is it bad to write “see resume” in an online application system’s endless fields?

A reader writes:

I may have flubbed a job application by doing this and am gently kicking myself, but wanted to get your opinion.

I am an accomplished mid-career professional with 20+ years of experience in my fairly niche field. I’m not aggressively looking to change jobs but a role popped up on LinkedIn that looked interesting and that I am highly qualified for, so I went ahead and applied through their website.

I have never had the experience of having to upload my resume and then basically recreate it via an online application form, and it was extremely annoying (I have mostly worked for smallish nonprofits/government for most of my career). The organization I applied with is quite large and has a million different types of roles. Perhaps the online application system does make sense for some of their positions, but the one I applied for is a senior director position. The online system pre-populated some of the information from my uploaded resume but it required a lot of additional data entry. I originally copied and pasted the bullets from my resume in the “job description” section for each role I’ve had, but before submitting I did a final review and decided to tweak a couple of minor things and reuploaded my resume, which then wiped all the content I had copied/pasted/reformatted into the correct fields so I had to redo it all. When I redid it, I opted to just add the companies/roles/dates and then under “job description” I just put “see resume,” as the formatting of that part of the application was especially wonky and it would have been quite time-consuming to redo.

I was frustrated by the fact that I had to do this in the first place, and was thinking that for a role of this caliber they surely would look at my actual uploaded resume and cover letter.

I will admit I was feeling a bit cavalier as there are some aspects about the job that I’m really not sure I want. But after sleeping on it, I realized due to some latent frustrations with my current job and some additional research on the company, I’m actually more interested. The pay/title/remote work flexibility would far trump my current role, and it would be pretty nice to keep doing basically what I’m doing but for a lot more compensation.

I dug through the AAM archives and found this advice where you stated just adding “see resume” was no bueno, but that was 2017. I’m curious to see if you think that still holds in 2023 and/or if it holds for senior-level positions such as the one I applied for, or if I just biffed it.

Yeah, it’s not ideal. If they’re asking for that info, they want you to enter it there, annoying as it is and repetitive as it feels.

How much it matters in this specific case is hard to say. Sometimes entering your info there is the only way to ensure that the employer’s system parses your application correctly, and if you don’t do it their software won’t work correctly. Other times it doesn’t really matter because (as you hoped) the hiring manager is looking at the resume you uploaded and doesn’t pay attention to what you entered in the boxes on their form. Other times that’s true once you pass an initial screening, but you won’t pass the initial screening to get to that point if there’s no substantive content in those boxes. And some hiring managers find it off-putting when candidates write “see resume” — like you’re saying “your instructions don’t apply to me.”

It can be different when you’re being actively recruited, especially for more senior positions — if you’ve already talked with the hiring manager and they’ve made it clear they’re strongly interested and the application is just a formality to get you into their system, “see resume” can sometimes make sense (although not always even then, depending on the specifics of the situation). But when you’re the one approaching them, you do need to use the system they’ve set up, unless you’re so strongly in demand that you can confidently decline to jump through these sorts of hoops.

Going forward, the easiest thing to do is to keep a plain text version of your resume that you can easily copy and paste from without having to deal with heavy formatting.

{ 252 comments… read them below }

  1. Lacey*

    OP, unfortunately whoever sets up job application forms hates humanity and they want everyone else to hate it too. So yeah, they’re going to make you re-type all that info.

    Often, you can’t even just copy & paste because they want it in a different way or have some stupid number clickers you need to use. It’s infuriatingly standard.

    1. Been There*

      I worked for a company once where they wanted me to set up an online application portal of the same type that OP describes. Despite my best efforts to prevent this, they were ADAMENT that they needed to have SEVEN PAGES of what essentially ended up being “put all the information from your resume here”. It was frustrating.

      1. Sparkles2013*

        The company I used to work for was like this also, and I hated it. We could see hundreds of applications that were started and once they got to that part the just left the website, but upper management wouldn’t let us change it. If you put ‘see resume’ I would have to make you go back and fill it in before I could interview you so I would have to reach out and offer you an interview on the condition that you fill out the application correctly first…

        1. Quite anon*

          I was once applying for a position at an IT COMPANY that did not have a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science as one of the drop down options on its select your degree menu. So many subsets of agricultural degrees, yes. Computer Science, no.

          1. Six Degrees for Now*

            Quite anon made me think because that happened to me as well: What do you put when a drop-down doesn’t have your degree? Is it a lie to put Journalism if your degree was in Mass Communications?

            1. Farts*

              I just leave it blank. My degree is “Public Relations and Advertising”, which never pops up

          2. DocVonMitte*

            I have a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and the number of times (for tech companies) Mathematics is not an option but every single type of agricultural degree is… is shocking.

      2. QualityofLife*

        I agree. Companies have a right to make these inane forms, but talented applicants have a right to refuse them. I’ll go to greater lengths to fill out these mindless forms for positions I really want, but I figure it’s a two-way street: If companies want to lose out on talented applicants who have better options, be my guest.

      3. Nebula*

        I once applied for several jobs over the years at a local university (never got any of them but that’s a different story). They had the old ‘upload your CV and then repeat everything multiple times’ system, and then I remember one blessed time I applied after a long time of not looking, and they’d changed it to just a CV and cover letter. Hopefully, someone like you came in and told them to give the application system an overhaul – unfortunately, I now know that ‘just CV and cover letter’ applications for large organisations now often involve the kind of automated software that rejects people out of hand for arbitrary reasons, so possibly they just went from one hateful set up to another.

        1. Autumn*

          I wish companies would choose one, an online application OR a resume/CV. For the love of fuzzy puppies, doing both is really frustrating. I have, in my files, one called “sh!t job detail” with all the info I need for applications like county government that want everything.

    2. Ginny Weasley*

      Workday, which is used by soooo, soooooo many companies because it’s both an ATS and internal HR system (lots of ATSs don’t have both functions), requires this and as a recruiter it makes me CRAZY because it’s terrible candidate experience. Workday is also a pain in the backend for recruiters and HMs – one of my hiring managers at a tech company once said “there is no company that is better at selling to the C-suite and making everyone else miserable than Workday”. I think about that once a week and laugh.

  2. High Score!*

    It might not be ideal but I figure if they’re going to ask me for a resume, a cover letter, and to fill out endless online forms, well, they get what they get. I realize when I do that that I am less likely to get the job but if enough applicants push back maybe they’ll realized everyone’s time is important.

    1. Mandie*

      I agree. I despise these systems. It’s completely asinine to make me upload my resume and then make me type it in too. Job hunting is miserable enough as it is! It’s not like you just have to tolerate one or two of these application systems. You fill out 50+ applications just to land a couple of interviews, then attend 3-4 interviews per role before you’re lucky enough to get an offer. If companies are really serious about hiring good people, they need to make the process more tolerable. Updating these application systems is the least they can do.

    2. ferrina*

      I think often it’s different people that are looking at each piece. I’ve been somewhere where HR looked at the initial boxes that were checked (because that’s as much as they understood about that job), then gave me the resume/CL of the candidates that had passed their screening.

      At a much smaller organization, I was able to look at every resume/CL, but there was also some weird short-answer questions that I never asked for that HR decided to include. HR was the type of “well, we might as well add it!”

    3. TooManyForms*

      I agree as well. I think we should all start putting “see resume” in those forms.

    4. Lady Catherine du Bourgh*

      As a hiring manager, I hate these too but our HR department makes us use them. I personally only ever look at the uploaded resume and don’t even bother with all the manually inputted stuff (because it looks terrible and is unreadable on my end anyway – I know this is doubly frustrating that people have to input it all and then it’s never even looked at). So in my personal case, I would not care that you put “see resume” because I’m just looking at your resume anyway. But that’s just me and I can’t speak to how other companies or hiring managers do it.

      1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

        The big problem here is that a lot of places run AI algorithms against the data in the application fields, so it’s entirely possible that you aren’t even seeing people who didn’t fill them out with meaningful information. Or they have HR drones check for “genera fitness” before passing on the resume. And even if you know for a fact that *your* company doesn’t do that, it’s bad advice to tell people tomingnkre the fields because *some* companies do. It’s frustrating as hell.

  3. Peanut Hamper*

    I absolutely hate these systems. I get why companies use them, but many of them are so poorly designed. And guess who designs them? Humans.

    The problem is those humans are only concerned about how their customers (the companies that buy them) see them and are not concerned about we, as mere mortals, must input data into them. We don’t pay for them, so our concerns are not relevant. It’s just how this business model works.

    There has to be a better way. But what that is, I have no idea.

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      The problem is that you get 3 different people with opinions on the systems that don’t communicate. An IT team is designing them (somewhere) based on inputs from a hiring manager who has hopefully done some hiring (as opposed to a committee, which is more likely), and the candidate never gets looped in to say “What gives, this is a terrible system”.

        1. Khatul Madame*

          UX/UI team are workers. Surely they applied for a job at least once. They don’t even need a focus group, just pool their experiences to start with.
          Come to think of it, the same applies to customers – they were job seekers once, too.
          It’s not like the software is designed for a very distinct niche of users, like orange llama groomers.

          1. Lacey*

            There are a staggering number of people in the work force who cannot apply their own experiences and observations to the work they do.

            I deal with it all the time when I design ads. Otherwise normal human beings will think it’s a great idea to make people do a puzzle before they can see a sale or to print the ad upside-down.

          2. But what to call me?*

            You know, now that I think of it, I’ve never applied to a job that *didn’t* require a cumbersome system like that as part of the application, so it never occurred to me that it didn’t have to be that way until reading AAM. Maybe it has also never occurred to the people designing these systems?

            Although it really should occur to them, that being their job and all.

        2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          I feel your pain! While I’ve never had to use these systems when job hunting, there was a trend a while back for people to devise interfaces for adding text to websites. There would be a field for each bit of information: the headline, a bit of text that looks like the beginning of the article, that peters out just as you get to interesting info, to make you click on “read more”, the actual article, legends for photos etc.
          So some poor soul filled all that in, then they sent it to me for me to translate. It was a nightmare, because there was no way of telling how much text there was, how far I’d got, how much remained to be done, there was no spell check or any of the millions of little things Word does to help you type your text properly, like capitalising the first letter for you, discreetly correcting your spelling etc.
          And often, once you’d moved from page 1 to page 2, there was no way of going back to copy a bit of text from page 1 into page 2, so you’d try to remember what you’d put, and realise you probably got it wrong, but couldn’t correct it, so the whole text ended up as a complete nightmare.
          If only the people devising these forms spent five minutes listening to a translator, it could have been so much better.
          Luckily, I haven’t been asked to use an interface like that for several years now. I reckon other staff were unhappy about them too not just the translators.

    2. Geekette*

      Yep. The client who commissions/buys these systems only cares about saving themselves effort screening through potential candidates. They don’t listen to the developers/UX people when they say “this is annoying and will drive away candidates.”

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I guess the problem comes when they still get candidates. Yes, an annoying system will pre-filter lazy/scattergun candidates, but it will also put off the best candidates who have better options. So the prospective employer gets a bunch of applications and complains that the candidates aren’t quite what they wanted to see.

      2. GammaGirl1908*

        Especially because when they mean is it will drive away GOOD candidates. The good people are the ones with lots of choices, and who can afford to look at the application method and shrug and walk away.

        I understand that we got here because companies want to make sure they get the exact information they need and can compare it apples to apples, AND because a lot of people’s resumes suck (remember that terrible season of infographic resumes?). But these systems SUUUUUCK.

      3. Venus*

        The good forms are the ones that have simple Yes/No buttons for the minimum requirements. I have applied places where the form says “Do you have a degree in X, Y, or equivalent?” “Do you have 5 years experience in A?” That’s very easily to fill out and if you are minimally qualified for the job then you can submit your CV. There are ways to screen candidates that are workable for everyone.

        1. JTA*

          That works until it asks “Do you have a BA/BS in _____________?” My correct answer is “No” because I have a MA in _____________ but am more than qualified for the job and have no way to show it.

          1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            The same applies to me, I have a Master’s degree but no BA or BSc.
            I would just lie to get through to interview stage where I would explain. If they don’t want me because I’m overqualified, we obviously wouldn’t get on very well working together.

      4. J*

        I think a lot of clients buy customizable software and then never staff the support with people who know how to customize. So they then use the out of the box version which is redundant and unhelpful. Then everyone is frustrated until the contract expiration. Or is that just my team?

    3. AnonToday*

      the better idea is to have a very short form for basic info and then *have humans read resumes*. Especially for jobs that require decades of experience, where there probably won’t be dozens of applicants, and the people that do apply have way more work history than you want to copy and paste or retype in a stupid form.

    4. Katness*

      So far the better way I’ve seen most often is LinkedIn’s “easy apply”, which is generally a few clicks, sometimes with additional fields for cover letter and the like. In my industry (tech) I’ve noticed smaller firms offering it more and more, since applicants are less willing to jump through hoops for the 80 person company they’ve never heard of before.

      I have a hunch that in most cases it’s still to your advantage to go find the job on their website and apply there, though.

      1. Damn it feels good to be a government or nonprofit professional*

        OP here. That’s a great suggestion! Unfortunately, the company’s “apply now” on LinkedIn just plopped you back on its website. For a second I thought maybe I could reapply through LinkedIn (though that might annoy them to have someone apply twice, alas…)

      2. amoeba*

        Yeah, in my field it appears to be only the… not so great-looking jobs that have that feature active (the button says “Easy Apply” or something in those cases – otherwise the “apply” button on LinkedIn just takes you back to the company portal).
        All the big companies here don’t use it and tbh, if one of them did, I’d probably still not risk it for a job that I really want, but rather do it manually.

        I just have a document with plain text “job descriptions” and honestly don’t worry much about formatting (except for maybe a line break or two) , just copy&paste them as they are! I figure if they want the nice-looking ones, they can go ahead and read the actual CV…

      3. Autumn*

        It would really be best if companies allowed people to apply via LinkedIn, Indeed, Monster or an industry specific portal, then several things could happen, the first screen could rule out the irrelevant applications and the better possibilities could be asked to write an email answering specific questions laid out by the hiring manager. That screen could lead to actual interviews. If a firm is still stuck using a clunky application they could also not be asked to fill out that mess until they’re much closer to nailing the position. It’s kind of a data risk when you think about thousands of online applications being stored in a hard drive somewhere. Maybe they should wait even deeper into the process.

    5. Jessica*

      Increasingly, these systems are being designed for the use of AI that filters candidates before a human looks at anything.

  4. bamcheeks*

    Nearly all university, public sector, and NHS roles in the UK use this kind of system, and so do most large companies. What I always point out to candidates is that it dramatically narrows the field: if you post a popular job, you could get hundreds of applications if you ask for a CV, because it so easy for everyone to chuck one in. If you ask for a completely application form, you’re more likely to get 20-30 reasonably well-thought-out applications from people who have actually looked at the person specification.

    And on the flipside, if you’re a candidate, being forced to write to each criterion whilst AS TEDIOSU AS HELL does make you reflect on how much you really want the job.

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      This is the problem I have with automated hiring systems; they allow for the people to auto-apply to hundreds of jobs, meaning the loopholes become more and more tedious. It’s my biggest argument against allowing AI at any point from the candidate’s side, because the moment that happens the loopholes will triple.

    2. Antilles*

      Is this even a benefit? If your process is arduous and a pain in the neck, you’re filtering out a lot of potentially viable candidates.
      The desperate candidates who are really looking to flee or looking for any job will fill out even the most arduous and long application.
      The people who were lukewarm on your company? The people who are open to moving but also okay with their current company? The people who are rock stars to the point that “you can buy me from my current company but I ain’t cheap”? Those are the kind of people who are getting filtered out by your All-Caps “tedious as hell” application.

      1. Happy meal with extra happy*

        But, if a company is getting decent candidates, and they’re ultimately generally happy with who they hire, it matters less if they’re missing the best of the best candidates – you can’t run a job search trying to find the perfect, most skilled person as you’ll never be able to stop looking.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes and no. You can’t be on a constant search for the most perfect person, but you definitely should design your application process with an eye toward lowering barriers for your best candidates and not screening them out.

          1. Lizzo*

            And if we really want to be thoughtful and inclusive, the application process should be free of barriers for populations such as people with disabilities.

            1. DataSci*

              No, but designing a system that deliberately filters out the best candidates isn’t a great move either. It’s not “wait for the one perfect person”, it’s “maybe don’t alienate the top quarter of potential applicants off the bat”.

              1. Lizzo*

                But also don’t systemically exclude an entire swath of the population. If you’re going to overhaul your system to make it better for applicants, make it better for ALL applicants. Are there barriers in the way these systems are set up that makes it more challenging for, say, people who are not native English speakers? Or who lack economic privilege? Is the system designed under the assumption that the end user is a white middle-class male? (Spoiler alert: many systems are.)

                I don’t know the answers, but I think it’s worth asking the questions.

                1. DJ Abbott*

                  The way they are now alienates anyone, of any culture or income level or ability level, who thinks their time is valuable. And they are right.

            2. WantonSeedStitch*

              And I have to wonder how well systems like this work for, say, people using screen-readers.

            3. bamcheeks*

              Yes,but I’m not aware of any evidence that says that CVs and cover letters do that. The case for this kind of application form is that it allows very equitable, supposedly objective, skills-based recruitment and minimises opportunities for unfair discrimination (although I don’t think anyone is naive enough to think it eliminates it.) I’m not a HR specialist through so I don’t know how good the evidence base is for it.

              1. Lizzo*

                I don’t think CVs and cover letters are the solution. I think someone out there is capable of building a better system that serves both the needs of the hiring manager and the needs of the job seeker.

                Part of that better system could be providing some context for the applicant about why things are set up a certain way. If the goal is equity and objectivity, that seems very reasonable. But I have yet to see a system built with transparency around the process.

      2. Colette*

        This is one of those things that really depends.

        If you are getting enough good candidates, losing other good candidates doesn’t hurt you much. In fact, if you work in a large organizaiton, someone who isn’t willing to jump through hoops might not be a good fit.

        But if you aren’t getting enough good candidates, it’s probalby hurting you.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          “I’m not willing to jump through this hoop to apply for this job because I HAVE a nearly as nice job” doesn’t translate to “While I’m on the job, I am unwilling to jump through your hoops”

          1. Colette*

            Maybe not – but if you’re not willing to do it when you want the job, there’s a reasonable possiblity you’ll be frustrated in an environment where jumping through hoops is part of the job.

            1. Quite anon*

              There’s a difference between hoops that exist for a reason, and are mandatory, and hoops which are not mandatory. If you’re working for a job, hoop jumping is part of that job. If you’re not working there… why spend that much time jumping through hoops when you aren’t even guaranteed an interview? That’s a lot of time wasted with probably nothing to show for it.

          2. Tires but Happy*

            I agree with this, and having worked with UI/UX in the past, these forms bother me and have an experience I very uncharitably refer to as a combination of User Interface Designed by Programmer and User Experience Designed by Committee.

            I have had these forms lose everything I have entered and my ADHD butt has decided it is not worth the effort to do it again.

            Not everyone has stable internet. People like me will question why this is necessary when a basic rip the resume to text and dump it to a box and get the candidate to reformat it is good enough (I have had those and they are a delight and made me make a more simplified resume!).

            Do the sites work with screen readers? Mobile browsers? Low data settings? Ad blockers? Am I being forced to use a browser or phone or app I don’t normally use or have?

            These are all important things that are arbitrary and bean counters see as “Willing to jump through hoops” for a scrap of bread, but are really just barriers for a lot of people.

        2. ceiswyn*

          They also often make some of the hoops impossible to jump through.
          For example, MSc and PhD application forms that assume that all candidates are young people who are coming straight from university. I’ve run across such forms that ask for details of ALL your previous education and employment, insisting on start and finish dates to the exact day.
          When I was applying, I was a mature student. My first degree was in the 90s, wasn’t an option in their system (being a BA in a science subject, thanks to my university being a bit special) and at least two of the multiple companies I’d worked for no longer existed. That part of the form took FOREVER, and in the end most of the dates were guesses at best.
          Am I ‘not a good fit’ if I am not willing to jump through hoops that are actually significantly more onerous for me than for other candidates? Or are a lot of these systems actually unconsciously embedding discriminatory practices because they’re tailored entirely to a specific kind of candidate that the designer has in mind?

          1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            Yeah my boss totally wanted youngsters fresh out of school. For my position, he couldn’t find one and ended up hiring me as I was coming back to work after staying at home with the kids until they reached school age.
            He certainly didn’t appreciate my previous experience as a union representative.

          2. I have RBF*

            The ones that ask for exact start and end dates, plus manager name and title irritate the hell out of me. No, people, I don’t always remember the name of my boss(es) from 10 years ago. One company I worked for around that time I had 5 different managers in two years! Plus I guarantee that none of those people are still in those positions – layoffs hit managers too, or they change jobs.

            I have over 20 years of experience in my field, but no degree. Those “fill all the stuff from your resume, plus a few extra details that no one keeps” applications are likely to have me go “nope”. If I can’t get it to take all the crap I’ve input without timing out and sending me back to the start? I’m gone.

            When I’m job hunting, I can easily fill out a dozen or more applications per week. If I have to use a clunky ATS, I am spending an hour on the application, instead of ten minutes. That job had better be worth six times what the other ones are. (My usual routine is to file five to ten applications per day, and end up with five to ten phone screens per week, with maybe one or two real interviews after that.)

            It becomes a numbers game: I fill out 50 applications, 10 will phone screen me, three will interview me, one will give me a second interview. After a few months of this I get a solid offer. If each of those 50 applications is a clunky, heavy data entry ATS, that’s 50 hours just on applications, rather than less than nine. It just doesn’t scale for me. Sure, I understand that every company thinks their application is the most precious, but it isn’t.

            What I really hate is when they use a third party, like Taleo, that requires you to make an account, upload all of your info, parse it when their parser fails, again, then makes you do the same thing all over again for each different company or position you apply for!!

            I have not found any better uptake on my applications when I run through lots of hoops to fill out the form. If anything, I am more likely to get a form letter rejection from those, because I somehow didn’t meet their bro-filter buzzword criteria. So unless I am filling it out to complete a referral or I really want to work for that company, I just don’t bother. The rate of return on my investment of time is pretty near zero.

      3. bamcheeks*

        As I said, it tends to be large public sector organisations and big companies which do this— places with professionalised HR departments who do a huge amount of recruiting and use very strict skills-based recruiting, and it does make it much easier to do that. If you work in the public sector, health service or higher education you are extremely used to filling them in.

        For roles where they actively want to attract people from outside the public sector— say finance, IT or senior leadership roles— they might use a recruiter or change the process. But generally at most levels in the public sector there are a decent number of people with the right skills match applying and therefore no particular incentive to change it.

        1. Dr. Vibrissae*

          We have them here, but the roles we hire for have some very specific requirements, so As long as those boxes are checked, on the hiring committee side, I basically skip ahead to the cover letter and CV anyways.

      4. Tiger Snake*

        A few months ago I was involved in recruiting. We started with 700+ applications. The system filtering that used those got it down to 250.
        And then I needed to read all of those 250 resumes, within 3 days. 70 progressed to interview.

        Perhaps we did lose a few good candidates. But you can’t see the forest for the trees: in big organisations, the sheer volume of people who say “I might as well give it a go” and throw their hat in the ring when they’re not even in the same field and have no interest in the field mean that if you didn’t have automatic filtering, you could well miss them regardless.

        1. Parakeet*

          Why not have a shorter application then, though, instead of making people spend forever recreating their entire resume in some horribly-designed monstrosity of a system? For instance, only requiring jobs to be entered that demonstrate qualifications for the specific job, and not asking people for the years/months (I’ve even seen days) of the start and end date for every job they’ve ever had.

          1. Tiger Snake*

            Short answer; because if you don’t do it exactly the right way you can get sued for discrimination in the hiring process.

            To break down it down; and know this isn’t my area of expertise, it goes something like this:

            Firstly, government laws for government jobs are just weird
            Secondly, the people who check references and confirm.employment are a different area and they need to validate your job history as a part of the process for you to get government clearance at the needed level.
            Thirdly, if the a gov agency has differences in procedures for hiring in different roles of the same level it counts as discrimination and we can get sued. No different procedures for specialist jobs.
            Fourthly, there’s literally thousands of possible applicable qualifications depending on your background and credentials, so whitelisting that is fundamentally impossible.
            Fifthly, the media makes it look like really bad class discrimination if you immediately exclude someone for not having qualifications – the rest of the questions are needed to show everyone had the same chance to show they had the knowledge regardless of background.
            Sixth, we need to give people the opportunity to move roles and change careers inside the agency so again you need to measure them on the other questions not just score
            Seventh, I’m pretty sure that for most of the questions the system gives each answer a rating out of five and uses all the questions to add up to a score and passing you based on your TOTAL, not excluding you for any one answer.
            And finally because the government told us that all agencies need to use the same software in exactly the same way.

          2. I have RBF*

            The asking for the exact day for start and end is one of the things that irks the heck out of me. Why would I remember the exact date I started a job 15 years ago? I’m doing good to remember the month!

            1. Tiger Snake*

              That one is because the computer systems are badly programmed. It is a as-is application everyone bought, companies can’t change it even though month would be fine.

        2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          I’m not sure that simply dumping most of the CVs received straight in the bin might not be just as effective though, since there are all sorts of questions that seem to eliminate people for not fitting in the box properly, even though they’d still be excellent at the job.

          (Just remembering the boss who would remove the top few and then a lot from the bottom, then pull a random dozen out to peruse. The rest would just go in the bin. When someone questioned what he was doing, he said he didn’t want to work with unlucky people)

    3. Snarkus Aurelius*

      You’d think so but no. You’re only getting the people who spend the time to jump through hoops to apply, which doesn’t translate to being qualified. It only means they know how to fill out a tedious form.

      The only reason I get bites on USAJobs is because I have a disability (that doesn’t affect the ability to do my job) and I literally copy and paste the job responsibilities verbatim into my resume or else HR will screen me out. I can’t even change a word or else HR will interpret that synonym as something that *might* be different.

      And if you don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, then you’ve never wasted hours interviewing unqualified candidates you don’t want all because HR says you have to. HR forced me to interview someone who stomped off the job in a huff, did a bunch of disgruntled stuff, and then reapplied to come back only because I increased the pay.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I‘ve never worked anywhere where HR screens applications or says you have to interview certain people (outside of the Disability Two Ticks scheme)— all the applications are available to the selection panel and we do the shortlisting.

        1. The Rafters*

          State government. We do *have* to interview anyone who is already a state employee, meets the minimum quals and applies. It’s a nuisance b/c we may already know the candidate and we know we don’t want that candidate, but there’s no way out of it. Thankfully for the most part, we aren’t forced to hire that particular candidate.

        2. amoeba*

          Huh, interesting! In my field, a HR screen as a first step is very, very common. (It even shows on the “status” page of your application – “reviewed by HR”, then, if you pass, “reviewed by the hiring manager”).
          Often, the first phone screening is also done by HR (though not always), before you ever talk to any of the hiring managers.

    4. Ace in the Hole*

      Public sector jobs in the US use this kind of system too, but most have a portal that lets you save a pre-filled form to use for as many applications as you want. For example, if I want to apply for jobs with my state government I can fill out an application template and save it in the system. Then I can use that template (or modify as needed) for any state job application.

      Of course, you still have to fill out separate templates for state, federal, county, city, etc. But not for each individual job at least.

      1. bamcheeks*

        Yeah, same. I have all my education and work experience history saved with five or six of the big employers round here from previous applications, so I usually just have to write the supporting statement.

      2. Nebula*

        You do also get that here with the NHS, universities etc. I haven’t applied for jobs directly with the Civil Service, but I imagine it’s the same. Once you’ve applied for one job with that particular organisation/branch of government, your info is saved for the next time.

    5. DJ Abbott*

      I don’t mind tedious. What I object to is the amount of time, ~2+ hours to do one application. They might as well come out and say my time is not valuable, and neither am I.
      When I was looking, I did walk away from some of those.
      It’s especially ridiculous to make someone at LWs level do this.

    6. Earlk*

      In defence of the NHS job sites- they do save previous applications. So you only need to update what is new and tweak things to be more relevant than the job you’re applying to and due to the pension (and notice periods) most NHS employees will largely only job search with in it.

    7. MsSolo (UK)*

      Everywhere I’ve applied to, and been involved in hiring at, uses these systems. It’s all EDI led – no names, no dates, no locations until you’re invited to interview (and any accommodations requested are separated out, so aren’t seen by people judging the applications). Obviously depending on how you answer the questions, some of that stuff will come through anyway, but it’s an attempt at levelling the playing field. The questions are usually behavioural, so “tell me about a time when” – if you write your CV like Alison suggests, you often can drop stuff in with a few tweaks, but if you’re heavy on just listing job duties and tenure you’re going to score poorly unless you put more effort in. Nowhere I’ve worked has had any kind of automatic filtering, either, so every single application, whether there’s 3 or 300, is reviewed by multiple humans – usually three people (at least one of whom will be on the interview panel, but often not all), ideally a mix of genders and races, to reduce affinity bias.

      (I don’t know if the lack of a computer sift is EDI led or just cheapness, but it does mean that you don’t need to be hitting key words or phrases, as long as you’re answering the questions)

      Each question is scored, if you score below a certain number you’re rejected, and then if you’re above the line it depends on how many applications are above it and whether you’re applying under any specific criteria (like risk of redundancy, for internal applicants) as to whether you’re invited to interview. Some places I’ve worked have rejected anyone who scored 0 on any question, even if they scored highly on others – to get a 0 you either have to say bluntly “I can’t do this” or leave the box blank (or, in most cases, just wrote ‘see resume’, unless the recruitment campaign has gone so poorly the organisation is desperate enough to ignore failure to follow basic instructions).

      I have seen a shift to more CV uploads in the public sector and charities in the UK, but always with the requirement that you remove nearly all formatting, your name and contact details. Failure to do so is an immediate rejection. And then there’s usually some additional behavioural questions, or a personal statement/cover letter where you’re specifically told to cover what would previously have been a set of behavioural questions. Realistically, the CV is the last thing anyone scoring looks at, because they’re always laid our differently and often very poorly written, so they’re a bit of a last resort if you’ve scored poorly elsewhere but the person doing the sift suspects you’ve provided evidence in the CV you missed off the other sections.

  5. Yinka*

    They aren’t looking at the resumes as they come in, in all likelihood. HR/Talent Acquisition is going to search certain things in the form you filled out and if you don’t have the right words in the right fields no one will ever see your resume.

    1. carrot cake*

      Yep. Same info. but for different people and in different formats (online spaces, resumes, etc.).

    2. Snarkus Aurelius*

      And that’s how you get a Mad Libs for grown ups job application or tailored resume.

      You can’t even use a synonym because some HR people are very literal.

      1. Karate Saw*

        Yes! I get so frustrated with these. Are they looking for AMS or CRM, and if my bullet point is “AMS/CRM” did that get through?

    3. jackers*

      Exactly this. I fully understand the frustration, but from the hiring side, I can see why they request both. We can get hundreds of candidates for roles. The application data is what is used by HR/recruiting team to be able to quickly review and filter through and look for the qualified candidates that I as a hiring manager have asked them to look for. When they pass that information on to me, I get the copy of the resume because I am not allowed access to their detailed system (I can see summary data but not the level they have). The application and the resume really serve two different purposes. At least where I work – I realize that can’t be broadbrushed across all companies.

  6. ResuMAYDAY*

    The application is a legal document that is saved throughout your career while your resume is not. When you submit an application, you are signing your name to the part that says the information you submitted is factual. That’s just one of the reasons that you need to fully complete the application.

    1. Jelizabug*

      This is definitely true for the commercial drivers our company hires. The Federal Safety Administration has specific text that is required on driver applications, along with other things we’re required to ask for that aren’t on our general apps.

    2. Ginger Cat Lady*

      Then why even ASK for a resume?
      I’m inclined to think companies need to pick one or the other. Either ask people to submit a resume, OR ask them to put it in the system manually. Not both.

      1. Burger Bob*

        This is my thing. If you want me to fill out all the boxes that are essentially just asking for the stuff that goes in a resume, fine, but then why also have me upload a resume? If it’s the same information twice, just ask for one.

        1. Lusara*

          The hiring managers like to look at straightforward 1-2 page resumes. The application is for HR.

      2. Lucky Meas*

        I agree with this. I think those detailed boxes make sense for people who don’t have resumes. For people who do, they’re just duplication. Unfortunately almost all jobs require resumes, so the systems are pointless. Maybe in the future we won’t have resumes, just text saved for these boxes.

    3. amoeba*

      Eh, in my field, a lot of companies require filling out the additional forms, but there are also quite a few who don’t (smaller companies, mostly). The level of detail that’s asked also really varies from employer to employer. So I’m pretty sure it’s not a legal requirement, they just decide to do it.
      (It’s not as horrible as many have described here, though, luckily! Usually, it can be done in 15 mins or so.)

  7. CopyPasta*

    I work at a mid-sized public university and you won’t make it past the initial HR screening if you put “see resume” in the fields. Your resume won’t make it into the pool that the search committee gets to see. We have to treat *every* applicant exactly the same…If someone forwards me a resume/CV, I have to tell them to go into the online system, fill out the forms, and apply. Yes, it takes time. And yes, time is valuable. You must fill out at least the basic information in the form to be considered. I have seen folks make it past the initial screening by putting the basics in the form, and then putting “for more detailed information on this specific role, please review the resume provided.”
    I’ve also been in search committees where someone pointed out that the candidate “couldn’t be bothered” to fill out the application properly…they took it as proof that the candidate didn’t want the job!
    (FWIW, our system allows you to copy/paste.)

    1. Colette*

      Yeah, that’s what I’ve been told about the organization I work for – “see resume” is disqualifying.

    2. Bitsy*

      I also work in higher education. My frustration is the systems that will scan your uploaded resume to “helpfully” paste your job content into the online form for you, but then takes every committee I’ve ever been on, every publication I’ve ever written, and makes each of those fifty entries. Into. Its. Own. Job. I then have to go in and manually delete 43 jobs. One. by. one.

    3. I have RBF*

      I could see it if I really wanted the job.

      But when they ask me to upload a resume, then mangle it in the parsing, make me re-enter everything, then ask for additional minutia that no one in their right mind remembers (supervisor name and title? starting wage?) I think “If this is the application process that they want, what would it be like working there?” and nope out.

      So yes, if your application process takes me hours to do while I dig up old pay stubs and all that? I “couldn’t be bothered” to waste my time.

  8. Joyce to the World*

    I always just assume it is going to be scanned by software first before a human looks at it. So, I take the items from my resume and reword them using the key words in the job description. Unless I am grossly not qualified my resume gets moved on to the next level of review. At least when I post within my current organization. It is tedious, but another opportunity to work those key words and phrases in and show that you can do the job.

    1. Agender In Space*

      I’m a recruiter. I hate them too, and I hate applying for companies who have them. I don’t understand.

  9. Firecat*

    I consistently do this and have been consistently promoted in my industry. (Been working in my industry 12 fwiw). It’s not a problem at many companies, and any company who is mad they asked for a resume only to turn around and ask for the same info is a company I don’t care to be work for.

    1. Firecat*

      I’ll also add that ATC varies vastly, but as someone whose been on the hiring side about 60% of applicants put “see resume” in repetitive fields (such as if the ATC asked for each job to be listed with dates and summaries). These applications were actually cleaner and easier to read, because the ATC formatting of the answers in those boxes were atrocious. Resume would be reviewed and the ATC part of the app was usually ignored.

  10. Palison*

    I work for a municipal government and hiring managers are not allowed to see resumes and cover letters until we’ve decided to interview someone based on their application. It’s seen as more equitable and less likely to cause discrimination. Our HR department doesn’t have time to go through every resume and cover letter and redact information that could lead a hiring manager to know an applicant’s age, ethnicity, gender, etc. If someone put “see resume”, I probably wouldn’t go any further with their application because I wouldn’t have enough information.

    1. rayray*

      This is probably way out of your hands, but if this is how your company operates, they really ought to switch to a system that will autofill the application from their resume. I may hate workday applications but at least they autofill your information from the resume you upload.

      1. Parakeet*

        Just make sure it’s a system that does a decent job with the autofill, though! Most of them, I have to go back and fix the vast majority of the absolute mess the autofiller made, to the point where it would have been easier to not have an autofiller at all.

        1. amoeba*

          Yes, I was actually really surprised at that advice – many companies in my field use workday or something similar and the autofill is just horrible. At best, it might save me two minutes, at worst, it actually takes more time to correct/delete all the nonsense it puts into the fields.

        2. DJ Abbott*

          Yes, absolutely. In my last two job searches, I think only once I have seen autofill do a decent job. It usually takes longer to fix what it did then it would have to enter it from scratch.

        3. I have RBF*

          Yeah. The autofiller mangles my resume just about every time, and I have a very low format resume (It’s barely more than a text file.) It takes longer to fix the mess the resume parser makes that it would to copy/paste the relevant data to start with.

          And quite frankly, the asking for manager’s name and title is so pointless. Either a) which one? I had five while at that job, or b) I know full well that that person is no longer there because they got laid off too.

    2. Insert Clever Name Here*

      I was on a few hiring committees recently (not government) and printed out all the resumes for the applicants to review before the interviews. It was honestly so annoying trying to compare information and experience amongst 5 different resumes formatted and organized in 5 different ways. I get that these systems are annoying, and as an applicant I’ve been irritated at using them but dang — my kingdom for a consistently formatted presentation of the information!

      1. allhailtheboi*

        I work in local government and that’s the logic for using an application form – more comparable for the hiring manager and equalising for the candidates as no one is being judged on how professionally their CV is formatted. And you aren’t asked for a CV (or cover letter which I’ve never heard of in the UK). I’m… not sure how I feel about it to be honest. And local government is very different to businesses

    3. Antilles*

      That’s interesting because in every online application I’ve ever done, the fields are basically identical to what’s on a standard resume. So I basically just end up straight copy-pasting the same information and from what I’ve seen on the other side, it seems like everybody else does it the same way too.

      So if the top line of my resume includes a brief sentence about “A has over 10 years experience designing Teapots” – that sentence (which implies my age) is still going to end up in the application somewhere. Or if someone’s list of other interests includes “Society for Women in Engineering”, they’ll put that in the online application part of “Other Information” so that very likely indication of gender will still get through. Etc.

      “See resume” isn’t really the solution here, I’m just wondering how much that “equitable and less likely to cause discrimination” is a real effect.

      1. constant_craving*

        It can’t mask everything, but it can do things like hide names that imply race/ethnicity, years of graduation, etc. That’s likely to at least help somewhat.

  11. CommanderBanana*


    I saw an article during the national freakout about how hard it was to find candidates and I can’t remember what the company was, but the CEO or some other C-level went through the application process and realized it was horrible.

    The article suggested that if an org is using this type of portal, they need to have someone go through it as a test applicant on a regular basis, which is a great idea that I’m sure most organizations will not adopt.

    They are also notoriously glitchy and poorly designed and I have also had the nightmare of getting almost to the end and having to change something, only to have it eat all my data.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      I read an article many years ago about a company complaining that they got 300+ resumes but zero qualified candidates. Turns out someone required five years experience with the company’s Intranet. But the Intranet was only three years old and accessible to internal employees.

      I suspect that happens a lot more often than we think.

      1. anon24*

        I worked one job that I did for a little over a year to glowing feedback from my manager, despite the fact that I hated it. I left to change career fields. It was an entry level job and the pay was not the greatest, but even so, I was a little surprised when my co-worker texted me a few months later and said no one had applied for my position and he was still doing both our jobs alone. Out of curiosity I looked at the job posting and the listed requirements for the position and realized that I, someone who had successfully done the job very well for over a year, would not be considered qualified enough because I didn’t meet most of the requirements simply by the odd way they were listed and the ridiculousness of some of them.

      2. CommanderBanana*

        HAH yes, I saw an IG post from a coder that was a screenshot of a job posting requiring X years in this particular coding language that he had written and had only existed for Y years, so technically the creator of the language wasn’t “qualified.”

        The further I get in my career and the more involvement I have with hiring, the more I realize that 1. most of the quals on job postings are BS and 2. most of the time the person writing the job description has no idea what the job actually is (at least in my experience).

      3. kiki*

        I work in tech and occasionally I see resumes asking for 10 years experience in a technology that is only 3 years old.

        Sometimes it’s a miscommunication between the actual manager who needs to hire someone and whoever is putting together the listings. But a lot of times people really just don’t even know what they need to look for. Hiring is a skill!

      4. J*

        One of my past employers confused a job description for internal employee reviews with the same kind of job description that should be posted for recruiting. They’d include things like “experienced with PROPRIETARY SOFTWARE and regularly processes claims” and then on the application ask how many years you had with it. They’d make you do checkboxes for “can lift 50 pounds” for a fully remote desk job because that was listed on the job description for someone else in the payband and no one used critical thinking to see if it should apply to a remote accounting role.

        We can say that some differences are because of HR versus hiring managers but then both roles need to actually do their part in making sure it’s an accurate job description and application process.

  12. Nom*

    What frustrates me most about these systems is that everywhere I’ve worked, we asked applicants to do this but then neither the hiring manager or the recruiter used the software to evaluate candidates, they just downloaded resumes and evaluated from there. I’m sure very large companies who get thousands of applications do actually use the software but so many companies don’t, meaning that this is just busy work for applicants.

  13. Maggie*

    lmao, I was literally going to ask this in the OP Friday! it drives me crazy having to re-add everything. I was going to ask if the company reads those sections vs. a resume

  14. rayray*

    These systems are terrible, but I feel like I see them less than I used to, many systems autofill with resume now.

    If you come across one of these and are really interested in the job, I just copy and paste from my resume. It can be annoying and time consuming though.

    1. Lenora Rose*

      Autofill from resume still requires going through because they can take some weird erroneous shortcuts. But it’s still better than continual copy pasting.

      1. Rayray*

        Oh for sure. It always goods up a couple things on mine but I always know where to check. For some reason, a job I have listed as April 2019 – March 2020 always comes up as April 2019 – March 2019 and I have never been able to figure out why. Good thing is the system also catches those errors and alerts you

  15. Fed Head*

    I work for a US federal organization that is “quite large and has a million different types of roles” and uses an application process very similar to this (upload your resume AND retype it). In my organization, they make you do this because they have an automated sorting process that searches for key words in your resume as the first stage of vetting. They need all the resumes in the exact same format to run through the program. If your resume doesn’t have the key words they’re looking for (e.g., leader, analysis, research, whatever), you’re probably not going to make it to the next phase.

    A word of advice in this situation – match your resume to the job description because those key words are likely peppered through that description!

    1. rayray*

      Any idea what would happen if I copy/pasted the job description into the application field? Not saying I would do it but I kinda wonder…

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        You will get job interviews if you do that. I made the mistake of using a synonym once, and HR screened me out because the word *could* mean something else.

        The word they used was “oversight” and I used “responsible.”

        1. I have RBF*

          That’s just bananapants.

          If they don’t have good synonym matching they are screening stuff out that they shouldn’t be.

    2. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yeah, this is why you match your resume/application to the job description even if the phrasing is weird. For years, my resume has included the phrase, “provided reference services to a diverse clientele in an engaged way”, because that was a popular phrasing in job ads last time I was searching.

  16. Courageous cat*

    I agree that this is bullshit. And I see less of this now but what I REALLY can’t stand is when they also ask me to list 3 mandatory references during that extremely long-winded application.

    My friend, you have no idea if you even like me yet, and I don’t know anything about you either. I’m not giving a total stranger/strange company the personal info of my references. The very least you could do is reach out to me for an interview first.

    1. I have RBF*

      Yeah, I never give references on the first application. I always confirm with my references if they are available for a reference check beforehand, and I won’t bug them for just an application.

  17. JennyBird*

    Fingers crossed that the hiring manager is someone like me who just ignores the forms and downloads the resume/cover letter!

    1. Sunshine*

      Same here! Admittedly I’ve only hired for roles that had at most a handful of applicants – I can understand why in-demand roles might need a system like this. But I wouldn’t even think twice about just looking at the resume. I hate those forms too! And I believe on a lot of platforms the form is just default, not something the company chooses to have.

  18. Be Gneiss*

    Follow up question – If you did fill out an application with “see resume” and then you read this advice, and it was a job that you were very interested in and very qualified for…what should you do? Chalk it up to experience? Fill out another application? Something else?

    1. Firecat*

      Leave it be. Odds are you’ll be fine. like I said above I put “see resume” on all repeats consistently and I have a very good return rate for applications. Typically I get 1-3 interviews for every 6-12 applications.

  19. onetimethishappened*

    Most application systems are awful. If they do have an auto fill option (from uploading you resume), it always ends up messing up info somewhere and I have to redo it. When I was job searching I ended up making a profile at some of the very large companies in my area. Most of them kept my profile and I was able to just apply to jobs as they came up (without having to re-enter everything). Thankfully I ended up getting a pretty good job this way.

  20. insert pun here*

    Higher ed is notorious for these kinds of systems. Higher ed is also having a ton of trouble hiring right now. Gosh, I wonder if these things are at all connected?

    1. Junior Assistant Peon*

      Higher ed constantly has “failed searches” for faculty jobs that an army of underemployed PhD’s would kill to have.

      1. anon phd*

        Ok, but for faculty jobs, this is more likely due to existing faculty members being incredibly, unreasonably picky, not because applicants aren’t filling out forms correctly. I was a PhD student in a department that had several “failed searches” for a vacant position because the existing faculty members were so fussy about who they would consider.

  21. Pyanfar*

    I’m beginning to see a market for a software app that would allow me to type the information into it once, and then it would fill in all the things for those automated systems for me…

    1. Smith Masterson*

      The problem is all those systems are proprietary and need the metadata fields formatted differently. However, the eForm capture portion would be easy.

  22. The Bureaucrat*

    I know you’re not going to like this answer, but I would stop looking at your application after the first “see resume.” I have to look at too many applications to bother looking at those who didn’t bother to fill it out correctly. I know most of my colleagues feel the same.

    1. Dr. Rebecca*

      Wouldn’t you/your company better be served by requiring a resume only, and then just eliminating people who didn’t follow *that* direction?

      1. beanie gee*

        I’ve been in hiring processes that used both systems and both have pros and cons. One pro of the application style system is it makes it super easy for a reviewer to focus on the skills they are looking for and not have to hunt for them (and maybe miss or overlook them) in a resume. If the application is structured in a way that isn’t just a regurgitation of the resume.

        1. oranges*

          This is the biggest pro of having a manual application. Having everyone fill out the application sorts the info in a uniform way so I can compare apples to apples. Otherwise, you have a bunch of PDFs floating around.

    2. Some dude*

      I had to apply for a senior level job at a nonprofit recently that had one of these systems. They reached out to me, asked me to apply, and then I had to use this lame cumbersome system to replicate my resume. But I did it because I wanted the job and I felt like at the very least I was proving I was a team player who would do annoying admin stuff without pitching a fit. And I do understand how having the information separate from the resume is useful when you are reviewing hundreds of applications, but for a role where likely they had 20 at most apply, it seemed like overkill. And the system really did not follow best practices in terms of form design, usabilty, accessibility, etc.

    3. Firecat*

      Name checks out.

      This is probably heavily industry dependent with tech and private companies typically being morew lenient. My experience hiring was the opposite of yours (healthcare) and no one bothered to read the application only the resume.

    4. I have RBF*

      Yep, and your viewpoint is why I don’t bother with that style of application.

      What to you is “didn’t bother to fill it out correctly” is to me “this is the 50th freaking bad ATS parsing that I’ve had to fill out and fix this week. I’m tired, they can see my resume or go fish.” Half the time they want stuff that isn’t relevant.

      I prefer to spend my job search time doing basic resume applications that get phone screens, not filling out forms for a 1% chance of a call back.

  23. SchuylerSeestra*

    Generally yes, this is a bad idea. However I get your frustration with the ATS.

    The job was probably posted through Workday or Taleo which are the worst ATS known to man. I’ve had to use Taleo on the backend and it sucks.

    However I have had candidates do the same thing on my companies applications or refuse to answer required questions. Our ATS is super user friendly, it syncs the resume directly so no need to manually fill out the application. So if someone posted “see resume” i would assume they don’t want to follow instructions.

  24. Olivia*

    “And some hiring managers find it off-putting when candidates write ‘see resume’ — like you’re saying ‘your instructions don’t apply to me.'”

    I mean yeah, that sure seemed to be the OP’s attitude throughout the whole letter. It’s interesting to see how people in the more privileged echelons of the corporate world think. There are so many letters from managers and directors who seem humble and are cognizant of power dynamics and stuff, and then sometimes there are people who send in letters where they seem to think they’re too important for the stuff that the little people have to do. And sometimes, in some work situations, that makes sense–like, you aren’t going to have the CEO doing stuff that someone lower can do because her time is more valuable. But other times, it just comes off as out-of-touch and entitled. You want the job, you follow the directions. Isn’t that what you would want from the candidates you look at?

    1. LJ*

      But it’s also true the recruitment process for the McDonald’s CEO ought to be vastly different from a McDonald’s restaurant entry-level worker. One hopes their HR doesn’t use the same form for both.

      1. Seahorse*

        Most of the minimum wage jobs I’ve applied for made me take long, ridiculous personality tests in addition to adding a resume and listing every job I’d ever had (which wasn’t many, thankfully). My current job asked for a CV, cover letter, and one page of qualifying questions like “do you have the required degrees?”

        Sometimes, money or power makes people out of touch. Other times though, experience gives you the insight to know when something isn’t worth your time.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          I remember when those retail systems came in. I was thinking of getting a second job and quit halfway through the first application. Those systems screen for people who have nothing better to do with their time.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If you have in-demand skills, employers want you as much as you want the job, and sometimes more. If you have plenty of options, it’s reasonable to not feel like jumping through a bunch of inefficient hoops. That’s not arrogant or entitled; it’s realistic, and it’s respecting your own time/skills/competitiveness.

      1. Some dude*

        Agreed. If you have a more entry level role where you might have hundreds of applications for the position, it makes sense to have a process that helps filter the applications. If you are looking for a very specific skill set, and are likely going to have to poach someone to find a good fit, it is counterproductive and a little insulting to ask them to fill out a cumbersome form. You aren’t having to filter them. You are trying to get them to want to work at your organization. I think the process for both should be inclusive and humane, but only one has to account for volume of applications.

      2. I have RBF*


        It’s not “entitled” as a 20 plus year professional to not want to spend an hour wading through your bespoke ATS and trying to find all the fiddly, irrelevant stuff that the designer of your ATS thought that people must have. If I have to spend an hour farting with your ATS, that’s five other jobs that I don’t apply to.

        I’ve usually found that the more cumbersome the ATS and the more out of touch with the actual job it is, the more likely that they pay less than industry average and have a very slow hiring process.

    3. Hrodvitnir*

      I most certainly do not think this is related to being in the “privileged echelons of the corporate world”.

      I’m someone who’s only worked low paid work with no upward mobility (vet nurse career to molecular bio technician), and these systems can get wrecked as far as I’m concerned.

      I find it *intensely* disrespectful, unproductive for both ends (it’s a screening tool run by a computer and as far as I’m concerned, jobs where that’s more benefit than harm are few and far between), and I deeply resent this becoming a norm.

      This is topical because I just applied for a part-time job at the university I’m studying at that uses it, and if it wasn’t unusually appealing I would have bailed. Especially as it wanted references before even interviewing – I do not appreciate it at all.

      1. I have RBF*

        Places that ask for references before an interview I consider to be highly disrespectful of me and my references. I usually put “references available after interview”. I’m not throwing their info into a generic ATS to be harvested later.

  25. Beboots*

    I will say, as someone who hires through my organization’s online application system, the screening questions we ask (usually like 4 or so) are not intended to be copy/pasted info about the positions, often because people can draw on skills, experience, and knowledge from multiple roles. Like, our question could be interpreted as a copy/paste the resumé thing but we want to see people draw links between their various experience (and hopefully also the job as listed in the job poster). Like, we might ask something like “Please describe your experience in supervision and/or coaching”, “Please describe your experience in creative writing and editing”, or “Do you have experience working with or within Indigenous communities?” Like, with the last one, your experience may not be super apparent in your résumé, or it’s hidden in multiple bullet points in different jobs because it may not have been a focus but it is experience you have on some projects. I’ve found that since we’ve swapped from résumé and cover letter only in the application stage, to also asking a few specific questions about experience/skills we consider essential, we’ve gotten much clearer applications. Quite frankly, we get a lot of poorly written résumés, so having a specific question to actually explain your experience (instead of a list of duties) has been a boon to allow the candidates we get to really show us their relevant experience!

    1. bamcheeks*

      This is how application forms work in my sector too. Usually there’s a section for previous employment and education which is a pain to fill in, but it stays from one application to the next for five years (so I have it saved at the five large local employers in my sector that I’m likely to apply to), and then you’ll be asked for a personal statement / supporting statement which explains how you meet the job criteria. The best ones have 6-8 criteria: the worst ones have 12-15 criteria which is just ridiculous.

    2. Relentlessly Socratic*

      We did something like this when we were getting flooded with resumes from people who clearly weren’t reading the job description. (This was peak “great resignation”) We benchmarked the job description against other orgs with similar positions, to ensure that the description was clear and accurate (it was).

      After some internal discussion, we added one or two questions to the application software that weren’t simply for copy-pasta from the resumes, but were more “please describe your experience with X” and STILL would get “see resume” and when I “saw resume” the person would, invariably, not have the skills or experience needed.

    3. Hrodvitnir*

      I wouldn’t mind this! We’re definitely talking about systems where you load a resume, then the next page is filling in fields with your last few job titles/dates/description of duties.

      I also don’t love applications that want you to do a lot of extra work just for screening, but a handful of questions like this sound positive to me. Allows you to expand on your strengths a bit without being a huge time suck.

      This stranger on the internet approves, FWIW.

    4. I have RBF*

      Resume plus a few screening questions is fine by me. Sometimes the screening questions tell me that the job wouldn’t be a fit, or they will get me more excited about the job.

  26. HugsAreNotTolerated*

    As someone who graduated from college and entered the job market in 2012 and has dealt endlessly with these types of systems since my very first job hunt, this question is utterly HILARIOUS.
    There are literal memes about this topic and why millennials hate job hunting so much because these ATS are so crappy, time consuming, and generally worthless. It’s kinda delicious to hear from someone who’s at a Senior Director level go “WTH? This is super frustrating” because WE’VE BEEN SAYING THAT ALL ALONG!!!
    This isn’t even accounting for all the systems that require you to create an account in order to access their ATS. I literally have a spreadsheet to keep track of the companies/jobs I apply to and one of the columns is to put the account log-in information.

    1. I have RBF*

      What’s worse is when you have to make an account in the same system, but for a different company. So I end up with dozens of accounts in the same third party ATS, and of course nothing transfers over, so I have to fill out the same BS for each. and. every. single. one. Such a waste of time and effort.

  27. Toby Zeigler*

    I can’t speak for every industry, but I’ve worked in recruiting/talent acquisition in a number of industries (healthcare, manufacturing, consumer goods, even municipalities) and if you include your resume and you’re qualified, I’m going to talk to you. Very few companies/organizations still use the dreaded “bot” to screen out candidates, because when we did, we had issues like this: great candidates do one thing wrong, and we missed out on new talent because our system sucked. So now, in the VAST majority of organizations, a human is the first entity to look at your information, and we just want to fill jobs.

    I might think you’re a little annoying if you just write “see resume,” but if you have the skills I need, my ego isn’t so big that I’m going to reject you for it.

    Just one recruiter’s very humble opinion.

    1. Rocky Mountain (not) High*

      Here’s a second recruiter not-so-humbly seconding your opinion. I’ve been in recruiting–as a recruiter and on the back end of systems–for over 20 years and I have never used a system that screens out candidates for you. I’ve seen some that give (hilariously off base) “scores” to resumes, but we did not pay any attention to them.

      Also as a recruiter, I make it my mission to do whatever I can to influence the application process to be as easy and simple as possible. The ideal system requires just a resume upload and a few regulatory questions (EEO, ADA, etc.). It benefits me not at all to lose good candidates because our application is onerous. To that end, when I am applying for jobs I am also evaluating the process from a candidate perspective. If it sucks, I literally do not apply because it’s going to suck just as much or more on the back end. Included in “this application sucks” are those that require essay questions which are more appropriately addressed in a phone screen. Resume upload. Regulatory questions. Boom, done.

      1. I have RBF*


        I have no problem with resume upload, regulatory questions, and a few short answer things. But if you want an on the spot composition sample essay of how I solved a problem ten years ago, you probably are not going to get it – my reaction is likely “LOL, no.”

  28. Justathought*

    I have been in a hiring position multiple times. The company I am at now uses this exact system, except does NOT forward the resume attachment to the hiring committee. So we ONLY see what you put in the boxes on the form. If you wrote “see resume” in each box, we would be forced to eliminate you as a candidate immediately because we have no other information. We have requested to see the resume attachment before from HR and they told us no, we can only use what is in the form.

    Is it a terrible system? Yes, absolutely. Have I been in the applicant position before and had to complete retype and reformat my resume in these boxes even after I attached it? Yes and I hated it. Unfortunately, though, hiring committees may have little to no say in how their system operate. Always play the game and fill in the boxes if you are serious about the job.

    1. sometimeswhy*

      We have a stage in the process where parts of the application are screened by a small panel and they only get those specific portions, anonymized so if an applicant treats them as optional or reference a resume instead of responding, they would be excluded before the hiring manager even knew they applied. There’s even a little warning on the online form telling people that sections of the application may be evaluated separately as part of a screening process and to include all information requested even if it’s repetitive.

      1. I have RBF*


        It’s part of my ADHD to be almost incapable of doing the same thing over and over again. It works great for my job – because I will find those tedious things and automate them away. But wanting the same data in multiple places on a job application? No. I just can’t do that unless I’m in a really good mood, and then it will ruin my mood.

  29. theletter*

    I usually keep my resume in a google doc – I can download it in whatever format necessary as needed, and copy/paste sections easily.

    Emailing from google docs tend to fail more than help.

  30. Shiny Penny*

    I think I have about 400-500 workday accounts now from all the job applications I’ve done over the last ten years that required that I re-enter my resume into their application fields. It’s so frustrating. Part of it is all about their automated pre-screening. I honestly hate how disadvantaged the job application process is; especially when I’ve been limited to trying to do it on my phone due to being unable to even afford a tablet cheap laptop. I completely understand OPs frustration and why they said “see resume”.

    1. Zap R.*

      Oh god, yeah, I remember being broke and trying to fill these stupid things out on a phone or tablet. Absolute nightmare.

    2. Nuisance Moose*

      Making a separate account just for a job application is my biggest pet peeve. During my last job search, I had to make new Workday accounts for about 20 different companies. It got to the point where I seriously questioned how much I wanted the job if I clicked on the link for the job posting and it was a Workday URL.

  31. Hi I have ADHD*

    I do want to point out that including mandatory tedious *redundant* data entry as part of a job application is very much not inclusive to people with ADHD. I’ve missed job application deadlines because I couldn’t motivate myself to jump through hoops like this. And I do mean “couldn’t,” not “didn’t want to.”

    If your company has an application portal that requires this sort of thing and you have any control over it, I would seriously urge you to consider finding a way to eliminate this toil. I assume this doesn’t rise anywhere near the level of being an ADA issue (not a lawyer), but if tedious data entry isn’t a significant part of the job, it may be limiting the diversity of your candidate pool.

    1. I have RBF*


      I have ADHD, and I am virtually incapable of doing redundant stuff. Yes, I can do several applications, because they are to different companies. But if I have to type of answer the same thing more than once or twice? Kiss it, I can’t do it, and I will probably log off swearing.

      There is something in my brain that goes TILT when I get hit with repetition. I have had the problem since second grade, where I ended up being kept in at lunch and recess because I couldn’t do more than one row of problems on a sheet.

      I have a problem with bureaucracy because of this, but it makes me a really good sysadmin.

  32. Ally McBeal*

    Alison, do you see this terrible, awful, no-good-very-bad application system going away any time soon? It is soul-crushing, especially when you’re job searching while also holding down a full-time job, but no one with the power to change anything seems to care. With AI systems improving at a frankly alarming rate, I feel like there could be a huge opportunity to move from “AI sorts through online applications” to “AI scans submitted resumes” just around the corner.

    1. Relentlessly Socratic*

      I don’t trust AI to reliably draw hands, I’m not trusting it to help me find my next hire…

    2. Bread Crimes*

      I’m pretty sure that if you teach AI to scan submitted resumes, it’s just gonna start auto-rejecting people according to the pre-existing biases that seeded the ranks of previous employees in a position. After all, that’s exactly what happened when people tried it out before.

    3. Snarkus Aurelius*

      Isn’t AI still incredibly racist, sexist, and ageist despite all attempts to fix? People still have to program AI and with that will come built-in biases.

  33. beanie gee*

    Gosh, making a plain text version of my resume is such a good idea. Thank you for that tip!

  34. Maisonneuve*

    Applications to the Canadian federal government are very much this way. Granted they’re more screening questions than ‘what were your duties’, but if your resume is written as results not tasks, you’re copying a lot. “See resume” will get you screened out. It can take 2-3 hours to do an application because there seem to be more and more questions and you have to be so careful to use the exact words and answer every component. It’s more like a first round interview and job app.

    1. Hungry Magpie*

      Heh, I was wondering if anyone would mention the GoC process! It’s certainly an experience…

  35. Texas Librarian*

    I work for a public library through a county government and this is how it works. From my perspective (I currently have a position I’m hiring for), if someone doesn’t follow instructions, and I have a lot of applications, I will skip them over. I do not appreciate “See resume.” I get that it’s frustrating, but it is what it is. And don’t get me started on not getting cover letters when it says it’s required (I’d honestly be OK with no resume if they included a cover letter).

    1. Relentlessly Socratic*

      oooh, I had a couple applications requiring a cover letter then nowhere to attach a cover letter as its own file. (and I’m firmly team cover letter, so I’m always ready to draft one!)

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        Make another file where the first page is the cover letter and the subsequent pages are the resume. One upload; multiple documents.

        1. amoeba*

          Yeah, that’s what I always do now – since one application where a cover letter definitely wasn’t mentioned anywhere and the upload field just said “upload CV”. Not even “upload your application”, in which case I probably would have uploaded them as one file even then. But the way it was set up really made me go “huh, weird, OK, guess they don’t want one!”. Until the hiring manager reached out and asked me to submit one! (Which was very nice instead of just rejecting me outright, but still. Weird system!)
          So since then I always err on the side of including one…

        2. Relentlessly Socratic*

          Yeah that’s what I did eventually, but I was briefly flummoxed when it was specific to “upload resume” and I was looking for other places to upload!

  36. Karak*

    I know we can’t always be picky, but I’m of the opinion that a place that has this kind of system, and would throw out an application because of “see resume” is a place I don’t want to work at.

    They’ve already demonstrated they’re bad with technology and that different areas don’t work well together. Companies that demand employees work around incompetence instead of fixing it are ones that usually are miserable when you get in.

    1. Colette*

      I run trips for youth on a volunteer basis, and I have specific procedures I need everyone to follow. Occasionally someone tries to do their own thing, and I have to redirect them. It might be easier for them (as one person), but I’m dealing with 15 people, and I need it done a specific way because that’s what I’m set up to handle. If everyone follows their own process, that’s 15 processes for me to manage.

      This is a similar thing. It’s easier for the applicant to just submit their resume – but the company is looking for the same information from 30 (or 300) people, and it’s easier for them to get it all in one format instead of having to parse 30 (300) resumes. Maybe they’ll be willing to do the extra work on their end – but I’d bet they’d only do it if the 30 people who followed instructions aren’t people they want to hire.

      You see it as the company being bad with technology, but they see it as rejecting people who don’t follow instructions.

      1. John*

        There wouldn’t be any need for following instructions in the first place if their site automatically populated those later fields from the resume.

        1. amoeba*

          Most systems I’ve used have done that and zero of them worked in any useful way… it’s always just as much work correcting the weird entries as doing them from scratch. And I really don’t think my CV is formatted weirdly or anything!

    2. AnotherLibrarian*

      Not everyone has that flexibility. Some city and state hiring rules are so strict that they require you to throw out applications where people don’t fill out those things and get a scored match. So, as much as it might be a pain, it’s not always reflective of the work environment and more reflective of the weird bureaucracy at play.

  37. Junior Assistant Peon*

    As someone who’s been on the hiring manager side at a small company with no ATS, I’m convinced that these things are a solution in search of a problem. As a hiring manager, I needed an ATS about as much as a fish needs a bicycle.

    1. Relentlessly Socratic*

      The last place I was at is a small biz, and we used some form of application system (not one of the biggies) that basically kept all the applications in a tidy space and let us track where people were and what our decisions were. So that part was nice. I can’t remember what it was called, which is a shame because it was flexible and we could set it up to be reasonably user-friendly.

      Every resume had at least one human reviewer, and most had two. No auto-rejections. Looking through the resumes that were completely off-base/clearly an application to satisfy unemployment requirements was so soul-crushing that I wish I had something reliable to do a first pass for me. I mean, I am sure that the pizza delivery person was lovely and would have been nice to have as a colleague, but the senior-level position was for someone with doctoral education in a specialized field. Pizza person gets to say they applied for x# of jobs, but I just wasted some limited time that I have available for screening applications. The system seems to be broken for pretty much everyone.

  38. loodles*

    U.K.-based manager here, who works in the public sector.

    Every time we advertise we get people sending in just their CV, and it’s usually an immediate red flag because our adverts state you must complete an application form, and we assume you don’t follow instructions and/or lack attention to detail. We also use a standardised application form as it collects details not often included in a CV, and allows fairer shortlisting.

    Only the most promising-looking candidates will be contacted to say either send an application instead of a CV/edit your application to remove the “refer to CV” parts, and that’s only if I’ve had the chance to look through someone’s CV properly; which I usually haven’t, as HR very rarely forward them on to me (I usually only receive all relevant application forms once the advertising date is over for a specific vacancy within my department).

    It’s also important as we need to collect specific data from any applicant, regardless of where the role sits in the organisation, to ensure we are conducting safer recruitment and safeguarding checks properly. Again, a CV may miss these crucial details.

    So, as annoying as it is, if you really want a role, complete the application form as fully as possible. Or, use it as a guide you don’t want to work somewhere that utilises that recruitment process!

  39. Hales*

    Chiming in from a hiring manager perspective – You absolutely want to fill out those fields, because you have no idea of what the online system is going to do to your resume’s format! My company uses a well-known HCM software for our job applications. I cannot tell you how many candidates I’ve interviewed that, when I try to open the resume attachment, it turns into hot garbage. I have no idea why the system butchers some resumes and not others, but I’ve reached a place that I only look at the fields the candidate has filled out.

  40. BBB*

    I’m in a very similar position to OP, casually applying to things that interest me but not desperate to get out of my current role.
    I’ve also been doing the same of putting in the bare minimum to get past the red astrerk and writing ‘see resume’ rather than reinventing the wheel in every application portal.
    if that means I get passed over, so be it. their loss
    my time is valuable too

    I also skip the reference upload and say references will be provided upon request should we both decide to move forward.
    like hell you’re going to cold call my references before I even decide I want the position!
    while I understand the need for these filtering systems, I find the cold, cookie cutterness so off-putting. especially as I move up in my career and the jobs I am looking at are niche and advanced.

    I’ve also worked on the hiring side of things and yes, I do download and read through every resume and cover letter I receive!

    1. DocVonMitte*

      This is how I approach my job search. I don’t re-fill out info already in my resume (work history, education) and I don’t write cover letters. Does this mean I get passed over for jobs I’d otherwise be interviewed for? Yes. Am I ok with that? Also, yes. My time is worth quite a bit to me and I’m not desperate.

      The trick is to have an understanding of what recruiters/hiring managers want to see (in this case, they do want you to fill out that info) and make an informed decision that works for you. (You need to know the rules to break the rules sort of thing.)

      If you are desperate for a job, then you may need to just suck it up and fill that stuff out. If you’re not, you can make a different choice.

  41. Leia Organa*

    So, adding to Allison’s note about having a plain text copy on hand. If you do have a plain text copy of your resume, you can often times upload that and it will, for the most part, fill in the fields accurately. You’ll still want your formatted resume to be attached which I believe you should be able to do along the way–there’s typically another spot in Workday apps to upload documents after you’ve parsed your resume into their system. (I wrote step-by-step instructions on LI about this since a lot of people in my network were struggling with the HRIS parsing.)

  42. Bookworm*

    Just chiming in to say I hate these things too. It’s a waste of time and effort and is too much work.

  43. It is what it is*

    I was told by a job counselor that your resume is like a marketing document, while the application is the legal document for the company. This is why, even though you attach your resume you still need to fill out the application. The resume is a marketing tool and the application is a legal document.

    It didn’t make it any easier when I was job searching but it lessened some of my aggravation while going through the process.

    I dream of the day when there is a simpler process, but I’m not holding my breath.

  44. Middle Aged Lady*

    This process should only be used for jobs where filling out many screens of information patiently by hand will be part of the job.har!
    We usually got about 60 applications for the jobs I hired for. We made a grid and one of us, or the administrative assistant looked over the resumes and made a spreadsheet of qualifications so we could scan them quickly. Then we looked more carefully at the good matches.

    1. BellyButton*

      The last data analyst position we posted for we received 385 resumes. What you described isn’t happening here. It isn’t possible.

  45. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

    Hey LW, I suggest that you make a very plain-text copy of your resume, and use that for uploading. A very plain resume is easier for the system to parse and then it can auto-populate those fields more accurately. Any kind of automatic formatting can trip up the system, and that includes things like bullet points.

    SO: copy your whole resume and in a fresh document, paste it without formatting. Then it will be plain text. Go thru and make it look better as you can. Don’t indent anything; don’t center or right-justify anything. Leave out things like italics, bullets, bolding – anything that’s formatting. You’ll have blank lines separating things and it will be too long and look awful but that’s okay because it’s for the system, not for human eyes. Use that for uploading to application systems and it will really reduce the amount that you have to adjust what the system auto-populates.

    Don’t get rid of your attractive resume! Bring the proper resume to the interview because (a) sometimes the interviewers haven’t actually read your resume properly or even gotten a copy of it; (b) they always appreciate a chance to refresh their memories and it’s very gracious to have extra copies on hand for them; (d) it will be SO MUCH MORE attractive than whatever HR gave them from your application. Also easier to read. And offer it up at the beginning, pro-actively (don’t wait to be asked).

    I started doing this because I had an interviewer once who had to find my resume in their system and that was a waste of both our time. I kept doing it because I’m a writer and I want them to see something nicely-formatted (it’s a writing sample!). And I have gotten so many thanks for it that it’s clear to me that it can benefit everyone, not just writers.

    1. amoeba*

      Will have to try that, thanks!

      Also, just to add – most application systems have a place where you can add your nice PDF version later on as an additional document. Would always do that because at least in my field, I’ve always seen the hiring managers look at the actual formatted CVs and it would probably come across really weirdly to have the plain text version instead!

  46. Immortal for a limited time*

    I work in state gov’t and our HR division’s online application system sometimes requires all fields to be filled out and sometimes it doesn’t, but this is made clear to the applicant. For example, positions in my division require both a cover letter and a resume, so there is a statement that says something like, “You MUST upload a cover letter and a resume. If your resume provides the same information requested in sections XX-XX of the online application form, you may leave those fields blank.” They don’t care how pretty your resume is, so long as it isn’t full of typos and provides all the info necessary to evaluate you alongside all applicants who do fill out the online app. If you think it’s annoying and difficult to fill out the online app, just imagine how annoying and difficult it is for an HR person sifting through dozens of submissions for one position. If you don’t want to be summarily rejected for not following instructions, do the work.

  47. BellyButton*

    Head of People Dev here- recruiting and the software fall under me. To answer some questions and complaints I see in the comments;
    1. Very few companies are building their own online recruiting portal- it is all Oracle, SAP, and some smaller ones. It isn’t the company’s fault they suck. It is the developer of the HRIS systems we use. We give the feedback
    2. Putting your information in there allows me to put some rules in place to get a more diverse pool of people. I am able to block names, gender, race, etc, from view of the hiring manager. When I first implemented this at one company we raised the number of women who were being invited to interview by 32% in the first MONTH. More women interviewing= more women being hired.
    3. I look at the diversity numbers to see where my team can do better with recruiting. If I am not getting enough applicants who are veterans, I may want to invest time and money into recruiting with organizations that help vets transition out of the military
    4. We also need your resume so that when it is time to interview it can be given to the hiring manager in the way you designed it, not in the way we forced the information to be provided. We want to see how you present yourself.

    None of this changes that they suck and it is time consuming and annoying, but a lot of companies are using them for the above reasons and they do help get a more diverse group of applicants being interviewed and considered.

    Hope this helps!

    1. BellyButton*

      BTW these aren’t the only ways I use the data captured, but they are some of the big ones.

    2. Michelle Smith*

      This is a useful explanation from the hiring perspective! Thanks for letting us know!

    3. I have RBF*

      I guess the problem I have with it is that it takes five times as long to fuss with an ATS than it does to submit a resume and cover letter with some demographic info. So for me to wade through your ATS, the job has to be five times as attractive to me.

  48. Eugene*

    Removed because off-topic but you can post this on Friday’s open thread if you’d like. – Alison

  49. Decidedly Me*

    I immediately pass on people that put “see resume”, “I’ll answer in an interview”, or anything similar in the application questions. However, our application doesn’t ask for things that are easily discernable from a person’s resume (ie. years of experience with a certain thing) or are things that can’t at all be answered from the resume review, which makes it even more annoying when someone does this. It wastes both my time and theirs if they approach it that way.

  50. Environmental Compliance*

    I had one where I had entered the information in at least twice and the system kept emptying the space when I clicked save.

    I finally gave up and put “see resume” in every single space. Still got an interview, but YMMV.

    I do however keep a plain text version of my resume just for copy-paste reasons. It is frustrating to have to re-enter in the same information 2+ times, but it is what it is. The only times I really truly get frustrated is when the system is not saving information correctly or when it won’t let you copy-paste information in. I’m not retyping my entire resume, and I have left application processes because of it.

    1. I have RBF*

      Yeah, if it parses my low-format resume correctly, or lets me copy-paste sections I will sometimes finish it. But if I have to retype my resume data from scratch? LOL, no. I spent hours on that resume, finding every little typo. If I have to retype it, there will be lots of typos, and I will probably do an ADHD lock up and just leave the site.

  51. TruetalesfromHR*

    The issue is that on an application you are asked to attest that the information is true. There is no such attestation on a resume. That’s why you are asked for information that is on your resume.

      1. DocVonMitte*

        Additionally, I assume there is an implicit understanding that what you are submitting when you apply is true. Even if you don’t formally attest, if you submit a false resume most companies will still just fire you. It’s not a legal contract so you really don’t need to “attest” as far as I understand.

      2. TruetalesfromHR*

        Systems are purchased, not developed in-house. In my role, I didn’t get to chose the system because our global HQ in another continent did that (and honestly I don’t think it’s feasible to get employees in 40+ countries to agree on one system, so pointless to ask them to choose when you need one global system.)

  52. Michelle Smith*

    My understanding is that some of those applications are designed with knockout questions. If the information they want isn’t in the question section, they will disqualify your application. I’ve even had situations where I DID fill out the sections, and then had the HM reach out to me afterwards because it didn’t save or load properly and they needed to have it in there. Hopefully in your case they reach out or don’t care, but in the future, it’s much better to draft your answers in a Word doc and paste it in there OR write in the web form and paste your answers into a Word doc as you go. That way you don’t lose the work due to tech issues.

  53. PlainJane*

    It’s extremely annoying, but it’s life in 2023. I think I’d resigned myself to filling out the form and just done it from scratch, not bothering with my resume since I would be entering it into the app, but then they asked for a resume as well, and I just sort of :headdesked: and pasted it all back into a resume format. But sheesh. And of course, they want your references before you can even finish the application instead of after they’ve reviewed it and decided to interview you, so you have to put all your references on alert, and gah. Add that to not being able to explain non-standard experience in the format (I had to actually ask HR if they would ding me for saying I have managerial experience when I don’t have a managerial title, but just manage everyone for the months and months when we’re between managers), and it’s a whole smorgasbord of yuck.

    I don’t have anything productive to say here. Just adding to the chorus.

    1. I have RBF*

      I will not enter my references into an initial application. They are waaaaaaay out of line in asking for them, IMO. It is disrespectful to my references to use their data as form fodder.

  54. Thegreatprevaricator*

    I’m surprised that no-one has brought up one advantage of the application form which is that it standardised the information requested and provided. For example this can help candidates who might be qualified but terrible at things like formatting documents to be on level terms with other candidates. It can also help by not including information which might contribute towards a recruiters or interviewers unconscious bias. This contributes towards a more fair process which employers should be working to demonstrate they have. A form can be badly designed but is it really that hard to just copy and paste?

    I say this as someone who deals with a lot of application forms – for funding not jobs but it’s a similar thing. Where someone puts ‘see attachment’ or similar they basically rule themselves out because they’re not meeting the clearly laid out assessment criteria. Just answer the questions (or maybe op really doesn’t want this job!)

    1. SB*

      A lot of them disable the copy paste function or utilise drop down boxes which makes it so much harder to complete them.

      1. I have RBF*

        If someone won’t let me copy-paste I will nope out of the application. I’m not applying for a typist or data entry position. Same with those drop downs that have only limited options.

        If they make it too onerous to “follow directions” I’m not going to bow down and do extra tedious work, on spec and for nothing, to follow directions.

        I literally had a referral where I could not complete the ATS application because it was too badly broken. I brought it to the attention of my referral, he brought it to HR, and they had to take the whole thing offline to fix it.

    2. amoeba*

      Eh, for all positions I’ve applied for, you need both and the hiring managers will definitely look at your actual résumé. I guess the form content is just for first round HR screening. So wouldn’t even help with that (worst of both worlds, I guess)…

  55. hi there*

    I’ve been involved on the hiring side now in a small nonprofit, and I can’t even get candidates to complete the fields. Our postings also say to just send me a resume and cover letter… I think like 1% (and NOT EVEN the best candidates) actually send this. So. Frustrating. It’s something we’ll be thinking about for next seasonal postings and hiring process.

    Just wanted to say it sucks on the other side too, lol. I’ve been on both ;)

  56. SB*

    What exactly is the point of these forms that want you to reenter the information in your resume? I used to recruit nurses & I would never in a million years ask them to waste their valuable time completing a form to give me the information that is already contained in their resume.

  57. Annie*

    I do a lot of interviews for my workplace, and sometimes all I get from HR is the application form and for some reason the resume and cover letter do not follow. Also, the online form is consistent and familiar to those of us reviewing applications. It sucks, but it’s what we look at.

    Now, I will say I filled out an application in a very cavalier manner when I was applying for a leadership role within my own department a few years ago after nearly 8 years working there. I ended up getting the job and my manager at the time said something along the lines of “you clearly didn’t put much effort into the application, but your interview and track record are what got you the job.”

  58. DocVonMitte*

    I’ve just started backing out of applications that make me manually re-enter all my info after uploading my resume. I know it limits my job opportunities but I also just can’t deal with the redundancy.

    1. I have RBF*

      Same here. I have found that doing the 5x effort of re-entering my resume data in their forms does not get me 5x the level of response, so I will usually pass unless it’s a referral.

  59. Cacofonix*

    Aaaand this is one of the reasons why I’m a self employed consultant. I always go direct to senior leadership to get my roles, never through HR. Once a few years ago I applied for a permanent role and was gobsmacked at how much more rigorous the process was than even 15 years before for a professional role. I passed initial screening, then interviewed by HR, who “declined to recommend due to a lack of culture fit” and I’m thinking what, they don’t have a get sh*t done culture? Ahem. A few months after that got a contract there direct with a VP for a project that ended in success. They asked me to consider a permanent role and I politely declined and went on my way, never looked back. I facilitated a few sessions with that HR person but he didn’t seem to recognize me and I never mentioned it.

  60. Damn it feels good to be a government or nonprofit professional*

    OP here – thanks to Alison and all the many commenters! A few general responses:

    The comments seemed divided almost equally in that I should have just sucked it up and filled out the online application to the letter because I’d just get filtered out and there are some legit reasons why these systems may be helpful for some institutions vs. we should all push back on these ridiculous systems because they are disrespectful of job seekers. I definitely enjoyed the shared rage that ATSs are in general a modern scourge lol.

    The comments illuminating really how plain text it needed to be to please the bots and not an actual human reading it were illuminating and I will definitely take that into account if I have to deal with one of these things again. I do appreciate the utility of a system designed to promote DEI to filter out gender, race etc. But I wonder how many places actually use it for that, though? I would imagine that the fields that I did fill out (job titles with the ‘title’+’specific field’) would be flagged by the AI as an eligible candidate plus years of work experience. But who knows, seems like many of the systems work in different ways for different objectives. And I agree that a system that had a few yes/no questions on requisite # of years in field of experience or education level would be very not annoying.

    I’m a hiring manager myself and look at every resume and cover letter that comes through – sometimes with hiring pools of up to 300 applicants (HR does not pre-screen for us unless it’s a position that requires a specific civil service title and then only for that). For my field, it would be kind of ridiculous if they weren’t actually looking at resumes and cover letters. I can’t imagine using an AI system for this type of role when hiring, even for junior positions. The work we do is nuanced/niche and a bot filtering for keywords would likely do way more harm than good. Maybe I’m a fuddy-duddy (I’m not) but for this field reviewing candidates truly requires a human touch.

    I will also elaborate that I’m very comfortable in my current position doing stuff I love, with a very comfortable salary, and ironclad union job security with a permanent civil service appointment (cue Billy Bragg). I should note that the place I applied to is a non-profit turned for-profit. While I’m getting weary of some of the bullshit at my current government job, the bullshit you know is sometimes better than the bullshit you don’t. I am happy to follow rules and jump through reasonable hoops, but I am not ignoring my spidey sense of having to deal with a new type of corporate-y bullshit that feels disrespectful of my time up-front and ultimately may lead to potentially serious frustrations were I to make a move there. A lot of the commenters (including Alison) validated that, which lessens the tiny pangs of regret. And hey, those of us who have the comfort and privilege to push back on these ridiculous and often harmful systems should do so when we can, right?

    Shout out to all the commenters in higher education. My ex was in academia for years and dealt with this type of frustration x a billion (recreating your CV plus reference letters plus writing assignments plus god knows what other bespoke requirements for each ridiculously specific position) and I think I may have been vicariously channeling some of their frustration with this particular application :)

    My application is still listed as pending in their system, but I only applied a week ago. I will post an update if/when I have one!

    Thanks again to all!

  61. Peter*

    I do think employers underestimate how offputting laborious application processes can be.

    “Oh, we don’t want top hire anyone too lazy to fill in a long form, anyway.” Well, I have plenty of energy. But if I can apply to 5-10 equally appealing roles as easily as I can apply to yours, guess what I’ll do instead of apply to yours? You’re left disproportionately with the desperate and those with no other options.

    1. I have RBF*


      Sure, they may think I’m “lazy”, but I’d rather submit 10 resume applications in a day rather than two long form ATS things. Those 10 resumes will get me one phone screen, the two ATS will just get me form letter rejections.

      When I’m looking hard for work, I will spend my time on what get me the highest return on investment. Bespoke ATSes with lots of redundant data entry are very low value proposition IMO.

  62. Testerbert*

    One of my previous jobs was testing ATS, and boy do I have *opinions*.
    The big one is that any given implementation of such systems will have been consciously chosen to be the way it is. Every field, every question, every processing rule will have been specified by the client, so they’ll have chosen to force you to upload your CV/resume then force you to detail all the contents of that document. They’ll have chosen the auto-processing rules which get applied, and what those rules then do.

    The ideal application form should be short and succinct. Ask the important gateway questions in yes/no format (“Do you have X qualification or equivialent?”, “Are you entitled to work in this country?” etc), upload your CV/resume, done. Any automatic processing should then filter by the yes/no answers, before a person (not AI) verifies that the applicant hasn’t blatantly lied according to the contents of their CV. Relying on an ‘AI’ to scan the document can only lead to errors in understanding and thus rejection, whereas a person can seek clarification should need arise.

  63. Matthias*

    I remember a story (maybe from here, in the comments) about a summer-camp implementing a system like this, with the first question being “What is your academic title”, after which all student-volunteers stopped applying, and the camp had a huge employee crisis for that year.

  64. ijustworkhere*

    Sometimes applications need to be formatted that way because there isn’t a human looking at resumes. I got almost 400 resumes for a job I posted one time –no way can I look at 400 resumes. The electronic scanning system is necessary for high volume responses.

    Also, standardizing the application format also allows us to clearly see what we consider “compensable factors” when determining an offer and to determine at what level various “qualified” applicants are at. For example, you might be “qualified” as an entry level applicant, a mid-level applicant, or a high-level applicant based on these compensable factors (years of experience, educational credentials, professional certifications, years of management or team lead experience, etc. etc.). People don’t always give all that information in an easy-to-understand format on a resume.

    And finally, not all resumes are laid out the same way–it can be very difficult to actually parse out basic information because some people emphasize form over content.

    I do agree that these standardized applications (including the company I work for!!!) could be made a lot shorter and simpler.

    1. I have RBF*

      How do you handle the fact that many later career people will only list the last ten to fifteen years of experience so they don’t get filtered out as “too old”? I never put my full career into my resume or even an ATS, because in my field “too old” is a common thing.

  65. Rosacoletti*

    I’ve recruited for over 35 years and absolutely refuse to use this software nor do I think I’d apply to somewhere who would employ this method. If they aren’t interested in the actual person, I’m out.

  66. A Canadian (GoC) Hiring Manager*

    I’m a hiring manager in a niche but growing area the Canadian federal government and this is what our system does, it’s standard for all jobs. A lot has been said about why the shortcomings of this system. I want to share some thoughts on how this works on the side of the hiring manager because understanding this better could help people make a decision on how they approach it.
    – an HR person without background in my specific area normally does the first triage (we don’t often have time to review all applications) and will assess the answers in a chart (usually yes/no/Maybe? or a number if number of years required, super concise);
    – I get you want to be a person when you apply, but the reality is you are a piece of paper initially and if the paper doesn’t speak to who you are, that’s the end of the road for your application, alas;
    – if you think you are pushing back on the application process saying ‘see resume’, what is actually happening is the hiring manager is unlikely to see your resume at all. If there is a small pool of applications, the HR person may go to the CVs to check, but this is uncommon. Most likely, you’re out and your ‘pushback’ is unlikely to be noticed (sorry!)
    – if a job has as one of it’s qualifications things like ‘can follow instructions’; ‘communicates well in writing’; ‘attention to detail’, and other similar things can be linked to how you did/didn’t fill out the application, and you put ‘see resume’, you will likely be judged to fail those qualifications and you’re out
    – if there’s a large pool of applications, we need to narrow down quickly the pool to send to a written exam and then an interview. The larger the pool, the more the hiring manager will be looking for reasons to screen people out, so the smaller things will be more important.
    – the more detail you write to answer each of the questions the stronger you will appear to the hiring manager. Most people’s CVs do not contain enough information on their achievements, how long they’ve done something, the depth and breadth of their knowledge or experience.
    – first rule of getting through these competitions, is focus on getting screened in; you can’t show who you are as a person if your application doesn’t make it past the screening.
    I’m not defending the system by any means, just explaining how it works if you want to play that game. Good luck!

  67. Foila*

    I can’t say I recommend this, but when I see an application that asks me to duplicate info from my resume but just a little different, dozens of times… I close the tab. I might be exceptionally bad at it, but I’ve never gotten anything other than an auto reject from that kind of form.

    1. I have RBF*


      It seems like the more picayune little details that they want re-entered in several different ways the less likely it is that I will get anything more than a form email rejection. Needless to say, my return on investment in those cases is negative, so I’ll just pass.

  68. My cat's name rhymes with mustard*

    Not a real recruiter but I look at a lot of applications and I just pull up the resume and read from there. Unless there is a reason to look at the entered answers, I assume its going to match the resume.

    I do love a good cover letter though, it helps a lot.

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