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4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Applying for a Job

If you’re not getting nibbles, it may be because you're pursuing too many pointless positions. Here's how to get back on track.

By Susan P. Joyce | August 22, 2013
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Susan P. Joyce is editor and chief writer at Job-hunt.org and and chief blogger at Workcoachcafe.com, websites devoted to helping job seekers find employment. She is also a visiting scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

This article previously appeared on WorkCoachCafe.com.

A job seeker recently shared with me that he had applied for well over 1,000 jobs in the past 12 months and was very disappointed in the results. Not only didn’t he receive any offers, he wasn’t invited to a single interview.

Like many people looking for work, he viewed the abundant supply of job postings on the Internet as a shortcut to gaining employment. His mistake, however, was sending in too many applications and doing so carelessly.

(MORE: 6 Ways to Crack the ‘Hidden’ Job Market)

In today’s competitive job market, you need to bring your “A game” to every opportunity, but if you’re in spray-and-pray job application mode – applying for every job you see – you’re bringing your “C game.”

Searching for work is not a numbers game. The sooner you disconnect from the apply-apply-apply instinct and focus on going after only jobs that are a good fit, the more likely you’ll get hired.

4 Questions to Ask Before Applying for a Job

The best way to do this is to carefully read a job description and ask yourself these four questions:

1. Do I really want this job? Yes, a paycheck is very important. But, don’t forget that earning the money means performing the job that comes with it. So before you chase and, perhaps, land a job you’ll detest, scrutinize the “duties” or “responsibilities” section of the posting.

Maybe you’ve done this type of work earlier in your career. Sure, you could do it again, but you don’t really want to. Or perhaps the job sounds OK, but the location is a long, expensive commute.  

On the other hand, the duties and the job might sound very interesting to you and you’d be thrilled to fill the position.

The benefits of asking When you apply for a job you really want, your enthusiasm will show in the quality of your application and interview. And by eliminating jobs you wouldn’t like, you’ll avoid wasting time and effort in your search.

(MORE: 10 Ways the Job Search Has Changed)

2. Do I qualify for this job? To answer this one, examine the “requirements” or “qualifications” section in the posting. Even if you’re certain you could do the job, applying will be foolish if you don’t meet most of the specified requirements.  

Employers have their choice of applicants, so applying for a job without meeting the majority – or, better still, all – of the qualifications makes it highly unlikely that you’ll be considered.  

The benefits of asking When you apply only for positions that match your background and skills, you have a better chance of making it through the human or automated screening process (or both), which can lead to an interview.

3. Do I want to work for this employer? Hopefully, the particular firm or nonprofit is already on your target list. If not, do some sleuthing to be confident that it would be a good place for you to work.  

Search for articles about the company on Google and visit GlassDoor.com, a site that publishes reviews by current or former employees. You may find that the company dangling the job has a terrible reputation or is facing financial woes. Conversely, you might learn that its employees love their jobs.

The benefits of asking Your research could help you realize that even though the job sounds great and you’re qualified, working for this employer might be a nightmare. On the other hand, if your homework reveals that you’d enjoy being there, this newfound knowledge will make you better prepared and more enthusiastic in a job interview.

(MORE: How Good Are ‘Over 50’ Job Boards?)

4. Do I know anyone who already works there? If you’ve answered the first three questions with affirmatives, you can start applying. But you’ll increase the probability of a job offer if you can also answer this question with a “Yes.”  

As Next Avenue has written, the No. 1 way to get hired today is a reference from someone who works at the employer with the opening. So check with your network online (LinkedIn and Facebook) and offline (friends, family and colleagues) to see if you know an employee who could get your resumé into the hands of the hiring manager or submitted through a formal “employee referral program.”

The benefits of asking You’ll have a leg up over other candidates if a contact on the inside submits your resumé and vouches for you. And it’s much better to ask for a personal resumé delivery on a job that’s a terrific fit rather than wasting that favor on a long shot.
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