Keys to Job Search Success: Overcome These 3 Assumptions Employers Make About You

WorkCoachCafeWhen an employer or recruiter posts a job these days, they are usually buried under an avalanche of applications and resumes, an average of 250 for each job, according to a recent industry survey. And, to make matters worse, usually only 10% (or less) of those responses are from people who are actually qualified for the job.

Unfortunately, this flood of unqualified applicants tends to make the people on the employer’s side of the job search process somewhat jaded and suspicious of all job seekers. While understandable, this attitude is another obstacle for job seekers to overcome.

Employer Assumptions About Job Applicants

These are 3 assumptions that employers typically make about you when you apply for a job. To be successful in your job search, you’ll need to prove that these assumptions are wrong when an employer assumes that they apply to you.

1. You aren’t qualified for the job.

Since, on average, job seekers spend less than 80 seconds before hitting the “apply” button on a job posting, employers don’t really expect that you are qualified for the jobs you apply for.

How to overcome this assumption:

  • Apply only for jobs that are good fits for you (you meet more than 70% of the “requirements” specified).
  • Highlight that you have the qualifications and meet their requirements at the top of your resume in a “Summary of Qualifications” section which connects the job requirements with your qualifications and accomplishments.

2. You may exaggerate some of your qualifications.

This assumption is based on experience (and, perhaps, on personal behavior). In the pre-search engine era, employers conducted expensive background checks on the final few candidates for high level jobs. Now, employers can jump on a search engine, do a quick search, and check all the applicants before inviting them in for an interview.

How to overcome this assumption:

  • Don’t exaggerate or make any misrepresentations, of course.
  • Be sure that your LinkedIn Profile, participation in LinkedIn Groups, and other visible online activities support the contents of your resume. 

3. You just want a paycheck, any paycheck. You don’t really care about this job or this employer.

While this may be how you truly feel, never let an employer sense this attitude in any of your interactions with them.

Reality is that this approach to your job search can end up being very bad for you, even when you succeed at landing a job. (I am speaking from painful, personal experience here!)

If the employer is not a good employer – or simply not a good employer for you – landing a job you will end up hating means you’ll be miserable and back in job-search mode too soon, perhaps fighting the impression that you are not a great employee, making that next job search even more difficult.

 How to overcome this assumption:

  • Check out the employer before you apply for a job. Be sure the employer is not fake (many bogus job postings out there!), and learn what the company does – products, services, “mission,” people, locations, etc., to be sure you would be comfortable working there.
  • Better: Your job search will be more effective if you have a list of target employers where you want to work. Having target employers makes your research easier and your networking more productive (PLUS – being referred by a current employee makes your job search successful, sooner!).
  • Customize your resume to the opportunity, including making the Objective on your resume tied directly to the job you are applying for, like this: [job title on the posting] at [name of company].

And, if you are invited in for an interview, cement the impression that you are genuinely interested by coming to the interview prepared to answer the question, “So, what do you know about us?

Job Search Success Process

Proving that the 3 assumptions above do not apply to you can be challenging, but by paying careful attention to each job you go after, and making that attention clear in your actions, you will succeed at your job search. 

Of course, the absolutely best way to apply for a job is through networking. People who have their resumes submitted by a current employee are at least 3 times more likely to be hired than a stranger applying through the standard process for outsiders (job postings).

For More About Succeeding at Your Job Search:

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

Critical NEW Job Search Skill: Reputation Management (or Recovery)

You Are Being Watched! And Judged!

Is Your Job Search Too Old Fashioned?

Why You Didn’t Get the Job: 10 Reasons You Can Control

Why Job Hunting Is So Hard, and How You Can Make It Easier


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, and Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoach since then.  Susan also edits and publishes  Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on .



  1. cleonice c b says:

    Wow. Very well done. Interesting post, as always, Susan.

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