There was a time when people spent countless hours writing résumés and cover letters, mailing them out and then waiting weeks or even months for the first replies to come in. Today, thanks to the internet, all it takes is one click.
While applying for jobs has never been easier or faster, this new reality comes with a caveat: avoid the trap of sending applications every which way, or you risk wasting time and energy on ones that ultimately aren’t a good fit.
The best way to streamline your job hunt and optimize your opportunities is to put your energy into only the most promising openings. Here are some tips to help you ask the right questions, identify the most suitable vacancies, and send out applications without draining all of your mental resources.
1. Define the scope of your search
Avoid spreading yourself too thin by making sure your job search begins with clearly defined parameters. We recommend outlining your search before you even start because applying for jobs without this key step is like heading off somewhere new and unfamiliar with neither map nor compass.
Before you begin looking for a job, it’s essential that you map out your career goals and expectations. To do this, take your résumé, extract any keywords that recur in your list of experience, and finish by matching those words to your expectations.
Do you want a job that is in line with what you’ve done before? Do you want to highlight a certain skill? Do you want to change course completely? What experience on your résumé will best justify an aspect of your personality that you want to emphasize?
Mapping out your search is an exercise that extends beyond writing CVs and cover letters. This initial step makes it easier to understand your experiences and expectations. Introspection is also required to define the scope of your job hunt. Finding your true north, so to speak, will guide you throughout the process so that you stay focused on what’s essential.
‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’
Whether it was a pilot, doctor, lawyer, or something else entirely, many of us had a specific profession in mind when we were children. Once again, the time has come to ask ourselves what we’d like to do now that we’re all grown up. Simply defining your field of work—for example, marketing, finance or IT—will only take you so far. Focus instead on a clearly defined yet suitable list of jobs to which you aspire, and then refine your job search to reflect that precision.
If you’re looking for your first job, get in touch with alumni from your most recent college. Pick their brains to get a better understanding of their day-to-day reality in concrete terms. We also recommend scouring the internet, since many websites have detailed job profiles that provide invaluable practical information.
Questions you can count on
Once you’ve mapped it all out in detail, with a clear idea of your dream job or jobs, you will need to ask yourself other administrative and logistical questions. The answers will help you identify any deal breakers such as:
When can you start? Many candidates miss out on job opportunities due to availability issues. It’s something you need to take seriously. You will save time if you eliminate openings that don’t fit your projected start date.
Can you travel? Are you willing to travel to another country? If so, how often? This question is crucial because it will have a huge impact on your lifestyle and the lifestyle of your loved ones.
- Company size
Are you looking for a job in a large corporation, a small business, or a start-up? To answer this question, you must weigh up the pros and cons of each and set your preferences. For example, don’t bother applying for a job with a start-up if you’ve always wanted to work for a large corporation.
- Required experience
You are well within your rights to be ambitious, but you also need to be realistic. Applying for an offer that requires five years of work experience when you’ve only just graduated is unwise.
- Other requirements
From driver’s licenses to working hours, it’s important to consider every aspect of the role for which you are applying.
Defining the scope of your job search is the first step to becoming more efficient because it gives you a clear idea of what you want and what fits your profile. That said, avoid narrowing it to the point where you risk missing opportunities that don’t meet all of your criteria. Ideally, you should set out priority lists, such as the following:
- List A: This might contain all of your top priority jobs or those that meet all of your criteria and for which you’re willing to invest the most time and energy;
- List B: The list might detail a second set of jobs that meet your criteria to a lesser extent;
- List C: Consider creating a list that represents jobs you are considering only as a last resort.
2. Clearly identify your application channels
Choosing well and prioritizing channels can save you a lot of time and energy. Here are some tips on how to be more efficient with respect to each channel:
Due to the popularity of recruitment platforms, it may be tempting to sign up everywhere at the risk of ending up nowhere. To avoid such a pitfall, keep your efforts focused and target up to three or four sites.
However, remember that your choice of job search websites should not be arbitrary. For example, if your career path is highly specialized, it’s a good idea to browse specialist websites. There are many options available, and they are often based on criteria such as the area of specialization, sector, years of experience, and company size.
We also invite you to check out our Welcome to the Jungle website, where you can get a behind-the-scenes view of various companies from photos, videos, and key individuals. What’s more, you can apply directly to Job Offers that these companies post on our website.
Bear in mind that some companies don’t use recruitment websites. That’s why we suggest checking out the websites for companies you’re interested in so that you can unearth job postings that aren’t on any recruitment sites.
Be aware of the fact that when applying for a vacancy listed on a recruitment or company website, it can sometimes be too late. That’s because after the need was identified, a search for candidates began internally and then within the network of those involved in the process. These steps are usually taken before a company even posts a job advertisement.
While sending out unsolicited applications may sometimes appear time-consuming or unnecessary, this isn’t necessarily true. Your application might show up in the right place at the right time: in the hands of a recruiter who contacts you immediately because a promising candidate such as yourself saves him or her from having to sift through hundreds of résumés. Sending unsolicited applications can be made either via the company’s website or, better still, through your professional network and LinkedIn. As you should have already mapped out a restricted number of companies that interest you, put them at the top of your priority list before sending out applications.
This approach will save you the most time. One résumé placed directly in a recruiter’s hands is often worth more than 20 résumés uploaded onto websites or platforms. Indeed, the latter may very well end up on a database with hundreds of other CVs. Instead, spend some time contacting people in your networks, such as former classmates or alumni, friends of friends, or ex-colleagues.
3. Reading and understanding job advertisements
When actively looking for a job, it’s easy to go full throttle with online applications without giving much attention to the details of each vacancy. This is obviously counterproductive.
Carefully reading and analyzing each advertisement, along with asking yourself the right questions, might be more time-consuming at first, but it will end up saving you loads of time.
Here’s a checklist of things to do before submitting your application:
- Read the job offer over once or twice, until the responsibilities and tasks become crystal clear.
- Write down any keywords that appear in the job offer and make sure they fit within the scope of your search.
- Make sure that you don’t have an application already in progress for another position with the same employer. Applying for multiple jobs at the same place will often discredit you right from the start.
- Check the date when the job was advertised. Some companies don’t regularly update postings on their websites, so focus on the most recent offers.
- Double-check the type of contract being offered: Some listings don’t make that clear, so read the advertisement carefully. It would be a shame to waste your time applying for an internship when you’re looking for a permanent contract
Last but not least, while spending so much time outlining your search and analyzing each job may seem a total waste of time, never forget that you must prioritize quality over quantity. Applying for four well-identified and solid job openings a day is far better than applying for 20 that aren’t a good match.
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