Is applying to jobs a “numbers” game?

“It’s all a numbers game.”

We’ve heard this when it comes to dating, with sales, and of course with the job hunt..

Does that mean you just blast out hundreds of resumes to whatever website will take it?

Or that you need to burn yourself out going to endless UX meet ups?

Let’s explore the two sides of this numbers game argument.

Yes, you should be applying to lots of jobs, and consistently too.

But the trick is to track your progress.

By tracking your progress, you get better visibility into your efforts. How many companies have you applied to this week? How many called back?

“What gets measured, gets managed” – Peter Drucker

Measuring your efforts helps you discern patterns over time.

Maybe you do quite well on phone interviews, but consistently fall off during in-person interviews. Or you notice a pattern that you connect much better with creative agencies, and not so much in-house teams.

It’s not enough to just “play to numbers game” and apply to a bunch of jobs randomly. It’s best to *track* your progress.

There’s also a psychological benefit to this. You feel more in control of your job search. And instead of being too attached to a certain outcome – like 1 rejection – tracking your progress affords you the emotional distance to look at yourself more objectively.

How to apply with quantity and quality

Playing the numbers game doesn’t mean quality goes out the window.

For best results, you should still tailor your application as much as possible.

Companies can tell when you’re using a “stock” application – nothing feels personal to them. Just another resume in the stack.

But how do you play the numbers game and send out quality applications? Doesn’t that take forever?

Try this mixed approach to job applications:

Start with a base set of materials in the beginning. You have your standard resume, cover, and case study.

Over time, aim to develop a sense of what your niche interests and passions are.

Love healthcare? Make specific healthcare-focused job app materials. Really into digital agencies? Same strategy.

That way, you develop a set of templates tailored to many different situations. You’ll incur an upfront cost creating these, but the efficiency of this system pays off over time.

Another way to think of this identify you’re Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 companies: 

Tier 1 companies = dream companies, the ones that you’ll be over-the-moon to work for. You should spend a LOT of time tailoring your application for these companies.

Tier 2 companies = companies you feel good about, and you’ll accept an offer from. You can probably use one of your custom templates for this one, but don’t kill yourself tweaking your stuff to apply.

Tier 3 companies = practice. A rejection from them barely stings, and if you get invited for an interview, you think of it as practice. Only if you have time do you bother to tailor your application – perhaps your base template is enough.

^ Probably the only scenario when you should use that “quick apply” feature on LinkedIn/Indeed.

So it is a numbers game…kind of

Yes, applying to jobs should be a balance between quantity and quality. Yes, it’s a numbers game. But that doesn’t mean just devolving to the “spray n pray” approach of blasting your resume everywhere and hoping something hits. It still pays to be strategic about your approach.

Here’s the TL;DR:

  1. Track your progress with a spreadsheet
  2. Create custom templates for different job types (e.g. by industry)
  3. Prioritize your applications according to Tier 1 / Tier 2 / Tier 3 companies

Happy applying. Remember it’s a numbers game, kind of ;)


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