"I've read about people who've sent dozens, sometimes hundreds, of applications out. I've only sent a few, should I be doing the same thing as them? I'm puzzled why they're still unemployed after all that effort - is it really that tough to get a job?"
Siobhain's brow was furrowed with concern. We all know job hunting is a numbers game, but I suggest that if you've sent in dozens, or even hundreds, of applications or CVs and got almost nowhere for your efforts, you're doing it wrong.
Harsh? Let's add some clarity …
You can apply for a job as a bio-weapons designer every day of the week, but if all your qualifications or experience are in childcare you can forget it, unless you’ve managed to systematically poison everyone you’ve ever looked after.
It’s very simple: provided you match the base level of criteria laid down in the person specification, if no one else applies, you should ultimately get the job you're applying for.
The problem …
So, if you've already sent out enough CVs and applications to paper over the cracks in the Eurozone's economy but the only thing you've got for it is a bad case of repetitive strain injury in your keyboard fingers then either you're:
- applying for jobs to which you're not eligible;
- making some bad errors on your submissions;
- failing to stand out above the other candidates;
- going for jobs where the odds of winning are almost nil.
That last item is a very common issue and the scale of the problem was perfectly illustrated by Eric K Auld. He posted a job advert on Craigslist and got 650 responses on the first day. The job was for a full-time administrative assistant in Manhattan and it paid $13 an hour, plus health benefits. Unfortunately, the advert was fake.
Awesome. I wonder if he’s still alive?
I don't care if you are literally the best administrator in the world, even if the advert wasn't fake, your odds were 1 in 1,000 or worse, depending upon the cut-off date.
Notably, applicants had anywhere from forty years of experience down to zero and ranged from school leavers to graduates to pensioners.
I accept: someone has to get that job; never say never; you might get lucky, but I strongly suggest that it's better to spend time narrowing the odds before you start.
The solution …
- Targeting your applications;
- Tailoring your submissions.
Targeting - Adverts are only useful to you where you can be sure of three things:
- you’re a VERY good match to the stated requirements;
- the ad is sufficiently specific to keep the number of applicants down;
- you have at least one edge over most, if not all, other applicants.
Tailoring - Your application needs to do three things perfectly:
- match the requirements of the advert or brief;
- exceed the implied personal requirements;
- demonstrate your higher potential, relative to your peers.
Analysing your odds …
If you follow the above, step-by-step let’s see by how much your odds improve.
- To start with, there may be only a hundred applicants for a job requiring specific qualifications and experience or a specialisation. Often, there are significantly less than 100 applicants. (You've already moved from odds of 1 in 1,000 to odds of 1 in 100, or thereabouts.)
- Commonly, over fifty per cent of applicants (the chancers) will be self-excluding with an inadequate match to the requirements.
- Another large percentage (the feckless) will fall at the first fence due to piss-poor spelling, grammar, punctuation and presentation.
- Yet more (the amateurs) will be dumped because of poor technique. Even though they are a good match, their application won’t clearly show it to a hurried reviewer. (By surviving the first stage CV / application cull, you can easily be down to odds of only 1 in 10 of the people sensibly eligible for interview.)
- A large proportion of those ten won't make the interview short-list because they've failed to find an edge or show they'll add more value than is actually expected. (Since between 4 and 6 people may be invited for interview, you're down to a 1 in 2 chance of getting an invite. Now that looks interesting, way to go!)
At interview, your odds obviously jump back to 1 in 5, but then there are ways to shave those back down again. It’s perhaps a bit simplistic to say that you have a 20% chance of winning any job you apply for, but you get the idea?
To answer the original question …
This approach potentially means that you’re applying for less jobs overall, but so what? 1,000 random applications taking months, or 10 really tightly focussed ones? Which do you prefer?
Be analytical, have confidence in your ability to focus and proceed with absolute determination, knowing that every step you take leaves a trail of dead behind you. Save the relentless pump-action approach for your general networking activities!
Good luck Siobhain, I'm with you all the way.
Keywords: CV, application, tailoring, targeting, improving the odds, selection.