Okay, so you've submitted your resume. Now what?
I will trace through the typical process of what actually happens to your resume once it has left your control and been submitted, either to an Internet-based resume database or directly to a potential employer.
Like other areas of job search, Internet job search success depends on being active, not passive.
First, let's cover the resume database process. When you enter your resume into a resume database, it is stored in digital format, often with hundreds of thousands or even millions of other resumes. Almost all resume databases are designed to be keyword search driven. You need to have your resume written with industry and job appropriate keywords if you ever want to be picked out of the mountain. Is it worth it? It can be, especially at a site like CollegeGrad.com, where you're not lost in the sea of experienced resumes. But don't expect it to produce automatic results all by itself. View it as just one more way to get your information out there in a location where it can potentially be found by prospective employers. Then it is time for you to move to other forms of direct employer contact.
So what happens when you send your resume directly to an employer or respond to an online job posting? Now we are getting closer to a real live person. But do not assume that you are there yet. Direct resume submittals are more likely to be reviewed by a human, but many are not. More and more companies are dealing with the "resume onslaught" by pushing all resumes directly into their applicant tracking system (ATS). This is most often the case when employers are requesting candidates to respond directly at their corporate site. For example, when you respond to a job posting at CollegeGrad.com, your resume either goes directly to the e-mail inbox of the person (usually the hiring manager or the recruiter for the position) who posted the position or to the corporate website application. When employers ask you to respond through their website, it is usually to help facilitate the automatic process of pushing your information directly into their ATS.
An ATS is simply another type of resume database, but this one is internal to the specific employer. And it usually includes additional tools to track activities and track resumes to specific job openings (or internal requisitions).
So why do many employers want the information entered direct at their website? Because it usually requires no human involvement for populating the information into their ATS. So this method can often produce the same type of passive response as an Internet database. You could be languishing lost among the thousands or hundreds of thousands. I know of an employer who recently changed ATS providers because of the limitation of their current ATS system at 200,000 resumes. And this is an employer which hires less than 1,000 people per year. Think about it. The odds are not very high that you'll find your way out of that mountain.
When you send an e-mail with your resume either included as an attachment, it typically (although not always) requires human intervention before entering into an ATS. However, more recently some employers (often those with generic "careers@" or "jobs@" e-mail addresses) are now loading e-mail responses directly into their ATS. But you will still have a higher probability of human review (your main objective with any resume submission) when sending your resume as an e-mail. It's interesting to note that some ATS systems were built around scanning and character recognition technology. I know of several employers who (believe it or not) will print out your resume, then scan it into the ATS (either directly or via fax), then use the character recognition software to digitize it again. Digital to analog to digital. And a lot can be lost in the translation. But most current ATSs allow for direct import of a softcopy resume.
And there you are, left waiting for a response. What's next? Make sure you always follow up proactively with direct contact. The Internet is a tool to be used, but it should not be used as a crutch to replace direct contact job search techniques and tactics. Use the Internet as an extension and a tool to further enhance and extend your job search.