The Dance of Employment Applications

If you’ve looked at the career boards out there lately, you may not be feeling too good about your situation, for three reasons: 1) there aren’t a lot of jobs available in your field, 2) you aren’t getting a lot of call backs from employers, or 3) there are a lot of companies looking to take advantage of the unwary/desperate candidate.

Few Jobs in Your Field

When I refer to the career boards, I consider the handful that I’ve been using (some of which are specific to my geographic area – i.e. Kitchener, Ontario, Canada):

Maybe you’re scrolling through these careers boards on a daily basis, or receiving email updates on new job postings, but haven’t seen a whole lot in your field. You might are like GloriousMatt on Reddit, who graduated with a degree in economics in 2012 but doesn’t know where to turn for gainful employment that pays well (see his post here). Maybe you came out of a program in the general/liberal arts and want something more specific or practical that also relates to your passions (see the post by Jaway66 here).

If you’re not in the computer technology, engineering, or healthcare fields, you might be struggling to find paying work. But there are options! Many people have success in finding employment by making connections through volunteering (an excellent way to make yourself known, learn new skills, and get the inside scoop from people in your field),  attending conferences, and starting early into the job search while making use of your existing networks from school and past work positions (see this New York Times article). Also consider the value of professional certifications and affiliations (CareerRealism).

Few Responses to Your Job Applications

Many of the options above bypass the onerous and stressful activity of submitting your resume to hundreds of employers without ever receiving a call back response. In this article, Dr. John Sullivan explains the “funnel” process in the job application process with specific stats:

“For the specific case of an online job posting, on average, 1,000 individuals will see a job post, 200 will begin the application process, 100 will complete the application, 75 of those 100 resumes will be screened out by either the ATS or a recruiter, 25 resumes will be seen by the hiring manager, 4 to 6 will be invited for an interview, 1 to 3 of them will be invited back for final interview, 1 will be offered that job and 80 percent of those receiving an offer will accept it” (Dr. John Sullivan, May 30th, 2013). 

Job seekers often make mistakes in their resume, apply to jobs for which they do not have the basic qualifications, or have an unprofessional online presence, all of which can decrease their chances of being hired (Dr. John Sullivan, May 30th, 2013; Tom Turpin, October 6th, 2013). Thankfully, there are many exciting online tools which allow job seekers and recruiters to meet each other in ways that bypass the paper resume; check out the video interviewing tool, Jobvite, and the multi-media intern resume, Intern Sushi. These offer some hope for the failing spirit that there are resources available for showcasing your unique talents.

Some people are also very proactive in their approach to job applications. They know exactly what positions they’ve applied for, how many interviews they’ve attended, and what to improve on for next time. In fact, they keep a log of everything that they’ve done in the job search process. See for example this Reddit post by basickafka, who gave me permission to provide this information in a blog post:

  • Started looking for jobs 8/22/13; didn’t start seriously applying till the first week of September
  • Jobs applied to: 100 (16/100 internships, 84/100 salaried positions; 5/100 resume only, 95/100 with cover letter)
  • Shortest response time for interview after submitting application: within a few hours from a tech startup, media agency, pr agency
  • Longest response time for interview after submitting application: 17 days/12 business days from a tech company
  • Average response time for interview after submitting application: 1 week
  • Number of requests for first interview (some first interviews were on the phone, some in person at an office): 18/100 (4 for internships, 14 for salaried positions).
  • Number of rejections after interviews (whether 1st or 2nd round): 4 (1 went to internal candidate, 1 went to more qualified candidate, 1 didn’t like me, 1 thought I didn’t have enough experience).
  • Number of companies I withdrew from after interview: 3 (would not be happy at these places)
  • Number of companies interviewed and waiting for response: 4
  • Number of companies with first interviews scheduled: 7
  • Most enlightening moment: I got a reply from the CEO of a small startup. He said I should have passed highly in his resume review but I didn’t because my cover letter was too generic. He told me (rather harshly, but I thank him for this) that I need to figure out how I as a recent graduate can add value to a company. Why would a company invest time and money in you? Show them that it will be worth it. Come up with a pitch about how you can contribute to a company. This changed how I approached cover letters and got me more interviews.

Such a methodical and rational approach can reduce the anxiety of the job seeker and improve their chances of making effective job applications. Throughout the lengthy job seeking process, keeping a list of contacts can also be invaluable for your eventual employment situation; it truly is “all in who you know” when you’re looking for work (Dr. Tom Denham, May 21st, 2010).

Many Companies Taking Advantage

Stress levels during the job search can also be high as you must be hyper-alert for companies seeking to take advantage of your time and efforts. Several Reddit discussion threads highlight these upsetting situations:

Although there are many undesirable interview/employment situations in which you can find yourself, doing proper background research on a company can be exceedingly helpful in highlighting red flags before you go into the first interview.

To all my fellow job seekers and soul searchers, I send good vibes in the form of hope, fortitude, strength, and courage as you wade out into the morass of our current economy. Keep up the good fight, friends!

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