Early or Late – Where to Invest Your Time?

I met with a client the other day to discuss his employment prospects .  At the meeting I discovered he is applying to everything that is posted on his campus job board.  He applies by firing off a cover letter and resume – no matter the role or employer.  He waits to hear if he is offered a phone screen interview for the position and at that stage he takes the time to research the position and employer to see if he would really be interested in the opportunity.  I was dumbfounded – his approach seemed backwards to me.  His rationale for his approach was he saves time by not researching before applying and then is able to allocate that ‘saved’ time for opportunities where he actually has an interview.  He does not waste time researching a company where he does not progress to the interview stage.

WOW.  While from a math point, it may make some sense (being generous here) but overall it is a time suck and opportunity killer.  Here is why:

ATS Time Adds Up: The Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) most employers utilize requires candidates to complete several pages of data in order to be considered an applicant.  The approximately twenty minutes of time on each ATS site could be used more strategically by conducting research prior to applying.  If one were to apply to 10 jobs, this is 200  minutes completing pages on company tracking systems.  If my client would take 10 minutes to research the ten jobs before applying, he would find 1/2 of them are not of interest.  Apply to the remaining 5 jobs (at 20 mins/per) and he would end up using the same amount of time (100 minutes in research, 100 minutes in application).

Bonus: the 10 minutes of research he did for the five jobs to which he did apply would be a timesaver when he secures phone interviews as some of his basic research will have already been completed.

Phone Screens: Some recruiters will call out of the blue or with little warning for a phone screening interview.  When this happens, it is important that you have completed some research on the employer and opportunity.  By not taking the ten minutes to look over the opportunity, you could actually lose out in the interview screening process if caught by a surprise, or quick turnaround time, call.

Emotional Toll: No one likes to be rejected.  Why apply to jobs that you don’t want only to be rejected?  This “Vortex” is dangerous as when one is rejected from positions that are of little interest one will begin to think “If I cannot secure even an uninteresting job, what chance do I have for opportunities that are more competitive?”  Be sure you are applying to opportunities that are in your range – avoid Ms. America and the fry cook.

I know there are multiple strategies on securing employment, I personally endorse the upfront investment of time in one’s company/position research and tailoring of one’s documents in order to increase the likelihood of being selected for an interview.  In the end, if it works for you, it works for you.


About Kevin Monahan

I have 10+ years experience in coaching clients in their career management and career change efforts. Personal career consulting services combined with employer outreach to help find opportunities for both constituents.
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