I've always found that the best approach to job seeking is to reach the company before it sends out the online job offer. I think it works to identify the companies that are likely and attractive employers and probe for job opportunities.
The anecdote about 29000 applicants being rejected leaving none qualified raises two thoughts.
First, the programmers for the intelligent sorting system should be fired (thus opening up additional positions to be filled).
Second, that employer requirements are too high for the compensation offered. Imagine meeting all of the requirements stated in the want-ad, only to discover that the compensation they wish to give for the perfect applicant isn't fair. It may be competitive, but not adequate for meeting all those requirements.
Online recruiting and online resume submissions have been a mainstay of job searches for more than a decade so I'm not convinced that's the real deterrent from nailing a good job. Moreover, those completely automated HR systems are more the domain of the largest companies (think IBM, HP, Lockheed Martin), not what smaller and mid-sized companies rely on to find their best applicants. That said, I would agree that persistence, the art of picking up the phone, or sending a direct email to the person, not the inbox, that helps in the selection process might be a lost art today. Engineer applicants need to find any way they can to stand out today and that definitely involves cirvumventing the automated system to deliver that personal touch.
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