take discourage you or prevent you from applying to more jobs.

The hiring team send out a questionnaire

Not all companies send out personality tests or questionnaires, but it’s common for larger companies who receive numerous resumes in a day for one open position. The results of these tests help recruiters narrow down the resumes they must view. After applying for a job, you may receive an email to complete one of these tests.

The test subject will depend on the position you are applying for and the company. Some of these tests are personality tests, while others want you to demonstrate your technical abilities. These tests decrease the chances the company will hire someone who doesn’t actually have the skills to do the job without having to bring them in for an interview.

The top candidates are called for interviews

With the top candidates to interview in hand, the recruiter or hiring manager will now start reaching out to potential employees. Every company has its own interview process, and you will likely experience different interview types and styles as you enter the job market.

As an example, a hiring manager or recruiter might conduct 10 phone interviews before bringing in five people for an in-person meeting. You might have to come in for a second or third interview before receiving an offer. By keeping an open mind and preparing for each step of the interview process, you can increase your chances of landing the job.

What you can do after you submit your resume

The waiting period after submitting a resume can sometimes be as stressful as the period between an interview and the decision. To help, you can take a few steps to prepare. Here is how you can stand out and increase your chances of getting an interview:

Check for any important dates or deadlines

Reread the job posting to see if there is any information about application deadlines or the review process. As an example, if the application window doesn’t close for two weeks after you submitted your resume, then the recruiting team might not even look at resumes until this period ends. Knowing that the window is still open can help you relax.

While many companies post-application windows, not all of them follow set deadlines. A highly-motivated company might start looking at applications within a day or two of posting the job, others may take weeks. Remember, every company has its own unique hiring processes.

Conduct research on the company and your future co-workers

Use the time waiting to learn about the company. Research challenges in their industry and changes that the company has made over the past year. This will prepare you to answer questions during the interview process and make you more knowledgeable of the problems facing your potential employer.

You can also research the people you are going to work with. Get to know your potential boss and co-workers, including their backgrounds, professional specialties and interests. If you have any connections, ask them if there is anything you should know about that person that could help in the process.

Reach out to your potential manager

If you can find an email for your future manager or hiring team, consider reaching out. You can introduce yourself, mention you submitted your resume and state how excited you are at the idea of working with them. This is a small step that very few people take when applying for a job online. However, it can be a great way to stand out.

Reaching out can also help you bypass part of the review process. If you impress your employer, they might contact the recruiting team and ask for your resume directly or recommend your name for one of their top picks.

Be careful not to overstep your boundaries during this step. Your future manager is probably incredibly busy and may not have much time to converse with you. Keep your email concise and friendly and quickly outline why you believe you are a great fit based on your experience and skills.

Follow up if you don’t hear from them

If you don’t hear back from your future employer for a few weeks, reach out and ask about the position. You should be able to find an email for the recruiting department, and you can check on the status of the job. They will typically let you know if the job is still available, if the team is still sorting resumes or if interviews have started. Following up shows that you care about the position and are actively engaged in the application process.

Prepare for an interview

If all goes well, then you will likely get called for an interview. This is when the preparation process begins. Here is a list of articles that will help you as you prepare:

  • 21 Job Interview Tips: How to Make a Great Impression

  • Top 18 Common Interview Questions and Answers

  • How to Prepare for a Behavioral Interview

  • How to Use the STAR Interview Response Technique

Keep applying for other jobs

The best way to increase your chances of getting a job is to submit your resume for any open position that seems like a good fit.

Applying to multiple jobs will also help you stay calm during the hiring process. You won’t feel stressed about getting hired by a specific place because your focus has turned to applying at several companies.

If you interviewed for a position and were turned down, don’t take it personally. Learn from the rejection and continue to apply for more jobs.

Many people submit their resume online then let the process happen without taking part in it. Since you know what happens with your resume after you submit it, you can take active steps along the way to ensure your resume stands out. Remember to prepare your resume for each position, and continue to follow up and reach out to your potential employer along the way.


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