Behind The Scenes of the Post-Application Process: Job Application to First Phone Screen

Rene Cheng
6 min readSep 21, 2021

What really happens after you submit a job application?

*This article first appeared on JobSeer Blog

Preparing all the documents like resumes, cover letters, email templates, and all that sort are the ‘must-haves’ when looking for a job. Solidifying your career objectives is indeed also required in a job search process, as you are trying to convey to the employer what values you could bring to the table. When you have all these documents ready in a folder on your computer and ready to submit a job application, you may stop and think, “Where does this application go? How does the hiring process work?” Sure, you may have received a confirmation email stating that your application has been submitted throughout your job searching journey. Have you ever had an experience in which you never heard back from the recruiter after the confirmation email? Guess what, a lot of other job seekers don’t either! Studies have shown that at least 50% of applicants never hear back from employers after applying for a job.

So, what does it mean? Trying to get a job but got ghosted. In this series of articles, we will go through the secret process step by step after submitting your job application and getting some of this confusion cleared up. First, let’s start by talking about the moment you apply for a job to get a first phone call from a recruiter and why your application might get lost through this process.

What happens after you submit a job application?

After you submit your job application, it gets sent to an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), a software application that helps recruiters stay organized in their hiring process and centralizes all their applicants. Depending on the company’s size, it varies based on what they use; some use a traditional ATS like Greenhouse, BambooHR, and Bullhorn, while other companies use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System, like HubSpot, Salesforce, and Zoho.

Related: Five Tips Your Have To Know About ATS As A Job Seeker

Now, what happens when you apply for jobs on LinkedIn, Indeed, or Glassdoor?

One surprising fact is that when an applicant applies through these external career sites, applications don’t usually automatically transfer to the company’s ATS. Of course, this also depends on how the company organizes its hiring process. Speaking from experience, Beixi Cheng, former Technical Recruiter and current Associate Product Manager at Hiretual, says that she will need to go to these external sites to get these applicants who applied through these platforms. Therefore, recruiters generally prefer a centralized platform and encourage job seekers to apply on their company official websites. It may seem easy for job seekers to apply on external job boards, but recruiters sometimes have missed these applications. (Suggestion: Apply on the company website to ensure your application gets into the company’s ATS)

Fun Fact: LinkedIn also filters applications for recruiters based on the pre-set questions the recruiters or hiring managers created beforehand.

Let’s assume that your application is now in the company’s ATS; how does a recruiter determine whether or not you are the right candidate?

1. Keywords Match. Recruiters use keywords filters to qualify or disqualify applicants within the ATS. For example, if you are looking to obtain a Content Writer position and one of the requirements in the job description is “blogging,” your resume and application will not get past ATS if you don’t have this keyword. Similar to applying for jobs online, we search by the job title to find the right ones that fit our qualifications and preferences. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure your resume is filled with buzzwords and keywords for the specific job functions that you are applying for. If you need help with this, check out JobSeer to find out your true match score as we compare your resume with the given job description to find unmatched skills or keywords for you, so you can be confident that your resume will get past ATS.

2. Pre-set questions. When you fill out a job application, you might recall answering questions related to years of experience in a skill or whether or not you require visa sponsorship in the future. Recruiters and the hiring team pre-set these questions; therefore, it is critical to answering these questions strategically and correctly. Now, there is no reason to lie in these pre-set questions. However, I highly recommend you read the questions carefully to ensure your application get passed ATS. Certain circumstances might be the reason why your application doesn’t get to ATS. For example, suppose the company isn’t sponsoring visas now, and you are looking for visa sponsorship opportunities. In that case, you might need to take some extra effort and work into the application or try an alternative way to get the job you want. You may also use JobSeer to check whether other companies are open for visa sponsorships.

Now, how do you ensure a recruiter sees your application?

To stand out from other applicants, Beixi Cheng and Victoria Tu, Recruiter at Hiretual, suggested the following to all job seekers:

Resumes FILLED with Relevant Keywords

Resumes should also be filled with keywords because it is a way to determine a candidates’ fit for the position. Notice that we mention “relevant keywords” because not all companies are looking for the same and exact requirements. Therefore, your keywords should match or at least be similar to what the job description has listed. Tailor your resume to the job function as close as possible to ensure it gets past ATS. In addition, if you are aiming for both bigger companies and start-ups, having two versions of a resume would be beneficial. Why? Bigger companies are usually looking for employees who can learn the current strategy that has been implemented within the teams. Whereas for start-up companies, employers generally look for candidates to provide new strategies, approaches, techniques, and ideas.

Tip: Some recruiters look for detailed resumes that could speak for themselves without the need to get on a call with the candidate. So, before you submit your application with a resume, ask yourself these question, “Do I have all the required information and skills? Is there any questionable information that needs to be clarified?”

Related: Five Things To Remove On Your Resume

Personalized & Customized Cover Letters

Although some say cover letters are outdated and that recruiters solely don’t have the time to read every single one of them, sometimes a cover letter may determine whether or not your application will move on to the next hiring stage. If an applicant wants to write a cover letter, please double-check; it is a well-written document instead of a generic one. Recruiters hate to see generic cover letters filled with mistakes as it shows that the applicant is not sincere enough or is careless.

Related: The Secret Behind Each Cover Letter That Will Help You Land A Job

For Recent Graduates: NETWORK & Extensive Research

As someone who has less to no experience in the workforce, it is essential to make valuable connections to understand the market trends. Get to know the people in the industry that you are interested in learning more about and understand their workflow in getting the job they are in right now. Make friends! Also, research the positions, industries, and fields that you are interested in.

Related: Best Resources & Methods To Help You Land A Decent Job

Tip: If you have applied for a job, send an email to the recruiter and say hi! This allows the recruiters to pay more attention to your resume and application.

From applying to receiving the first phone call from a recruiter, a lot goes into this small portion of the overall job searching process. Sometimes it may take weeks for a recruiter to get back to you, depending on the company size and the number of applications they receive. Understanding how the hiring process goes and how recruiters work, in general, can be beneficial to active job seekers. While a resume, cover letter, and networking are pretty much determined to be part of your job searching process, taking an extra step to get a grip of how the hiring process works will ultimately allow you to feel not as “lost” or “confused.” Be patient, and don’t be afraid to reach out to the recruiter for a quick follow-up on your application. Even though it is a “no” now, you only need one “yes”! So, don’t self-reject but do the best you can to land that job of your dreams.



Rene Cheng

Ambivert. Loves Coffee and Solo Adventures. Happy to chat!