Common Job Search Strategy that Kills Opportunities

WorkCoachCafeOne of the most common and popular job search strategies is also one of least effective today. That deadly strategy: Focusing most job search time and effort on applying for jobs without regard to fit for the opportunity.

The process of searching through job postings and applying for jobs feels productive. When you are doing it from the comfort of your home, maybe using your smart phone as you sit on your couch, it feels very comfortable, too.

But, when you aren’t careful of the jobs you apply for, you may actually do your job search much harm.

Playing the Lottery to Win a Job

Clicking on the “Apply” button for a job can feel good — this time the effort will pay off! This time you will win. This time you will get a response inviting you to an interview.

Much like buying a lottery ticket, clicking the apply button for a job usually feels good.

And, since applying for a job won’t hurt you, what does it matter? Right?

WRONG! Those applications can hurt you.

Why the Job Application Lottery Approach Is a Waste of Time

Job seekers complain to me that they’ve submitted hundreds (sometimes thousands) of applications, but not gotten any responses. While submitting resumes and applications feels like the “right way” to find a job, it’s not actually productive.

Research, including a recent study by author and recruiting guru Lou Adler, showed that fewer than 15% of jobs are filled via job postings. The vast majority of jobs are filled by networking!

Unfortunately, mindlessly applying for jobs does hurt you! When you submit too often for jobs you aren’t qualified for, you are classified as a “resume spammer.” That’s a big penalty to pay.

Employers Ignore and Block “Resume Spammers”

The worst result of the apply-apply-apply approach is that applicants who continuously and often apply for jobs without being qualified end up in the penalty box.

Think about it — how do you respond to irrelevant and junk email messages in your inbox? You tell your email software to ignore messages from those sources as “junk” or “spam.”

Similarly, when you carelessly and repeatedly hit the “Apply” button on a job board or send your resume in response to every job posting you see,  particularly when you are not qualified for the job, your applications are viewed as spam. As a result, the people and automated systems (like job boards and employer applicant tracking systems) will flag you as a “resume spammer.”

When you are identified as a spammer, ALL of your applications go into the “junk application” folder. You will be ignored — even when you are qualified for the job.

How to Recover From Your Resume Spammer Classification

If you have been carelessly and ceaselessly applying for all kinds of jobs, you are probably in the resume spammer penalty box. You can get out, but it takes effort.

1. Change the email address you use for your job search and applications.

Since many people share the same or similar names, your email address is most likely the unique identifier used to dump your application in the spammer folder. So, use a different email address, like a Gmail address, and then pay close attention to that email account.

When replying to an employer who has responded to your application, use the new email address. Don’t revert to the old one, or your response could be dumped into the spam folder again.

2. Change your attitude and approach. NO MORE RESUME SPAMMING!

Before you apply for a job, review your answers to the 4 Questions to Ask Before Applying for a Job. Then, solemnly vow to apply ONLY for those jobs you are qualified for. Consistently live up to that vow to avoid a second penalty box appearance.

When you do apply for a job, connect the dots for employers in your applications by clearly aligning your experience, skills, and accomplishments with the requirements of the job you are applying for.

Measure your job search activities and progress by counting networking contacts during a week or interview invitations. Stop measuring your job search by counting applications.

Bottom Line

When I ask people new in their jobs how they got the job, often they tell me, “My former boss called me,” or “A guy I used to work with contacted me,” and other personal referrals. You can be that person, too! LinkedIn, Facebook, Google/Bing, and the Internet make it easy to reconnect with people you worked with and make it easier to become a “known quantity” to a wide circle of people. Take the time to expand your network, and you can beat the numbers game, too.

More Information About Successful Job Search

The 5 Best Job Search Strategies for 2017

4 Questions to Ask Before Applying for a Job

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

Find a Job Without Using Job Boards

New Ways to Find Jobs with Job Boards


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. Since 2011, Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoachCafe.  A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan also edits and publishes and is a columnist on HuffingtonPost and LinkedIn.  Follow Susan on Twitter (@jobhuntorg) and on Google+.

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