Apart from the question about when and how to follow up after applying probably the most frequent query I get from job seekers is:  how many times should I apply to a company or job posting before I just give up?  There’s no simple answer to this question, but hopefully, this blog will offer some insights.

So Much Has Changed

Job search has changed a lot in the past thirty years.  Regrettably, not all of it has been for the better.  There was a time when a recruiter would advertise for a job and expect to receive maybe a hundred applicants.  Throughout the recruitment process he/she would be closely connected with all aspects of the recruitment cycle from preparing the newspaper advertisement right through to interviewing clients, conducting reference checks, personally preparing and delivering the offer in a face-to-face meeting, and eventually onboarding the new hire.

Fast forward to today.  Job postings get posted on multiple job boards.  Applicants are screened via an Applicant Tracking System.  Candidate interviews are now conducted through an app.  Reference checks are usually outsourced to a third party service provider.  The successful candidate receives a job offer as an e-mail attachment.  The new hire receives a hyperlink that they then click on and which takes them to a secure website where they can upload their hiring documents, take training courses and complete the necessary pre-employment paperwork.  It’s not uncommon nowadays to find recruiters who will tell you candidly they have never conducted a face-to-face interview.

It’s all very technologically savvy….and hugely impersonal!  Many of my clients, particularly those who haven’t been in the job market for several years, bemoan the fact that they never get to speak to an actual person during the job search process.  Innocently, they keep applying to jobs expecting to receive some kind of acknowledgement other than an automated message.  How can they follow up?  How many times should they apply to a company or a position before just moving on?

Peeking Behind the Curtain

Years ago the financial institution work for conducted research into how many applications were received annually, and how many applicants applied more than once.  It revealed that annually we received about 125,000 distinct applications.  In retrospect, I found this number surprisingly low.  However, what was even more interesting was that of that number 91% applied only once.  A much smaller number applied twice.  Thereafter, the number of applicants who applied more than three times was negligible.

There are probably dozens of reasons why applicants only applied once.  Maybe they found a position with another employer and stopped applying.  Perhaps they were discouraged and gave up.  Conceivably, they may have applied to a highly specialized position for which vacancies arise infrequently.  

Persistence and applying several times can pay off in your job search (Photo courtesy of Karolina Grabowska @ Pexels)

Be Distinctive

It was a lot easier thirty years ago to connect with a recruiter or hiring manager.  You picked up the phone and spoke with them directly or left a message.  You were able to build a relationship, and chances are you made some kind of connection with the person on the other end of the line.  These days, contact names are seldom provided in job postings.  Your resume, once submitted online, goes into that black box called an “Applicant Tracking System” where it gets scanned and reviewed in a nanosecond and a percentage match value assigned.  If you exceed 80% or more you may get contacted for an interview.  If less your resume goes back into the black box and likely you will never hear from the company again. Chances are, the recruiter has never even looked at your resume.

Depressing?  You bet.  Inspiring?  Hardly.  Impossible?  Not necessarily.

Be Strategic

In order to be successful you have to be strategic.  If the XYZ Company is one you really are passionate about working for then you have to get in front of the hiring manager.  Here are some techniques for doing it.

  1. Leverage Linked In.  Pretty much everyone is on Linked In today.  Use the search feature to identify the hiring manager based on job title.  Notice I said “Hiring Manager”, not the Human Resources Recruiter.  Call up the central number, use the automated attendant to get the person’s extension, and use the technique I shared in a previous blog to make a connection.
  2. Leverage Linked In again.   Check your network.  Find out whether you have a personal contact who is connected to someone who works in your target company.  Reach out to them and ask them if they could give you an introduction.  Send that person an invitation to connect.  Ask them for their support on how to get consideration for employment.
  3. Re-submit your Resume.   This time, don’t go through the Applicant Tracking System.  Instead, send it directly to the Hiring Manager.  You can determine your intended target’s e-mail address once you know the employer’s generic format for e-mail addresses.  In your cover letter/e-mail use these words in your opening: “Further to my voice mail message….”
  4. Re-Post your Application.  Go into the company’s Career section of their website and re-post an updated version of your resume.  Make a point of updating and re-posting your resume monthly.  Most employers will keep your resume for three months.  Posting it frequently maintains its status.  It also signals your desire to work there.
  5. Put a Name to a Face.  Find out if the company you are applying to is sponsoring or holding any public events such as a job fair.  If so, try to attend.  Make a point of trying to connect with someone there, and be sure to confirm your interest in working for the organization.
  6. Use Social Media.  Whether Linked In, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, make a point of tracking and following events and developments in your target company.  Post comments, and indicate your likes and impressions.

A Final Thought

I determined a few years ago that I wanted to teach at the post-secondary level.  I had my heart set on teaching at one particular local academic institution with a stellar reputation.  It took me thirty-four separate applications over the span of seven years, as well as related teaching experience gained at other schools, before I finally got hired.

If you don’t want to take “no” for an answer then resolve not to do so.  Remember that if someone slams the front door in your face most buildings have more than one entrance.