What Really Happens After I Apply for a Job?

what happens after i apply to a job?

If you’re in a position in which you have to lead with your resume, it’s important to understand what happens after you click ‘submit’, what recruiters (or sourcers) really do, and how they think. 

This is part of building empathy and understanding the “who’s it for” aspect of your resume. 

Who is involved?

You may have noticed that I used the term “sourcer” and are wondering what that is. Large companies will often hire people whose sole responsibility is to source and screen candidates. If you make past them you are sent over to the recruiter (or directly to the hiring manager, copying the recruiter). Regardless, it’s now handed over to a recruiter. Which is why it feels like you sometimes get passed around from person to person as if you just called a customer service number. This internal structure is likely why and it’s more common in large organizations as opposed to smaller companies where the recruiters do it all. 

I clicked 'Submit', now what?

So, you’ve found a great opportunity and decide to apply. What happens after you click submit? 

Well, you might be surprised (or not). There’s a likelihood that your resume won’t even be seen. That’s right. Not every resume that’s submitted to a role is looked at. 

There are several reasons, none of them good or acceptable and most occur under the assumption of saving time or efficiency. 

Contrary to what it may feel like to a job seeker, recruiters REALLY want to fill every open role they’re working on as quickly as possible. For one, most are graded on numbers and mostly the number of hires they were responsible for each month, quarter, and year. That’s how they get promoted. That’s how they make more money. It’s also the leading cause for getting fired. 

Sure, there are other factors that are taken into account when a recruiter gets promoted, but only one when a recruiter gets fired. 

When's the best time to apply?

The most activity happens as soon as a role is posted. The longer it’s open, the more likely a recruiter will begin to focus on other roles. Roles they have a higher likelihood of filling. Remember, that’s what their livelihood is dependent upon. 

Why has this role been open so long?

Roles are usually open for a long time for a couple of reasons. The most common reason is the hiring manager. Surprisingly, they don’t spend all of their time hiring and interviewing people. They actually have a job to do outside of that and it usually comes with steep consequences if it’s not done. Recruiters continuously follow up and try to keep things moving with the hiring managers, but they can’t force them to keep it moving. 

So, a lot of times, the hiring manager is where resumes and phone screen notes go to die. 

Another reason, also having to do with the hiring manager, is they may have unrealistic expectations of the skills and experience available in the market. It’s likely they are pushing back on the recruiter to find what recruiters refer to as “purple squirrels.” Have you ever seen a purple squirrel? No? Exactly. 

The third reason is the role closes and no one pulls down the job description and they fail to notify the people who have applied.

Now, what really happens after I press submit?

Disclaimer: not all recruiters are equal. Some are better than others, some have different processes, some focus more on applicants, some focus on finding the candidates themselves.

Technology has made a lot of things better. For job seekers, it’s made applying to jobs a lot easier and faster. For recruiters, it’s produced a lot of noise. 

Because it’s so easy to apply, anyone and everyone can do it. The number of resumes submitted via online applications that a recruiter must go through to find one person who is even remotely qualified for the role is sometimes staggering. I used to keep track of percentages and ratios of different sources. At Microsoft, the ratio could be between 1:30 to 1:50. 

That’s a LOT of resumes to go through to just find one person. 

Most recruiters know that and view the applicant pool as a time suck. That’s why they won’t look there often and why they’re more inclined to go searching for people themselves. 

They can use a tool like LinkedIn Recruiter and create boolean-based searches that pull in a much higher percentage of qualified people. There are other resources they use besides LinkedIn but the concept is the same. 

That’s why your LinkedIn profile is more important than your resume, in my opinion. 

What do recruiters look for in a resume?

Regardless of whether they’re looking at your resume or LinkedIn profile, they’re scanning for keywords. It’s inefficient to read, word-for-word, every resume or profile they come across. They turn into resume scanning machines. 

They can usually tell within seconds if they are going to stop scanning and start reading a resume. Therefore, no surprise, you only have a few seconds for your profile or resume to catch their attention with the right words and semantics. 

What happens after I pass the resume 'test'?

Once they find someone they think is a fit, they’ll email or message them in hopes of scheduling a call. The call is to confirm the depth of your skills and experience, make sure you’re not a jerk, gauge interest, and try to get salary expectations out of the way early so there are no surprises at the end. In some states, it's illegal to ask a candidate what their current or past salary was, so the easiest way to try to get this potential stumbling block out of the way is to ask about the candidate's salary expectations. 

No recruiter that I know wants to do all of the work that’s involved, get to the offer stage, only to find out the candidate is looking for a salary that’s $10K, $20K, or more above what they can offer. It sometimes sends them back to “square one” and often makes them look bad and incompetent in the eyes of the hiring manager, who will likely tell the recruiter’s manager of their disappointment. 

As I mentioned earlier, if you ‘pass’ the phone screen or any other preliminary screening that is done these days- some of which I’m convinced are biased toward, let’s just call them, more experienced professionals - your resume/profile and the recruiter’s notes and recommendation to move forward are sent to the hiring manager. 

At this point, it will either be a bottleneck or barrier (i.e., the hiring manager will disagree with the recruiter’s assessment and decline to move forward with the candidate) or the scheduling for an in-person (or video) interview with the hiring manager and anyone else he or she wants to include. 

The recruiter is usually the person that will coordinate this with the candidate. Although, some large companies have people whose primary job is scheduling interviews. That’s why it may feel like you’re being handed off again. It’s all in the name of efficiency, certainly not candidate experience. 

Why haven't I heard back after the phone screen?

Sometimes, this is also where things go silent. Either because the recruiter is overworked and trying to juggle too many roles and they simply forget to let the people they won’t be moving forward with know of the outcome or they don’t want to deliver the bad news. Neither are valid excuses and neither should happen if the recruiter you’re working with is truly a professional. 

Usually, interviews with multiple candidates will be scheduled close together to make it easier to evaluate and compare them to each other and to try to make a decision quickly and not drag out the process even longer. 

The best (and worst) part of a recruiter's job

Once it’s decided an offer will be made, the recruiter gets pretty stoked. That’s by far the best part of being a recruiter. 

The downside is the best part of their job is also tied to the worst part of their job - telling people they didn’t get the job. Especially people you’ve begun to build a relationship with and people you genuinely like and have enjoyed working with through the process. 

This is by far the worst part of being a recruiter. It’s never easy to give a candidate bad news, but it’s certainly easier if you haven’t invested the time and built a rapport with them. 

Some recruiters get so excited about the offer that they just plain forget to let the other candidates know. This mostly happens with entry-level recruiters. 

Other recruiters are afraid to deliver the bad news. They’re either scared of the reaction they may receive or they just don’t like delivering bad news. Either way, it’s unprofessional, selfish, and not a good look for anyone- the recruiter or the company - to not follow up with a candidate that has committed so much time and energy to the interview process. 

You may also be wondering, 'if I do hear back from them, why don't they provide me with useful information about why I wasn't selected so I can become better at interviewing?' That's a blog post of its own, but the short answer is: avoiding lawsuits

So, there you have it. That’s why the application process can often feel like a black hole, why things sometimes move really quickly at first then slow to a drip, and why you may never hear from the recruiter again after an interview or phone screen. 


Photo by Magne Træland on Unsplash


Interested in learning more about the coaching services I provide? Check out Mauka Career Marketing or email me at travis@maukacoaching.com