As CEO and cofounder of ZipRecruiter, Ian Siegel has watched more than 25 million job seekers and tens of thousands of employers go through the recruiting process. As a result, he’s seen plenty of perfect matches – and also a hell of a lot of mistakes.
But of all the job seeker mistakes Siegel has witnessed in his time, the one that he finds most problematic – and it’s a pretty common one, too – is when job seekers send out too many applications to too many jobs.
“It’s an unintended consequence of the efficiency that the biggest players [in the recruiting space] have brought to the application process,” Siegel says. “If you look at LinkedIn, Indeed, Monster, ZipRecruiter – we all offer one-click applications.”
This one-click application technology – ostensibly a boon for job seekers because it prevents them from having to re-enter the same information over and over again when applying to jobs – has turned many job seekers into trigger-happy hunters. They see jobs that they might be qualified for, and they just click that “apply” button right away.
What do they have to lose by doing this? A lot, actually – and they gain very little in return.
Creating the Void
In recruiting and HR circles, it’s common to hear talk about “the void”: Candidates send their applications to companies, and they never hear back – not even a rejection email. A lot of HR and recruiting pros are looking for ways to fill that void and ease candidate frustrations. They don’t want top talent to think poorly of their companies because of bad candidate experiences.
But, in some ways, the candidates have only themselves to blame for this void.
“When you make it so easy to apply, two things happen,” Siegel explains. “First, job seekers will apply to more jobs – even if those jobs are stretches for the skills they posses. Second, job seekers don’t make the same investment in an application. The frequency [and quality] of cover letters goes down.”
Is it any wonder, then, that candidates feel like they “never” hear back from employers? When you’re firing off undercooked applications to every remotely relevant job posting in sight, you’re bound to end up with a lot more misses than hits.
Plus, according to Siegel, “sending out job applications has almost no impact on the probability that you are going to get contacted by an employer.”
That may sound odd, but look at the stats: If you compare a job seeker who applied to 10 companies with a job seeker who applied to 45+ companies, the rate of response for each job seeker only differs by 4 percent.
So, no: More applications does not mean more responses in any meaningful way.
But what does impact the probability that you are going to get contacted by an employer is a good cover – which many job seekers are slacking on, thanks to the ease of one-click applications.
Writing a Great Cover Letter
In Siegel’s opinion, “The cover letter is where a job seeker really has the opportunity to set themselves apart.” So, if you’re tired of sending applications into the void, you need to do two things: Be choosier about where you apply, and start writing great cover letters.
“You need a plan,” Siegel says. “You need to figure out what kind of company you want to join. That requires doing a little bit of research.”
Once you’ve done your research, figured out what kind of company you want to join, and identified a few organizations and job postings that meet your criteria – and you’re qualified for the positions – it’s time to sell yourself in a good cover letter.
The key to such a cover letter? Don’t focus too much on what you’ve done in previous jobs – focus on what you can do for the company going forward.
“It’s a simple thing, but it is so infrequently the approach that job seekers take,” Siegel says. “There’s a real dearth of application training.”
That’s not to say that you should skip your past accomplishments entirely; rather, you have to strike a balance between what you’ve done before and what you can do for your new employer.
And, whatever you do, don’t simply rehash your resume in your cover letter.
“The reality is: The variation in required skills for the same role from employer to employer is very small, so, you’re basically checking a box when you say, ‘I have those skills,’” Siegel says. “You are up against other people who also have those skills and have checked those boxes. How are you going to stand out? What’s the next thing you’re going to do?”
And, finally, there’s one more thing you should know about crafting a perfect cover letter: It should focus on the company, not on you.
“Your cover letter should say, ‘I have researched your company, and I know something about it. I think it’s great. I understand these specific challenges, and I can help you solve them because of the experiences I have had,’” Siegel says.
In Siegel’s experience, it is the job seekers who put the most effort into their cover letters who have the most success on the job hunt. Don’t let the convenience of one-click applications fool you into thinking more is better. When it comes to the job search, it’s all about quality, not quantity.