Prioritizing Job Applications
By Brenda L. Peterson, The Layoff Lady
So Many Openings!
Depending on your chosen field, and your desired work arrangements, there are a lot of jobs for which you could apply. While remote work availability gives us many more work options, figuring out how to prioritize open positions can be overwhelming.
Here is my process for evaluating open roles and prioritizing those which I will submit an application.
Searching for Available Jobs
As of this article's original publication date, I just searched on Indeed.com for the job title Training Specialist. This search generated these results:
By any stretch of the imagination, I cannot apply for 631 jobs this week.
Time to Apply and Available Time
Once I decide to apply for a given role, I take about 30 minutes to research the company, customize my resume, and complete my formal application. In a given week, there are 7 days, which is 168 hours. There are not enough hours in a week for me to apply for that many jobs.
Even if I somehow managed not to eat, sleep, or do even the most basic self-care, I could only apply for 336 jobs.
Closer to the realm of feasibility, if I decided to dedicate a full 40 hours per week solely to applying for jobs, I could apply for 80 jobs—but definitely not well. There are also so many other valuable activities (meeting people and professional development being two of the most important) to be done during job searching that this is probably not the best way to spend 40 hours. Working this long and this hard can also put you on the fast track to burnout.
Even dedicating 20 hours solely to applying for jobs, possibly meaning you could apply for 40 jobs in a given week, is most likely overkill.
More Is Not Necessarily Better
The more jobs I try to apply for in rapid succession, the less effective I am. While applying for jobs is in some respects, a numbers game, it’s not as easy as applying to all the jobs and knowing that one will work out. This strategy often causes people to waste time applying for roles where they are not very qualified.
A better strategy is to prioritize jobs that are the best match for your skills and what you want and focus on applying for those well. Instead of solely applying for jobs, spend time building your skills, making new connections, and planning for contingencies.
In any given week, my goal is usually to apply for three jobs. However, if I see several great opportunities or have not searched for a job in a while, I may apply for as many as six. Beyond that, though, my application quality suffers.
To apply for jobs well, you need to determine the best way to prioritize your applications. Instead of the “spray and pray” approach, think through what you want and apply with more purpose. This approach favors quality over quantity and will help you focus your efforts on where you can get better overall results for your time investment.
Step 1: Know Key Characteristics of What You Want
Early in your job search, it’s essential to do at least a little soul-searching and be able to articulate what you want. This may include revisiting your values, identifying your strengths, and thinking about the work you want to do.
For example, earlier career Brenda would have a list something like this on what she wanted from a role:
Having a stated list of preferences, and continuing to hone it as you learn more, is your first step in determining which jobs to target.
Step 2: Narrowing Your Search
Let's go back to those 631 search results from my Training Specialist searches. By adding additional search parameters, we can narrow our results to jobs that more specifically meet our specified criteria:
Starting with those 43 roles in Omaha:
Starting with those 588 remote jobs:
Step 3: Quick Job Listing Review
Now that I have a more reasonable number of jobs to go through (12 and 45--57 total), I start to do a cursory review of the short descriptions of each role.
I have now reduced the number of jobs that interest me to 31 roles.
Step 4: More Detailed Job Listing Review
Now that I have those 31 jobs in Teal, I look more closely at the following:
I remove jobs where I am not eligible. This includes the following:
I remove jobs with anything that might be a dealbreaker for me. This includes the following:
For the remaining jobs, I give them an initial rating of 1-5 stars and make notes on any areas I might want to explore further.
I now have 18 jobs in Teal.
Step 5: A Little More Research
Next, I investigate a few things outside of the immediate job descriptions.
Now, I have 13 jobs In Teal.
Step 6: Customize a Resume and Prepare to Apply
From the 13 jobs I have listed, I will apply for the jobs I'm most excited about and continue to reassess other openings listed. I will also add, remove, reprioritize, and take notes on specific roles as needed.
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7-time layoff survivor Brenda L. Peterson, The Layoff Lady, waxes poetic on layoffs, job transitions, & career resilience.