The more applications you send off, the less likely you are to get a job

It may seem crazy but it’s true. The more applications you send off, the less likely you are to get a job.

This is because if you are applying for too many positions, you don’t have the time to tailor each application to the specific needs of each position. If you don’t do that and another candidate does, which of you is the more likely to get the job? Usually it is the applicant who puts in the best application who wins the job.

We are always reading stories of people who have all the right qualifications and who apply for hundreds of positions but who don’t even get an interview.

A young Queensland woman submitted more than 1200 job applications over six months but received not one job offer. She was quoted in the local paper saying: “I have been applying for 10 jobs a day for the past six months but have only had four interviews and all of them said I was over-qualified".

Peter Harris of Canadian jobs website Workopolis was asked in a radio interview what he thought would be the greatest mistake made by job seekers. He answered straight away, “applying to too many jobs”. (

It may seem strange but you have a better chance of job search success if, instead of sending of applications for as many jobs as possible, you focus on just two job leads at a time.

Someone who is focussing on just two job leads at a time has much more time and energy to devote to generating an outstanding application for each position than has someone who is spreading time and energy across a number of different job applications.

By ‘application’ I am referring to the whole application process, résumé and written application, interview preparation and performance, research into the position and employer organisation and networking with key people in that organisation. Job search is hard work and it is a full-time job or as full-time as you can afford to make it. This is because it is the applicant who puts the most time and effort into each application who is the most likely to be successful.

An effective résumé needs to be tailored to the specific position and it needs to demonstrate the applicant’s motivation for the position in the first few lines. Numerous surveys in various parts of the world have shown that, on average, employers spend about eight seconds to decide whether or not an application is worth further consideration.

In eight seconds someone can read about halfway down the first page. If you are not expressing your motivation for that particular job in the top half of the first page, your application is likely to find itself in the reject pile. And, of course, your motivation for the job will be much greater if you have thoroughly researched the position and can envisage yourself being successful in it.

The most important thing to achieve at the interview is to get the interviewers to like you. If they like you, they may employ you; if they don’t, they won’t. Once again, motivation for the position is crucial; if you come across as highly motivated for the position, your chances of being liked are high. In the interview, motivation is clearly shown by the effort that you have put in to researching the organisation and the tasks and responsibilities of the position.

Another factor that will help them get to like you is through showing your willingness to be part of their team and, if you already know some of your prospective team mates through some structured networking, you are in front of the game.

Research is, therefore, fundamental to job search success. Ideally you want to be able to garner enough information to plan your first few weeks in the job. This can be achieved through looking at job advertisements and position descriptions for similar roles in other organisations and, better still, through talking to people performing those roles.

It seems like a lot of work and it is. However, it is better to put lots of time and effort into just a few applications and win one of them, than to put less time and effort into each of a number of applications and still have nothing. We have all read the sad stories about worthy people who had put in hundreds of applications and not been successful. If they had focussed on just two jobs at a time, they may well have found success.

If job search is such a lot of work, why focus on two jobs and not just one? The reason is simple; if you are only working on one application and you have been interviewed and then you hear that you were not successful, it is hard to get up and running again. But if you are always working on two job leads, you will still have one to work on when you get the bad news.

As a result, I urge you to consider your job search as a full-time job, or as full-time as you can afford to make it and that you divide your time between just two applications. You should only seek another position to apply for when you have learnt that one of your job leads has come to a dead end.

Yes, it’s hard work but, if you really want the job, the hard work is worthwhile.

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