I Applied For 483 Jobs In 3 Months: Here's What I Learned

I applied for close to 500 jobs and learned some things along the way.

I Applied For 483 Jobs In 3 Months: Here's What I Learned
Photo by Firmbee.com / Unsplash

I was laid off from my position in June 2022 and suddenly found myself back in the job hunt with the rest of the 250,000 people who also got laid off around that time. I did a short stint back at a previous employer that didn't really work out and was then back on the job hunt once again. In the three months from beginning that second search to accepting an offer I applied for close to 500 jobs and learned some things along the way.

Authors note: your experience will definitely vary depending on industry and level. Positions I applied for ranged from Senior Manager to Vice President, with the majority of them falling around the Director level. 

1. Hitting the Pavement

This should be pretty obvious nowadays but I think it still bears repeating: there is no "hitting the pavement" looking for jobs anymore. Gone are the days when you printed out 100 copies of your resume on 10lb linen paper and trucked around town handing them to anyone that has a "Help Wanted" sign in the window. If you did that today not only would your resume go straight to the trash but people will also give you that look like you just stepped out of a time machine from 1955. No one does that anymore and the boomers who keep telling their kids or grandkids to go "hit the pavement" and "go get some applications" are woefully out of touch.

Takeaway: companies only accept applications online, and some only work through third-party recruiting firms.

2. Be Careful Where You Source Jobs

This is a lesson that I learned the hard way, so maybe I can keep you from the same frustration I had. You need to be careful about which job boards and online portals you use – some are definitely better and more...shall we say, ethical...than others. And the results might surprise you.

My advice is to avoid the following job boards at all costs:

  • Monster.com
  • Indeed
  • Dice
  • Any site where your resume and contact info are public to any recruiter

What's the reason? Well, I made the mistake of uploading my resume to Monster.com and within minutes was fielding calls from those kinds of recruiters – the ones that give the good ones a bad name. The ones that don't bother to read your resume or look over your profile, the ones that assume everyone will be interested in a 6-month temp position as a Junior Windows Sysadmin in Toledo for $14.35/hr. Those kinds of recruiters: the throw shit at a wall and see what sticks kind. You can mitigate this to a certain degree by not putting your contact info on your resume, but that's also an immediate toss-out for some ATS systems, so it really comes down to a Choose Your Own Poison kind of situation.

Takeaway: LinkedIn Jobs is by far the best way to source jobs. Its not perfect, but its a hell of a lot less spammy than the other sites and has some nice quality-of-life features.

3. Your Resume is Important, But Not In The Way You Think

Having a well-crafted, carefully thought-out resume is key to finally landing that job, but maybe not in the way you think. Your resume is usually the first thing that a recruiter will see, so on one hand it needs to be readable, look nice, and represent you and your experience well. But, possibly more importantly, your resume needs to be parseable.

The reality we live in today means that 99.9999% of all the jobs you apply for will be through an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). ATS's serve a number of purposes, among them being tracking applications for jobs, coordinating interviews, and representing candidates to a hiring manager or recruiter. To do that an ATS needs to be able to parse your resume successfully without human intervention. This means those cute little graphics, progress bars, word clouds, or whatever newfangled non-text chicanery you spent hours crafting is just going to be ignored by the ATS. At best an ATS will throw up its hands and go "I have no idea what I'm looking at" and just ignore it, at worst your application will get automatically rejected.

Takeaway: A good, parsable resume uses a single column of text across one or multiple pages, with clear headings, consistent formatting, and is submitted as either a PDF (.pdf, preferred) or Word document (.docx).

4. The 10% Rule

You are never going to hear back from at least 90% of the jobs you apply for, so until you hear back from a human person saying "we want to set you up for an interview", don't do a goddamn thing. Places like to ask their prospects about why they want to work for them or what led them to apply for the company and other crap like that – don't fall into the trap of coming up with those answers ahead of time. Also, don't get discouraged! If you're getting emails back from 10% of the places you've applied, then you're doing really good! Personally, my response rate hovered about 8.5-9.0%. If you're getting much lower than that then maybe its time to see if you're applying for the right positions or if you need to make another version of your resume. But don't be discouraged!

Takeaway: Check that you're applying to the right places and levels and that your resume is squared away.

5. A 3rd Party Agency Can Feel Like Magic

One of the best things that I've done over my career is foster a relationship with a few third-party recruting agencies. Not only does having a relationship with an agency help when finding a job, it also helps when trying to find people for your team. Working with an agency is a very different experience compared to doing it on your own, especially if you're working with a rep that you already know and knows you. You are, in a sense, hiring the rep to go do the work for you – find positions, get you in the door, set up interviews, etc. The agency gets paid by the hiring company either in lump sum or over the course of a year or so, so its in their best interest to find you a place to land. The good ones will work with you, get to know you, and be able to find better opportunities that are more in line with what you want while you pretty much just sit back and let them work. While the volume of positions you'll be presented with will be far less than if you were machine-gun-applying on LinkedIn, the quality of the opportunities will typically be higher and you are much more likely to get past the hiring manager's review of your profile.

Takeaway: Find a good 3rd party recruiter that you like and work with them while you apply for jobs elsewhere.

6. Its Not Personal

It might feel like it sometimes. Sometimes you get a rejection email three hours after applying for a position. Sometimes you never hear back from that one job you really wanted. It might feel like its personal, like the nameless, faceless person on the other end of the job application is personally judging you and deeming you unworthy, but I promise you that's not the case. Finding the right applicant for a job is about timing, internal politics, finances, and a whole host of other things you aren't privvy to so there's no sense in getting bent out of shape about that rejection email.

Takeaway: Relax and try to enjoy the process.

7. Ask for Feedback

Did you know that you can email your recruiter contacts after you've been passed over for a position? Weird, I know, but you can totally do it. And you should! Part of becoming a better person, engineer, leader, or whatever you are is obtaining and contemplating feedback, and the interview process is one area that I feel lacks that feedback in general. Asking for feedback and reveal valuable bits of how hiring managers, recruiters, and other people in the industry see you and give you some ideas on how to improve for the next time. My personal go-to script for asking for feedback usually looks something like this in reply to the rejection emai:

{ recruiter's name }, Thank you for taking the time to review my application and walk me through the process with { company }. I appreciate all the work and time that goes into searching for the right candidate and I hope you're able to find someone who is the perfect fit for this position and the organziation.

In my effort to improve my own interviewing process I would ask for a minute of your time so that I might better understand myself from your perspective. I would be obliged if you would provide me with feedback that I can incorporate into my process moving forward.

Takeaway: Asking for feedback helps you moving forward but also shows signs of maturity and a healthy self-image. Incorporating that feedback may help you be a more effective interviewee.

Anything that I missed? Anything else you'd like to see me dive in to? Leave a comment below!