4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Applying for a Job

WorkCoachCafe A job seeker recently shared that he had applied for well over 1000 jobs in the past 12 months and was very disappointed in the results. Not only no job offers, but no interview invitations either.

Like many job seekers, he viewed the abundant supply of job postings on the Internet as a short cut to new employment. The problem was the way he applied – too many applications, done quickly and carelessly.

2 Reasons to Be Very Careful

In this very competitive job market, job seekers need to stay focused and bring their “A Game” to every opportunity they pursue for 2 important reasons:

  1. You won’t be making your best effort every time.
    If you are in spray-and-pray job application mode, applying for every job you see, you are bringing your “C Game” to each opportunity.
  2. You may be blacklisted.
    Employers and many applicant tracking systems block job seekers who apply carelessly for every opportunity, regardless of fit. So, if you do finally apply for a job which is a good fit, your application will be ignored because of your history of inappropriate applications.

So, disconnect from that apply-apply-apply instinct because a job search is not a numbers game.  

4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Apply for a Job

Conserve your “A Game” energy and efforts for jobs that are a good fit for you.  Carefully read the job description, and then, ask yourself these 4 questions:

1.  Do I want this job?

Yes, a paycheck is VERY important!  But, earning that paycheck will mean doing that job. So before you chase and, perhaps, land the wrong job, read the “duties” or “responsibilities” section of the job description very carefully.

Maybe you’ve done this work before, earlier in your career, and, sure, you could do it, but you don’t really want to.  Perhaps, the job sounds OK, but the location is a long, expensive commute.

Or, maybe the duties and the job sound very interesting to you, and you are excited by the idea of having that job.

The benefit –

When you apply for a job you really want, your enthusiasm will show in the quality of your application and interview.

2.  Do I qualify for this job?

Examine the “requirements” or “qualifications” section in the job description.  Even if you “know” that you could do the job described, applying will be a waste of your time if you don’t meet most of the requirements – like meeting 3 out of 4 or 5 of the requirements, or 7 out of 9 or 10.

In this competitive job market, employers have their choice of applicants.  So, applying for a job without meeting most – or all – of the requirements/qualifications makes it very doubtful that you will be considered for the job.

The benefit –

When you apply carefully for a job that is a good fit for you, you have a better chance of making it through the human or automated screening (or both) to be invited in for an interview.

3.  Do I want to work for this employer?

Hopefully, this employer is already on your list of target employers.  If not, do some checking to be sure that this is a good place to work.  Put Google to work for you, and check GlassDoor.com to, hopefully, find reviews by employees.

Maybe this employer has a terrible reputation as a place to work or been involved in a bad situation – legal, financial, quality, etc. Or maybe it’s great and everyone who works there loves it.

The benefit –

You will be better prepared to do an excellent job of applying, and your knowledge will demonstrate your interest in the employer in a job interview.  Your research could also show you that while the job sounds great and you qualify for it, working for this employer would be a nightmare best avoided.

4.  Do I know anyone who already works there?

If you have answered the top 3 questions with affirmatives, you can immediately start your application.  But you will increase the probability of a job offer if you can also answer this question with a “Yes”!

Check your network online (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.) and off-line (friends, family, colleagues, etc.) to see if you have a contact already working for the employer who could deliver your resume into the hands of the hiring manager and/or into the formal “employee referral program” process, too.

The benefit –

When a contact on the inside (an existing employee) submits your resume and vouches for you, you have a much better chance of being considered. And, it is much better to “spend” that favor of a personal resume delivery on a job that is a good fit rather than wasting it on a long shot.

IMPORTANT! Employee referral programs can differ widely, so read How to Make Employee Referral Programs Work for You before you apply!

Your Mileage May Vary…

Yes, sometimes the planets align, timing is inexplicably perfect, and rarely a random application does turn into a great job.  But, such exceptional situations are extremely rare. So, probably better not to count on that happening for you.  In this job market, anything less than your A Game is a waste of your time, and since you cannot bring your A Game to every job application, ask yourself those 4 questions before you spend your time applying.


About the author…

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been  observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 2011, NETability purchased WorkCoachCafe.com, which Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoach since then.  Susan also edits and publishes Job-Hunt.org.  Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on .

For more information on applying for a job:

Why Submitting a Resume Isn’t Enough, and What You Can Do About It

Applying for a Job: 5 Tips to Avoid the Discard Pile

3 Reasons You Didn’t Hear Back From Your Application

How to Get Your Emailed Resume Noticed

Express Lane to a New Job: Employee Referral


  1. Four great questions and ones I wish more candidates would consider. To see individuals who spend time applying for roles that a) they don’t want and/or b) they are not close to qualifying for will only result in rejection. Constant rejection will soon lead to lack of self-confidence and a negative outlook on one’s employment prospects – which hurts one’s interviewing efforts – which makes it harder to land a job…

    Vicious cycle and one that easily can suck in job seekers.

    • Susan P. Joyce says:

      Excellent points about getting discouraged and losing self-confidence from all the rejection that results from inappropriate applications.

      Thank you for sharing!

  2. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  3. Wow, Susan! Great post. You could turn this content into a short eBook. Really good information. The only thing I would add is a ps…don’t know anyone that works there, why not connect with someone in the company. You could even share your answers to the first three questions in your interactions with them. Again, great post, Susan.

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