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  • Writer's pictureSarah Seavey

Most People are Applying to Jobs Wrong: 7 Steps to a Successful Job Search

It's common for my clients to say they've Googled questions such as "How to land an interview," "The best way to apply to a job," "How to fix my resume," or "I do not hear back from companies, what am I doing wrong?". In this article, I will cover the most common questions regarding job search and applying.

To start, although the "Easy Apply" button on large job boards like LinkedIn or Indeed can make applying to jobs easier, it's common for mass applying to yield little return. In the time it takes to find and mass applies to 50 jobs, you could apply correctly to five. Compared to getting lost in a sea of 50 easy apply applications, my clients have found greater success not only hearing from employers but landing their first choice job by using the seven steps outlined below.

"Good things take time, great things take work".

Step 1: Understand Applicant Tracking System(s)

Companies of all sizes and across industries use a software called Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to sift through and organize large groups of job applicants to contact applicants. Just like a search engine, a recruiter can search using Applicant Tracking Systems. These systems rank and filter applications by keywords (such as skills, job positions, industry terminology) or qualifications (such as location, education, years of experience). As an applicant, you should be optimizing and tailoring your resume specifically to fit the job you are applying for. This means first creating an industry resume, then tailoring it to showcase how you are the best fit for that specific employer’s role. Learn more about ATS.

Common Misconceptions about ATS:

“I just need to get my resume through the ATS." I hear this statement often. It provides an opportunity to talk about ATS in a different light. Applicant Tracking Systems are a good thing and not just some black hole your resume goes into.

Fun facts about ATS

# 1 If your resume is tailored, you are qualified, and your resume is ATS friendly, human eyes will likely see you.

# 2 When human eyes see your resume, studies show you still have 6-7 seconds before your placed in the yes, no, or maybe category.

# 3 Job postings typically are hiring for ONE position out of an average of 250+ applications. You won’t get a call for every job, just based on the mathematical odds, but you are more likely to hear back if you put the appropriate time to apply (see steps below).

Step 2: Be Strategic & Conduct Purposeful Research

First, let yourself dream and explore possibilities by making a target company list - simply a list of companies you want to work for. Be intentional when making your list. Only including companies that fit what you are looking for in a role and/or industry, work culture, location, type of company, skills, or responsibilities for your next career.

Research your target companies

I am not talking about a quick Google search and skim of the website. I am talking about at least 30 minutes to an hour or more per company. I highly recommend blocking off designated research time in your calendar to help the process feel less overwhelming. Use this block of time to do a deep dive into your target companies to understand and take notes on the following:

  • What are the company's mission and vision statements?

  • How has the pandemic impacted business? What are new and innovative solutions for those changes?

  • What are the goals for the next 6-12 months, the challenges, and the initiatives they’re running?

  • Does their career site provide recommendations for apply?

  • What is the salary?

Step 3: Strategically Identify & Track Opportunities

"I applied to hundreds of jobs, and I do not hear back." I hear this often, and my answer is that your chance of hearing back regarding a job posting relies heavily on your selection process. Logically, the employer will only contact the top 10 - 20 candidates whose resumes meet the minimum qualifications and aligns best for the role. Therefore, the first thing you should do when you open a job description is to scroll to the bottom and read the minimum qualifications. If you are missing many or most of the qualifications, move on.

If you are unsure, a quick tip is to flip the situation. If you were a hiring manager, how important is the qualification to you? Seeing the job description from the other side can often require us to be realistic and gain a better understanding of the employer's process. If you still are unsure, ask. Contact the company and ask to speak with someone that can answer your questions about the specific role. This will not only provide you with the clarification you are seeking, but you also now have made contact and put your name in front of the employer.

"How do I find jobs that I am excited about?"

I love a good third-party job board search - the possibilities are practically endless. The flip side is that open jobs' endless possibilities can also feel overwhelming - aka job posting overload. For a few reasons that I'll note below, I suggest my clients use large job boards during the research phase in Step 2. However, once you have your company's target list, the best place to apply directly on the company's career website. I only suggest applying on third-party large job boards such as Indeed or LinkedIn if the company does not have its own portal to apply. Another reason not to apply directly on the large job boards is that the role is often no longer active. If you see a job posted on a third-party job board but not on the company's job portal, the role is no longer active - don't waste your time applying.

Step 4: Tailor Your Resume

I'm sure you've heard that your resume should be tailored, but when you sit down at your computer, what exactly do you do? Answer: Look at the job description.

The job description is a call to the world, saying 'we are looking for someone with these qualifications, skill sets, and experience.' Your resume is a direct response to that specific job description, replying with your most relevant qualifications, skill sets, and experience in one document. Another source you can use to tailor your resume is by using your research from step 2 to illustrate how you are the best fit and add value to the company if chosen.

The next step to tailoring your resume is to update your resume by writing bullet points that focus on your accomplishments rather than tasks, also quantifying your achievements when possible. You will want to structure your bullet points with:

Accomplishment + Action + Task.

Example: Grew web-based traffic 50% by implementing SEO and monitoring Google Analytics data to include in team reports.

Book our most popular resume service or learn more about how to tailor your resume here.

Step 5: Update & Leverage LinkedIn

Recruiters are actively looking for candidates right now. This is your time to not only update your profile but, more importantly, to get involved.

  • Update each position on your LinkedIn with at least three of your best accomplishments in the description.

  • Review and update your heading, summary, and skills sections.

  • The LinkedIn algorithm is based on engagement and connections. To increase your LinkedIn profile exposure, increase your engagement by liking, commenting, sharing, and posting often.

Read 5 Tips to Attract Recruiters to your LinkedIn Profile! or book a LinkedIn Profile Writing Service today to elevate your profile to include keyword optimization, a clear career path, transferable skills, and highlight what employers look for the most. During the session, we also deep dive into how the LinkedIn algorithm works to ensure your profile is seen by recruiters, hiring managers, and executives.

Common Misconceptions about LinkedIn:

"I don't need a LinkedIn. I already have a contact and know where I am applying."

Why lower your chances of being seen or obtaining a job but only leveraging one source or resource? More than 70% of employers look up applicants online through social and professional platforms such as LinkedIn.

Step 6: Network

LinkedIn should be at the top of your list for networking, including LinkedIn’s directories on the company or university pages. LinkedIn directories help you connect with professionals at a specific company or an alum from your alma mater.

To find the directories:

  • Search for a company or your alma mater in the top search bar.

  • Once on the page, click the ‘People/Alumni’ tab on the left side menu.

  • Use the filters along the top of the search bar to identify professionals you want to reach out to.

Once you connect with a contact on LinkedIn, it is important to send a clear and concise message. Read How to draft a LinkedIn or Email Outreach Message for more information.

The next step is to prepare for an informational interview. CareerOneStop defines an informational interview as "a meeting to learn about the real-life experience of someone working in a field or company that interests you. It's not a job interview, so it's important to keep focused on getting information, not a job offer."

Before an informational interview (could be as simple as asking to chat over coffee or the phone), prepare by researching both the company and your contact. Prepare insightful questions that will inform your job search, illustrate your knowledge of the field, and highlight your specific interest in the company and/or role. Be sure to clarify the next steps before ending the conversation.

Common Misconceptions about Networking:

"I met with Mrs. Smith, but she wasn't able to help me get the job. All she did was give me advice." One large misconception around networking today for job seekers is that networking is only successful if someone directly helps you obtain a job. Likewise, it is common for professionals (outside of career services and recruiting) to assume that their role is to provide advice and help without the responsibility of getting a job seeker hired. In short, as our previous article notes, it is essential to be clear on your expectations of the relationship when networking.

Step 7: Apply & Keep Track

Finally, we are at the application stage! It may seem like a lot to do before even applying, but the time and effort put in upfront will make the rest of the process much easier. For example, when you receive a call for a phone screen interview, you will have done the research on the company; completed the needed self-reflection to identify examples and experiences that explain why you are the best fit; and you have leveraged your connections to have a complete understanding of the company, industry and/or role.

Lastly, keep track of the jobs you apply for by saving the job descriptions as PDFs or keep tack in an excel document.

If you have specific questions feel free to comment below, email us at

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