Let's Not Blame the Job Hunter - Revisited

Image of person at slot machine

It’s frustrating! It’s unbelievable! Those were the responses of my clients when I first wrote this blog in 2014, and they are still heard today among job hunters who mercifully apply for jobs online. The reason: they receive little to no response from the companies posting the jobs for which they are applying. Yet, they still feel compelled to fill out endless applications. It’s like going to Vegas and playing the slot machines. If you try hard and long enough you may hit pay dirt, but more often than not you end up losing money.

Research continues to show that only a small percentage of job hunters get interviews through job postings. A recent Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) article cited a study in which more than 14 million job applications were analyzed to show the probability of applicants considered for positions ranged from 7% to 140%, the latter being off the charts for people looking for jobs in “artificial intelligence” and “machine or deep learning.” If you happen to be unlike most of us mortals and fall into that last category I say stick with the online applications!

Otherwise, you will fare better getting job offers by networking with, or directly contacting, the right people at the right level for positions in which you are interested. If you refer to my previous blog on “How Do You Measure the Probability of Getting a Job Offer” you’ll see the logic behind these two approaches. In fact, if someone in the company where you are applying for a job refers you (typically through an employee referral program) you are 15 times more likely to be hired than if you applied through a job board alone – also based on the same SHRM article mentioned above.

If someone in the company where you're applying for a job refers you, you are 15 times more likely to be hired than if you applied through a job board along.

Image of person standing in front of job board.

Many of my clients also complain that job postings have become unrealistic in terms of their required qualifications, and that even the most qualified person cannot meet every requirement the company is seeking. Which only intensifies the frustration being felt by job hunters when applying online. We know the odds are not in their favor so how can job hunters get an edge if using this approach to get interviews and jobs?

My 2014 blog cited an article where it suggests that the applicant add a short e-mail or cover letter clearly stating what you’re looking for which will make it easier for the recruiter. But the SHRM article mentioned above also points to just 26% of recruiters surveyed consider cover letters important. So, come on! Who are you making it easier on? And who can match up to all those qualifications to begin with?

More companies are also using sophisticated job boards and applicant tracking systems which can help companies sort through resumes and applications faster, and also predict a better match between applicant and the posted job. I find it interesting that companies think using these means of sourcing and filling their open jobs is to the job hunter’s advantage. It’s like “not only can we better match you based on your skills, work experience and education but we can tell if you would be a good ‘fit’ for our organization.” Who are they kidding? It’s still the same low probably for the job hunter in meeting those criteria.

Customer Service Image

My advice to you is essentially the same as it was in 2014. If you answer an online posting do it selectively, and ask yourself the question “does this position fit within my overall list of companies in which I have an interest?” If the answer is yes, then by all means answer the posting or fill out the online application. But you still need to network your way into the same company, or use direct contact to identify the hiring manager or others of influence who can “bump up” your resume to the top of the pile.

Finally, use your creative juices to find alternate ways of getting in and meeting the right people at the right levels to increase your odds of getting interviews. Trying to get creative with the HR departments and outwitting the applicant tracking systems is like playing those slot machines in Vegas. Use your contacts in a creative way. Use social media in a creative way. Be creative in surrounding the hiring managers for those positions in which you have an interest with other people of influence. Several of my clients have said how successful this approach works. That’s being creative!

Recent Posts