You Applied to How Many Jobs This Week??

How many job applications are too many?  One night I was clicking around the blogosphere when I stumbled across an entry from July 2010 entitled Dear HR Pros, Be Transparent. This blog was written by a recent college grad and intern who was struggling with his job search. He thinks craigslist is a joke (don’t tell my boss, that’s where she found HER job). He wonders if there has been a breakdown between HR and applicants. As I’m reading his article I’m actually on his side. He’s got a valid complaint and he’s articulating it well. Then he said – “I’m not sure HR professionals really understand the effort and time it takes to fill out these applications. If a job applicant was only applying for their job, I’d understand the time that it takes, but we are filling out 5-10 applications a day.”


5-10? A DAY?? That could be 50 or more jobs a week! I decided to conduct a little experiment and see if I could realistically apply to 50 jobs a week. On Sunday I did some searching. I looked at all the usual job boards (yes, even craigslist) and company sites. I compared my background, education, and experience to the MANY job openings that are out there for recruiters right now. I narrowed it down to four. FOUR jobs that I was a strong match for, and that I felt I could do a decent job of tweaking a cover letter and resume to. Same thing on Monday – minus the jobs I found Sunday, I found one more. Now I’m up to five. Tuesday comes; two more - one is kind of a crap shoot that I’m not sure I’d want to apply for anyway. Took a deep breath, thanked God I have a job I love and I don’t have to do this crap. If I continue at this pace I might find 10 – this week. Let’s say I spend two hours on each application. That’s four hours a day. That still leaves me 4 hours a day (assuming I’m unemployed and in keeping with an eight hour day) to work the phones, attend networking events, tweet, email, inmail… all the other fun “job search stuff” one can do. And realistically, the stuff that can help you get closer to an actual interview.


But it’s a NUMBERS GAME, you say. I HAVE to apply for a million jobs a day in order to get an interview… right? Sorry, I don’t think so. In fact, I think you’re spreading yourself too thin. It seems counterintuitive to spend 2 hours on an application that a recruiter is going to review in 10 seconds. But guess what – we can tell when you’ve actually taken the time to do a thorough and accurate application.  If you’ve done that, you should only apply to jobs that you’re qualified for. Furthermore, you’ll be telling me in your cover letter and resume how and why you’re a fit for the job. That lands you in the “yes” pile for further review. Your odds increase.


You can’t swing a loaf of bread in a grocery store without hitting a guru, a thought leader, and at least 3 self-proclaimed “recruiting experts” – they will probably all disagree with me. I find it hard to believe that my experience is all that rare… when it comes down to the very narrow scope many postings allow, I’m simply not “qualified” for a lot of jobs. Apply to the ones you’re an “on paper” match for, network your way into others you’re interested in. Several times I’ve been pleasantly surprised by a great candidate who approached me at a ProLango mixer, by referral, or through LinkedIn when I otherwise might have overlooked them. Applications aren’t going to go away – it’s all about picking your battles and using the technology more effectively. If more job seekers took these steps I’d have a whole lot less crappy applications to read and way more time to spend on the one that matters – YOURS.

Views: 8703

Comment by Bill Schultz on October 20, 2011 at 2:34pm

Nice study, Amy.  I should try that except my weekends are packed with wine research.

Occasionally I call an applicant who responded to my post and was so far off that I want to see his

thought process.  This Java engineer told me that he developed a program that sends his resume out

to any position that mentions "Java" in a certain geographical area.  Yes, he's gotten offers to work in a

few coffee houses.....

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on October 20, 2011 at 3:19pm

thanks Bill - not gonna lie... this blog was brought to you in part by [yellow tail] - I just love that kangaroo :)

Comment by Sandra McCartt on October 20, 2011 at 3:38pm

Yellow tail or not, this is a great post and one i hope will filter through cyberspace to counteract some of those recruiting gurus and career coaches that are living on the bread crumbs scattered by your loaf of bread.  They couldn't find Hansel and Gretle with 7 loaves in my opnion.

The serial responders to every job post do not realize that we get to know them well after they apply for both the janitor position and the SVP of marketing on the same day.


Like Bill i have been so puzzled by some of the resumes i get that i have sent emails indicating that i thought they must have responded to the wrong post just to see what they would say.  One handed me my butt on a platter, told me i was a racist as she responded to the job to see if i had anything else but it was obvious i was a racist white woman.  Couldn't stand it.  I sent her back a note and said, "Hey, i'm a good recruiter but i have not yet been able to devine what race someone is from reading a resume unless they so indicate on their resume".  "What race are you? I'm french/indian, do you consider that white?"

What followed was a diatribe about being reported to the NAACP.

I suggested that when she reported me to be sure and mention that she was selling Mary Kay and had applied for a job as a chief financial officer.  I never heard from my friends with the NAACP or anyone else and i don't buy Mary Kay even thought she spam mailed me for three months.

Comment by Mitch Sullivan on October 21, 2011 at 6:46am

It's probably easier just to concentrate on the applications you receive that are of interest.

As for the college grad, I'm guessing that if he doesn't have any specific sector expertise yet, then there are probably a lot more jobs he could apply to.

Comment by Stephanie Lawrence on October 21, 2011 at 11:04am

Nice post Amy.  I agree with you, there are probably less than 10 jobs per week that I could confidently apply to knowing i meet the required qualifications.  Far too many applicants have either been coached to or taken it upon themselves to sling mud up against the wall and hope that it sticks.  Technology has encouraged this, and most job seekers just don't know any better. 

I went back and read his post as well and can see why he estimated that he was applying to 5-10 jobs per day.  He just graduated with his BA in International Business, as @Mitch pointed out above.   What that means is he has no experience at all and is applying to just about every job available in any type of reputable company in hopes of getting his foot in the door.  I empathize with his dilemma, but still don't want to see his resume in my Inbox for every job I have posted. 


Comment by Darryl Dioso on October 21, 2011 at 1:33pm

Watch where you're swinging that bread....

Comment by Helen Burbank (Appleby) on October 22, 2011 at 12:33pm

I actually agree with Mitch. While I appreciate the effort you put in to your study, it is applicable to people mid career level in a specific industry sector with a specific skill set. When you take a college grad of, say for example, history, without a specific career path, with volunteer and work experience in a number of different places that all really translate to "transferable skills" there are certainly a lot more places to look. The decline in the job market has exasperated the problem convincing new grads that they do have to look at every opportunity available.

More or less, I am just saying that I sympathize with the guy having been in that situation less than a year ago and while 5-10 a day sound like a lot, when you widen your search perameters and location (a lot of new grads are willing to try out a new city if a good opportunity arises) then I am not convinced that it is unrealistic.

Furthermore, I understand the irritation that comes with a computer generated rejection letter that can really feel like "oh, the computer doesn't think that I can do this job." 


Comment by Sarah Bojarski on October 24, 2011 at 3:47pm

Nice feedback Helen,  I agree.  A college grad with no real identifying career experience or field of work may be applying to more ads.  Great article as usual Amy, I like seeing the different sides of the coin.  

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on October 24, 2011 at 4:12pm

Thanks everyone for the feedback.  I'm still not clear on why someone with limited experience should be applying to MORE jobs... are there lots more entry level openings?  Even if there are, employers are still looking for a thorough application that clearly shows a strong match.  One recruiter from a well known company in Seattle that makes airplanes told me if applicants spent less than an hour on their careers site they (the candidate) may as well not even bother - regardless of the level.  How does that jive with 10 a day?


Hopefully this guy got a job... it's been a while.  If he's interested in sales my company would hire him!  :)


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