Avoid Rejection: Stop Applying to Long-Shot Jobs

With all of the layoffs and dire economic forecasts, there are more people than ever looking for a new job. One side effect of higher unemployment and less jobs is that a lot of people are getting pretty free and loose with their job search approach, and it’s showing in the numbers of resumes recruiters and employers are getting from their job postings.

For a job posting that would have pulled 20 or 30 responses a year ago, today I am getting 100 or more. It’s not just that there are more people looking… it’s also that more of the resumes are off the mark, a real shot in the dark. And that means they are going to be rejected.

It may seem like sending out more resumes is the answer to finding a job faster, but the truth is just the opposite. It’s not about quantity, It’s about quality. Anything less is a total waste of everyone’s time, and wears on their emotional state of mind, too.

Today, I’ve spent several hours reviewing resumes for a product manager job with a consumer electronics company. It’s pretty straightforward. We posted that we’re looking for someone whose last job was as a product manager with a consumer electronics company. The person who gets hired will be someone who has experience as a product manager with a consumer electronics company. Sorry, I know I’m repeating myself, but I’m feeling kinda cranky about it.

So far, I’ve seen maybe four people out of 100+ who have experience as a product manager with a consumer electronics company. The other 90% includes a whole lot of what-are-they-thinking replies: a CEO from a consulting firm, an advertising account executive, a buyer from a department store, several people who have done outside sales for semiconductor products, and an architect. For real.

The vast majority of the resumes I reviewed didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of being selected for an interview. Zip. Nada. It would never happen, not even if they were my personal friend, because they simply are not appropriate for the job. (Did I mention I was looking for a product manager from a consumer electronics company?)

What’s happening is that as jobs get scarcer, companies who are hiring can become even more selective. Yet job-seekers are beginning to feel more desperate, and applying to jobs they’ll never get. When they aren’t selected, they feel rejected and discouraged, and so they get more desperate and send even more inappropriate resumes out.

On the other side of the picture, the people like me doing the screening are having to vet resumes we never should have seen in the first place, which mean we’re spending more time for less results, and are getting frustrated.

It’s all a vicious cycle. But it’s an easy cycle to break.

Stop sending out resumes to jobs you are not qualified for. Stop making yourself crazier by just blasting out your resume to every job you see. Avoid rejection. Stop applying to long-shot jobs.

I know, I know, some of the experts are telling you that you should be spending hours every day applying to jobs, no matter what kind they are, and that looking for a job requires turning over a lot of rocks and exploring a lot of options. I say yes… and no, no, no.

If you don’t have the background a job requires, you are not going to be selected for an interview, and you certainly are not going to be hired. It’s a waste of your time to send the application in and it’s a waste of the recruiter or screener’s job to have to read it.

Job searches do take work, but thoughtful focused strategic intention will take you a whole lot farther than the scattershot busywork of sending out volumes of resumes.

Be realistic with yourself. What is your experience? Where is your area of expertise? What do you bring to the table? The answers to these questions tell you where you should be focused on looking for a job.

If your expertise is as an advertising manager, then spend your time researching which companies are spending on advertising right now. When you uncover a possible company, send one great resume and cover note to see if you can get in to speak to those people.

Don’t waste your time sending a resume to jobs you’re not qualified for, because it steals the time that could be spent applying to a job you have a shot at. Instead of sending out ten pointless resumes, you could be online asking your friends who they know in that company you’d like to work for, or reading your target company’s latest press release, or finding an introduction to someone who already works in a place you’d like to work.

Instead of sending out ten resumes on jobs you’ll never get, you could be modifying and customizing your resume so it highlights all the things in your background that will make you an obvious contender for that one job that does fit your experience.

Yes, sometimes you’ll see a posting for the wrong job in the right company. When that happens, send your resume with a note that says “I’m not the person for the job you posted, but your company sounds like the kind of place I’m looking for, and I’m sending my resume to see if you have a need for a buyer/salesperson/bookkeeper (or whatever you do).” The person on the receiving end will appreciate your honesty, and is much more likely to consider you for other openings.

Remember, it’s about quality, not quantity. Wearing yourself down by putting yourself in the line of guaranteed repeated rejection doesn’t do your job search, or your spirit, any good. Focus on the jobs that you are going to be most competitive for, and your search will be much more efficient, and much easier on your psyche.

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