Is it Better to Apply Through a Company’s Own Website Instead of a Job Board?

Today’s the day you apply for that job. Your materials are ready to go, but as you’re browsing around one last time you discover that the role you’re interested in is posted not just on the company’s careers page, but also on LinkedIn and various job boards.

Uh… you think to yourself, desperately trying to figure out the best route to take. You wonder if there’s a reason why it’s posted on multiple platforms, or if applying one way is better than another. Your biggest fear is taking the path that could hurt your chances of getting in front of the hiring manager.

To help you make a decision (because you can’t sit frozen there forever), I talked to a couple experts.

When You Apply on a Job Board, Where Does Your Resume Go?

For the most part, no matter where you submit your application, it ends up in the same place—the company’s applicant tracking system. (An applicant tracking system, or ATS, is a type of software a company uses to collect and manage job applications.)

“A very small company may not have an applicant tracking system, and so those resumes will end up going to someone’s email address. And that might either be one email address or they may set up separate email addresses for the different sources,” says Liz Dooley, who’s currently Chief Talent Finder at Liz Dooley Recruiting, LLC and has been working in the recruiting space for over 18 years.

Overall, where you apply is irrelevant and says little about you as a candidate, and often hiring managers have no idea where your application came from. Rather, an HR department might use information about where people are applying to identify where they should be investing their time and budget in the future. If, for example, they find a majority of candidates applied through LinkedIn or a higher percentage of quality hires came through a particular job board rather than their own careers page, they might consider directing more of their recruiting efforts toward those places.

Funnily enough, after speaking with our own Associate Director of Talent Acquisition, Lauren Roberts, I did discover one instance when it does matter where you apply. If you’re someone who works at a recruiting company or job board—which is the case for someone like me, working at The Muse—you probably don’t want to apply through your own company’s platform. Because, well, that kind of word spreads very quickly back to your HR team (and your boss, who you most likely don’t want to know you’re job searching). They may not necessarily be checking their platform regularly for employees applying to jobs, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry and go another route.

Why Do Companies Use Job Boards?

So if it’s all going to the same place, why do companies bother using job boards?

You guessed it—it’s all about volume. Posting a job opening on multiple platforms helps recruiters reach a larger audience, and possibly a specific kind of audience. So, if they’re looking to hire an engineer, they may post more aggressively on a niche job site where engineers tend to look, rather than someplace broad like LinkedIn (but they may also post there too, because why not). The more they get their name out there, the more likely they’ll find someone who’s the ideal fit for their team.

“You don’t know if people are coming to your website necessarily to look at the jobs you have posted on a frequent basis, and they may not even know about your company yet, so if you post on a job board you’re guaranteed that people who are looking are going to see it,” explains Dooley.

So What Does This Mean for How You Apply?

Easy: Do whatever you prefer! If you’re liking the user experience of someone’s careers page, submit your application there. If a job board provides you with a better way to organize your information (for example, it lets you attach a resume rather than fill out a form), go there instead.

But there’s also a third, better option: “I always tell candidates if they see a job that they’re really interested in from a company, their best bet is actually to find an internal contact, someone they know that works there, and get referred in that way because it’s going to get attention faster,” says Dooley.

Referrals are without a doubt the best course of action, and they don’t have to be close friends or relatives. She suggests browsing LinkedIn to see if you share mutual connections with someone and ask for an introduction.

Worried about asking too much from someone you barely know? As Dooley notes, most companies compensate their employees for recommending good talent because it’s cheaper than hiring a recruiter to do the work for them, so it’s truly a win-win for both you and your contact.

If you’ve spent a few hours trying to find a contact with no luck, go ahead and apply through a job board or careers page. It’s better to have your name in there that way than not at all.

Anything Else?

Even though the end game is the same for applying through a company’s careers page versus a third-party job posting, you still have to jump through some hoops to get there. The ATS is one of them, so you’ll want to make sure you’re using the right strategies to get past the algorithms, like including keywords from the job description in your resume.

Sometimes the formatting of your resume or cover letter can be affected by the parsing job boards might do in submitting them to the ATS, Dooley points out. This is why we highly recommend uploading yours as a PDF so you freeze your formatting in place (of course, there are caveats to this as well). Also, it’s worth including your contact information on both your resume and cover letter, should they be separated in the process.

No matter where you apply, states Dooley, “go simple” when it comes to creating your resume and cover letter, and “really focus on tailoring [them] to the job description.”

And, she adds, “Don’t assume that a recruiter knows what specific duties are implied with your role.” Oftentimes junior recruiters will be going through applications with little knowledge of the field they’re hiring for, so they’re going to be scanning for relevant keywords (as Dooley calls it, a “buzzword matching game”). They may not also understand what certain titles signify or what skills are relevant to the role, so make it extra clear on your application how your experience relates to the job you’re applying to.

The TL;DR is this: You can’t go wrong whichever way you apply. The more crucial component is how you write and format your materials so they show you’re a clear fit for the role.

Now go hit submit already!

By UCLA Extension Career Services
UCLA Extension Career Services