Send fewer resumes, get more interviews

Conventional job search wisdom tells us that we need to apply for as many jobs as possible in order to increase our chances of getting an interview. The job market is flooded with people looking for work, companies can afford to choose only the most highly qualified candidates, and job seekers need to pump out as many applications as possible to stay afloat in the murky waters of competition.

What if I had evidence that this conventional job wisdom was wrong? What if I told you that it’s possible to send out fewer resumes, and get more interviews? It may sound like a paradox, but fortunately I have some data from my own job search to back this up. This blog post will discuss the golden ratio of job applications (it exists, trust me…), and suggests an optimized job search methodology that will get you hired faster.

So, after being laid off from my previous job I panicked and sent out applications to every position that seemed even vaguely connected to my skills and experience. I spent hours each day trawling through postings, company careers pages, firing off applications like an enthusiastic hillbilly with a 12 gauge shotgun. And, like everyone else on the planet, the response I got from 99% of these applications was… nothing. This was before the idea of Job Hacking had crossed my mind, but luckily enough my previous engineering experience kicked in like a primordial urge and lead me to log all the positions I applied to in an Excel spreadsheet.

After a few months of this I was so frustrated with the lack of response from employers despite all my hard work and effort that I realized something had to change. I had a crazy idea: instead of spending hours each day sending out as many applications as possible, why not spend those same hours applying to fewer positions that closely matched my skills and experience, and use the extra time to improve my skills and work on my portfolio?

It seemed counter-intuitive, but I thought I’d give it a try. Using my handy Excel spreadsheet data, here’s  a simple breakdown of the results comparing the pre-Job Hacking shotgun methodology (Aug – Oct) to the post-Job Hacking laser beam methodology (Nov – Jan):

          # Jobs Applied           # Interviews
Aug          9                                 0
Sep          15                                1
Oct           23                               1
Total      47                               2

Shotgun ratio = 1:24

Nov          16                               0
Dec          12                                1
Jan           8                                 4
Total       36                              5

Laser-beam ratio = 1:7

Interesting results! By comparing the ratio of job applications to interviews, sending fewer applications actually resulted in getting 3 times as many calls from companies. What was I doing differently?


This is exactly what I look like when applying for jobs.

Going against conventional wisdom, I sent out fewer applications and became very picky with which jobs I applied to, sending out a resume only when I really felt my skills were a good fit with what the company was advertising.

Lets take an imaginary 5 hour block of time. Instead of spending 3 hours searching for 10 jobs and 2 hours applying for all 10 positions, I would spend 1 hour looking for 1 or 2 jobs that I felt I’d be a strong candidate for, and 1 or 2 hours carefully crafting a tailored application to each job. This left me with an extra hour or two that I used to work on other projects that improved my portfolio and job skills.

Being much more picky over which jobs I applied to left me with more time to work on projects that further increase my chances of getting hired. Like every high school English teacher will tell you, it’s better to show rather than tell, and a good portfolio of projects is a great way to show employers that you’re more than capable of doing the work they’ll be hiring you for. It also makes interviews a breeze, since I can use real-life examples of my work to answers questions about my experience and work ethic. Showing someone a portfolio you created on your own time is a far more effective way of proving your self-motivation, willingness to learn and talent as opposed to just listing it as a bullet point on your resume.

Unlike some of the other Job Hacking methods, this isn’t rocket science. However, it’s easy to forget if you’re under the pressure of finding a new job or want to take the next step in your career. If your ratio of job applications is higher than 1:25, take a deep breath and slow down! Follow the Job Hacking methodology and apply with a laser-like focus, using the extra time on your hands to create your online portfolio. Not only will you increase your chances of getting a call, it’ll also ensure you can interview confidently, since you’ll be backed up by a body of work that showcases your skills and talents.

What’s your job application ratio, and how have you tried to get it as low as possible? I’d suggest the golden ratio of job applications is somewhere around 1:7, but I could be crazy…


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