A careless attitude of “close enough” or “see attached resume” dooms your application.
Most job applicants are completely unaware how a Human Resources department assesses their job application, online or with the increasingly rare hard copy submission. Getting it right is the primary challenge job applicants of all ages and levels of experience face and often fail, ruining their chances for consideration, despite their qualifications. It rarely occurs to someone to contact HR for help with an application until after its submitted. But, they are often happy to coach you to meet their expectations to ensure you pass through to the next step in the process.
HR’s role of assuring minimum qualifications are met and calculating amounts of experience tends to have them rely completely or mostly on job application forms, especially when they are computerized and programed to assist in those tasks. Often HR doesn’t even look at an attached resume. But, if they do and the dates and information don’t match exactly, the applicant is thrown out of the running for providing contradictory information. A careless attitude of “close enough” or “see attached resume” dooms your application.
The general wisdom for career counselors has been to advise people to only put the last 10 years of experience on their resume and application, unless something further back specifically enhances or pertains to the application. Once I realized that HR staff were calculating only this partial career information and using it to justify low-ball salary offers or pay adjustments, I stopped recommending people limit the amount of experience they share. Holding onto the belief that resumes (and matching job applications) should be only one page can be harmful to those with extensive and varied experiences. If an online application doesn’t provide the space you need to list all your jobs, contact HR for assistance.
Bosses and hiring panels still tend to prefer reviewing resumes, especially when they are tailored to their job posting, showing a match in skills and experience. A carefully crafted, skills-based resume will enhance an application form, rather than merely be repetitive of an application form, which follows the old-fashioned chronological resume style. So, submitting both a resume and completely filled-out application are important. Transcripts and a cover letter will add more detail with new information that doesn’t fit in the other two venues, and should be submitted whenever possible or appropriate.
Yes, it gets boring, repetitive, and time consuming to laboriously enter everything and check to see it all matches. This is why successful applicants tend have as much information as possible already loaded onto a Word document from which they can copy and paste onto the application. An employer wants to see you will do the boring, repetitive, and time consuming tasks required for the position. If you can’t be bothered, why should they be bothered to consider you?