Job Seekers: Stop Working So Hard!


I had someone apply for 15 of our job openings the other day. Fifteen! And all the job openings called for completely different skill requirements. Before even opening this person’s resume I’m thinking: What a waste of my time. Just seeing those 15 messages in my inbox, I was completely turned off. I didn’t even want to look at his resume, but I did. Sure enough, this was not a candidate I could market or present to any of my job openings. His resume bared no resemblance to any of my postings. What was he thinking?


They say job hunting is a “numbers game,” and that is partially true. It usually takes more than one application to equal a placement. However, too many people are taking this concept to the extreme. This job seeker was probably thinking: “If I apply to all of these jobs, one of them has got to be a match,” or “If I send my resume to 100 job postings, one of them will stick.”


Instead of reading each job description, considering his qualifications, and highlighting the relevant experience in his resume, this applicant simply flooded our database with 15 separate job inquiries. This “flooding” can be very frustrating to hiring managers as it is a huge waste of time and it slows down the process for candidates who are actually qualified.


When I notice an applicant who clearly did not read or comprehend what I was asking for in my job posting, it creates a very poor impression of that person. Why would I want to hire someone like that? Someone who does not follow instructions, or who does not value my time? Whether you are a recruiter, in human resources, or the hiring manager, this can be very frustrating.


If you read my job postings and don’t see a match, but you want me to have your resume to consider for future job openings, just tell me. Put a note in your email or add a line at the top of your resume that says something like, “I have read your job postings, but please keep my resume on file for future help desk positions.”


Here is a tip for all you job seekers: stop working so hard! Don’t apply to 15, 50, 100 jobs just to see what happens. Take charge of your search. Don’t waste your time filling out paperwork and interviewing for jobs that are not a good match for you. Narrow down your applications to no more than three to five at a time and make them count.


Create a customized cover letter that highlights your relevant experience and qualifications. Don’t send a generic cover letter to every job posting boasting that you’re a “perfect match.” Back up these broad statements with facts like, “I am a strong candidate for your systems administrator position because…”  Show me that you have the specific skills I am looking for. 


Then, tailor your resume to the position at hand. If a job looks like a good match and you meet many of the qualifications, make sure your resume reflects this! I am surprised at how few people do this. Stop sending the same resume all over town. Your resume should be a reflection of your qualifications to the position for which you are applying. Make it as obvious as possible that you deserve the hiring agents time for a personal interview. The more tailored your cover letter and resume are to my job description and needs, the more likely I am to interview you. 


Start working smart in your job search so you don’t have to apply to 15, 50, or 100 job postings. Spend time narrowing down your options, selecting the right positions, and then give it all you’ve got. Recruiters and hiring managers can tell when you are a serious applicant and when you are just flinging resumes to see what sticks. Stop working so hard, and start landing a good job by working smart.

Views: 2122

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on July 27, 2011 at 11:42am
Julie, can I send this to every single candidate that has ever applied for a job with me?  :)  Ok, just kidding, sort of.  You're absolutely right - I always dread those applicants.... even the good ones I'm hesitant to call because they clearly aren't interested in my company, it's just as you said - they're flinging resumes to see what sticks.  Ugh.
Comment by Julie Link on July 27, 2011 at 11:43am
Haha! Yes, please do :)
Comment by Louis Bina on July 27, 2011 at 1:49pm
That must be incredibly irritating, Julie! One of the things CATS users do to help with that issue is build required, custom questionnaires that have "triggers" based on applicant answers: if they don't answer correctly to the most crucial requirements, they don't enter the system (silent reject). Unfortunately, you cannot stop them from applying, but you can at least get them out of the way quickly.
Comment by Jeremy Haskell on July 28, 2011 at 9:01am

Perhaps if candidates got better feedback from hiring managers directly this would become less of an issue.  I hear candidates complain constantly about the lack of direct feedback from employers, and how frustrating that is for them.  If we, as hiring managers, don't coach them up, how can we expect them to change? 


I completely agree with your sentiments, but you're preaching to the choir.  Rather than posting this on a recruiters blog, it would be better to share it with the greater job seeking public.

Comment by Julie Link on July 28, 2011 at 9:05am

I shared this with my candidates on  Feel free to share this with your candidates as well.

Comment by Dana Leavy on July 28, 2011 at 10:30am
Great post Julie!  It's a classic argument for QUALITY over QUANTITY - apply to less positions, but make those applications really count by spending the time tailoring your message to reflect each individual company and role's needs and requirements.  I see this so often and it's unfortunately, because people are only doing themselves a disservice and wasting time in the process.
Comment by Ken Forrester on July 28, 2011 at 11:31am

Only apply to the jobs that you are qualified for...Great advice to those that are not actively looking for a job;  but bad news for the ones who really need the work and don't know the rules.  Even though  you are right in that its a   dead end strategy that will lead to no job, that is the only true power the active job seeker has based on the new rules of "apply-on-line". 

The apply-on-line process doesn't require any creativity and it is  so easy, anyone can do it.  And that's what we have now-everyone is doing it.  Maybe that process needs to be reformed.  A good start is to  charge a non-refundable fee to apply; just like slot machines.  In that way they wont get to push the button or pull the lever for free.  And  less frustration for the recruiter.

Comment by Jason Monastra on July 28, 2011 at 12:25pm

I agree with Julie and can share in the frustration from my staff what they experience daily.  They say 100 people applied and do not meet the minimum requirements.  Since the majority of our positions our full time with our company as we do long term contracts for the government - there is a requirement that you must be a citizen and it is posted on all positions.  How many non citizens apply - cannot count.


In the same manner that we have frustration, the candidates have it to.  Little communication back from the recruiter, staffing company, or systems integrator due to the volume of resumes.  Therefore it makes it hard to know if they are going about looking for a job in the right manner.  I hear constant rapport for "industry experts" that tell candidates - get your resume out everywhere no matter the qualifications.  You never know.  Throwing crap against a wall and seeing what fits - that is the course of action and a poor one.


But the economy where it is, people are desperate and in the absence of true leadership and instruction, people will follow anything.  Especially if it is easy and automated.  Great post Julie, however uphill battle.  We should form a movement called "Apply Like a Professional" and give seminars nationwide.  People need them badly.  Like you said, most of the people come off looking poor.

Comment by StaffingStarr on July 28, 2011 at 3:12pm

Julie, you're a woman after my own heart! I try my best to connect with job seekers that apply to my postings or create online applications on my website.  I find that many applicants have the unrealistic expectation that recruiters and hiring managers should contact them to a) confirm receipt of the resume or application; b) discuss how they may or may not qualify for the position; and c) let them know that the position is filled.  That's 3 calls or more per resume received for one position, not including voicemails left.   While I wish I could extend that professional courtesy to all applicants, I wouldn't  get anything else done  in my 50 - 60 hr work week.  

Comment by Louis Bina on July 28, 2011 at 3:40pm
Denise, that is a lot of work. I am curious to know what sort of system you are using to manage your communication with your applicants. CATS has all kinds of automation that will allow you to notify your applicants of changes to the position or their status automatically.


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