Quality over quantity in job applications

I like going on the Jobs subreddit and browsing to see the issues people are running into when they’re looking for jobs or applying to them. There are some real horror stories like people applying to 500+ jobs and getting a handful of interviews, but no job offer. What gives?

I’m no expert on the job market, I’ve only had one experience where I had to go through job applications to find someone to fill a new position, but I do have a lot of ideas about the subject.

“I’ll take anything”

When you need money, you’ll take anything. I remember applying to Chico’s, restaurants, a law firm to be an admin assistant. I had just graduated and I wanted any sort of job. Why? I just wanted money coming in. Did I have a clear goal in mind? Nope. If these companies asked why I wanted to work for them specifically, would I have had a good answer? No.

Often, many of us are applying to any and every job posting available and will settle for whoever takes us. Ideally, you want to hone in on a handful of companies that you admire and set your sights on them.

I did this for my current job. I had been working at a small digital marketing agency for the past 3 years and I was getting tired of the way the business was handled. The work was also becoming monotonous as well. I really really wanted to quit, but instead I kept working and in my spare time I looked for new remote jobs and only applied to those that interested me. I didn’t apply to everything. I wanted to make sure the next place I worked at was a place that I could see myself enjoying. My first job (the agency) started as an unpaid internship and turned into a full-time job, but it was the only agency in town when I graduated college so I took it.

I applied to one company that specialized in copywriting. I had no experience in copy but I had a newfound interest in it. I made them a project, set up a page on this site that acted as my resume, and applied. I ended up getting the position, but they had decided not to hire anyone full-time, so unfortunately I was still stuck at my job.

The next place I applied to was an email tool that I thought was really interesting and I wanted to work on it. I made another project, resume site, and applied but I never heard back.

A few months later I found the posting for my current job in conversion optimization. It looked amazing! Five hour workdays, 3 weeks paid training in Malta, work from anywhere. I went into it thinking I wouldn’t get the position since I knew I’d be up against a lot of other people. There was no experience required and they would teach me everything. I spent a good deal of time creating a project, researching the company, listening to any podcasts they were featured on, reading all their blog posts, and finally sent in my application. Long story short I passed all 3 interview rounds and got the job!

Focus On A Few

The story above is not to gloat or brag. I want to illustrate that focusing on a few companies that really interest you could help give you a leg up on other applicants. If I were applying to 50 jobs, I wouldn’t have time to research all of them and make projects for every application. I decided to apply only to companies that felt like culture fits to me. Luckily, the company I’m at really has a great culture and amazing team mates.

So what do I suggest to anyone looking to switch jobs or find their first job? Focus on a few. Find some job postings that really spark your interest, research the companies and see if you think you’d be a good fit and that the company is a good fit for you.

Next, go in depth and find everything you can about the company:

  • Podcasts
  • YouTube videos
  • Blogs
  • Guest posts
  • Sign up for their emails
  • Books they wrote (or a team member wrote)

In your application, make sure to sprinkle in some of the stuff you’ve learned. Don’t say that you spent 12 hours researching them, but adding in a few things you heard in a podcast they were featured in shows that you did your homework. This will also help in the interview, because you’ll already feel like you know the company and can easily answer the question “Why do you want to work with us?”.

Now, I know a lot of you reading this are going to say: well, I don’t have the luxury of waiting around to get a job, I need one now! Ok, I get it, I’ve been there. Then focus on getting something now that can sustain you while you look for a great company/person to work for in the near future. You need to cover your bills and feel stable, then you can move towards achieving your true career goals.

Have you tried this before? I’m curious to hear from you if you have!