The effort required to apply for a job online varies considerably.
For some jobs, you just upload your resume and are done after a few clicks. Or the system scans your resume and prefills the required fields, which you then quickly verify.
Other jobs require you to create an account with that particular company, then navigate a maze of drop-down menus and text fields. You have to manually retype all your information, from employment history to education. Still others will require you to check radio buttons for 80 or so questions, such as "Would other people say that you are a hard worker?"
Although job applicants no doubt prefer the former, which approach suits the companies better?
In the former case, the recruiter spends much of her day sifting through resumes. Resumes are coming from all walks of life, from people who don't have enough experience, aren't that serious about the position, or just plain haven't read the job description. For applicants, though, it's best to err on the side of caution and apply, since it's so easy.
In the latter case, the cumbersome process will discourage many applicants. They'll go back and read the job description more closely, perhaps giving up if they know they don't stand a chance. But those who are qualified and who are serious about wanting the job will probably stick out the process. Now, recruiters have resumes from precisely the people they wanted. Of course, this only holds if the process isn't so arduous as to drive away too many qualified people as well.
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