Employers use this tool as a way to help screen out applicants. But it doesn’t mean they are trying to eliminate you – they are trying to narrow down the pool to the best potential choices. Here’s how you can be in that group.
Dear Matt: I have a resume posted online, and two companies sent me an online questionnaire to fill out after I spoke with them. After completing it, I never heard back from them. I've been laid off four times in seven years, and I feel that my short employment history with these companies is hurting me. I am not even getting a chance to explain the situation because I feel they are screening me out with the questionnaire. How can I get past the questionnaire and fill it out so I get an interview? What can I add that will get them to interview me and look past my employment history?
Matt: You are correct when you say the employer is screening you because that's exactly what questionnaires are supposed to do. They are designed to help narrow the field of applicants.
Everyone I've ever talked to has said that employment history isn't the top factor if you show you have the skills and qualifications the company is looking for. In other words, don't focus on the layoffs, instead focus on the positives and successes during your career.
"If you have the expertise that the company is looking for, then your short employment history shouldn't eliminate you," says CJ DuBe, managing director and co-founder of Oberon - a Minneapolis firm specializing in the placement of consultants in the field of Human Resources. "When filling out a questionnaire, headline yourself. You need something that will catch the eye of the reviewer."
Do this by showing, not telling, the employer things such as:
One thing recruiters tell me is their pet peeve is the applicant who rushes to fill out the questionnaire or doesn't provide complete information. This is the time to brag about what you can do, and show the company why they should hire you. Take your time, be thorough and accurate.
"Make sure your answers to the questionnaire have a positive proactive tone," says DuBe.
Before submitting, re-read your answers and double check for spelling and grammatical errors. Finally, save the comments and information you submit - because if you do promote your skills the right way and get an interview you can guarantee the information you filled out will be brought up again in the interview.