Don't waste time applying for lots of jobs, focus on quality not quantity

By Oliver Sylvester-Bradley on 17 Feb 2015 - 17:08

If you're on a mission to find a new job this post contains good news that could save you wasting hours, or even days, during your search.

It's simple advice, which comes from years of experience, to help you maximise your effectiveness and land the perfect role.

Think about what happens when you fire off your CV and covering letter. You get a little burst of satisfaction for achieving the task and racking up another "application submitted". The HR person, or whoever is managing the recruitment process, hears a "ping" as your application lands in their inbox and your CV and covering letter are swiftly filed with the other hopefuls.

People often tell us they have to submit hundreds of applications to get a single interview and you can see why this might be true. If a recruiter is receiving hundreds of applications they are highly unlikely to see, or in some case even reply, to everyone who applies.

So, how do you make sure your application gets noticed amongst that stack of CVs and covering letters? The answer is to to concentrate on their quality.

Gone are the days when a copy and pasted covering letter will get you an interview. Recruiters spot these a mile off and swiftly move them to the bottom of the pile, if not the recycling bin. A great letter, that has been carefully crafted and originally written, which contains relevant details explaining why the applicant knows (not "thinks") they will be good at the job, wins hands-down every time.

For example, we recently placed a Marketing Assistant with a small social enterprise and, in the process of reviewing the applications, came across a letter which had clearly been carefully crafted by someone with (fairly average) Photoshop skills but a large degree of enthusiasm for the company and role. It wasn't a very well written letter, the English was a bit clunky, and the presentation was hardly slick but the advert had called for someone with a sense of humour and this applicant had ticked that box in bold! She was immediately short listed for an interview, not because of her humour but because of the effort she had made. In comparison to the other hopefuls her application oozed quality. She had understood the role, read the specification very carefully and clearly demonstrated she had relevant skills, a sense of humour and would be a dedicated employee.

If you're still not convinced think about these additional reasons to focus on making quality applications for jobs you really, really want, rather than spamming the same, or a slightly tweaked, CV and covering letter to hundreds of jobs:

  1. You'll only ever get a job you are (almost) qualified to do.
  2. If you have not got the right qualifications or relevant experience, save your precious time: don't apply. You should definitely consider applying for jobs which are slightly out of range, as long as you have a story which explains why you can do the job regardless of that 'one small detail', but if they're asking for 4 years experience and you just graduated… Don't bother.

  3. A broadcast strategy can backfire.
  4. If you tailor and tweak your covering letter and CV and fire it off all over the place chances are it will get saved by some recruiters. HR people like doing this so they have a list of previously interested applicants to go back to. But what if you come up in that list 3 or 4 times, and then the job you really want becomes available and you submit a slightly different CV again, the HR Manager might notice, you could appear desperate and worst of all they might compare your CVs and notice some discrepancies.

  5. Life's too short, time's too precious.
  6. Our main advice comes back to boldness and passion, and making good use of your time. If you are not 100% convinced you are right for the role it is very hard to disguise your uncertainty. On the flip side, if you really want the job, know you'll be great at it and emanate confidence in your application and interview it will be very hard for a recruiter to ignore and you probably won't need to apply for another job for a while!