If you’re actively searching for jobs online, I have some advice for you. It’s advice that isn’t widely discussed, but it’s nonetheless vital.

People like myself, who have worked with applicant tracking systems (ATSs) extensively, know that ATSs are designed for employers to use. They are not designed with job seekers in mind. The ATS makes it easier for the employer to hire, not for the job seeker to get hired.

You need to understand this firmly. Only then will you be able to adopt the right job search strategy. The ATS can be a great system for employers, but if you’re actively searching for jobs and it’s crucial you get hired ASAP, then you need to find another way.

I know it sucks to attach your resume to 30+ job applications every day. I’ve been there myself, looking for a job for eight months without any results or success. “What a waste of an engineering degree,” I thought to myself for years after that.

Later, I learned what I’m about to share with you today. That’s how I was able to forgive myself for all the failed job applications and regain my self-confidence.

Applying to jobs online is what we’ve been told to do, so we keep doing it and doing it. We get excited every time we find a new job board, regardless of how ineffective they’ve all been in the past. This why I say that ATSs fool us job seekers.

The solution, to put it simply, is to stop. I’m serious. Stop the constant online job applications. You’re hurting your sanity and your confidence with hours of research, with writing endless versions of your resume and cover letter, with putting all that effort in and never getting an interview.

You’ll start to question your own worth if you haven’t already. I’ve been there. I’m not proud of how low I felt, but I know there is no success without failure. If you’re seeking job opportunities online, forget your past mistakes. Forget your failures. Forget everything you’ve done up to now. Focus on what you’re going to do next.

Rather Than Randomly Applying to Jobs Online, Target Specific Companies

When you search for jobs on Google, Indeed, or through other search engines, you have no control over which companies will show in the research results. The database will simply show the highest-ranking results produced by its algorithm.

This process takes control away from you and gives it to the website and the site’s clients – e.g., the employers. You must take that power back. You need to get in the driver’s seat and control the outcome of your job search.

Here are five tips to help you start a better job search:

  1. Select no more than two major industries in which you want to work. It is important these sectors clearly overlap with and complement each other – e.g., automotive and aerospace.
  2. Select three sub-industries, products, and/or services within your chosen industries. These will be the subfields, products, and/or services on which you focus your job search.
  3. Create a list of 20 companies that meet the criteria you created in the first two steps. This is your “company bucket list.”
  4. Avoid targeting only big-name companies and enterprises. Make sure half of your list is composed of small and medium-sized businesses. They create the most jobs and do the majority of hiring.
  5. Research the companies on your bucket list. Look for decision-makers you could contact. Determine which companies most align with your long-term goals and career path. LinkedIn is an excellent resource for this.

The fastest way to get a job is to speak with a decision-maker and impress them so much that they extend an offer. Therefore, it is imperative that you to know where you want to work, why you want to work there, what you can do for potential employers, and how you can add value to their businesses.

Use the steps outlined above to find 20 companies that would be a great fit for you. Then, find the decision-makers at those companies, introduce yourself, and prove to them why you’re the candidate they need.

Nader Mowlaee is an engineering career coach and recruiter who is inspired by motivating confidence in engineers.

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