Career Advice

Apply Early To Improve Your Chances Of Landing An Interview

Mom was right: Getting up early can pay off. And so does showing up early in the job search.

More than one-fourth of jobs were filled with candidates who applied within within the first two days of a posting, according to new research from StartWire. Half the jobs in StartWire’s research went to people who had applied in the first week.

The research helps answer the question: Is it better to be early in when there’s likely to be a large number of candidates applying for an opening?

“Intuitively we know this,” said StartWire CEO Chris Forman. “People who apply earlier get hired at a greater rate than those who apply later.”

“Job seekers underestimate the importance of being at the front of the hiring line,” he said, noting that it’s like the accounting method FIFO – first in, first out to be interviewed. Employers have postponed hiring for as long as they possibly can to hold off on the expensive of adding to their staff, so once a manager gets approval to add a job, they may have the mindset: “I need them tomorrow,” said Forman.

Here are five tips from Forman on making the most of being early to apply:

  1. Recruiters are running fast. So after they have developed a good list of applicants to interview, usually around eight to 10 candidates, they rarely look at later resumes that come in.  This is especially true in jobs when there’s a big supply of candidates. So make sure when you’re applying for a customer service job in Detroit, you’re one of the first to send in your resume.
  2. Find a friend. Seek out an internal contact within the company “who can put in a good word for you,” said Forman. “You go to the top of the list” as a referral and get priority as someone who is already recommended by a staffer. If you don’t know anyone there, spend some time building relationships – even if it means going old school, and asking an HR manager for an informational interview, he said. Later on that person could possibly refer you into a job.
  3. Remember: Not all jobs are posted. Some show up only on internal career sites for companies so be sure to set up a job agent so you learn of those. Others are filled through referrals or by hiring a consultant who has been doing part of the work already.
  4. Plan for a daily dose of openings. Use job site tools to have them delivered to you, and look at the newest postings each day. Understand what tools the big sites offer and employ them to help make your search simpler. If you block out an hour a day you can apply to a handful of new opportunities then.
  5. If you’re working full-time, even in a job you dislike, be more selective on applications. Think of it like a baseball player at bat, Forman said: “You can swing or you can wait for your pitch.” If you have a paycheck already, wait for the pitch that suits them. Ideal ones  he said, are jobs where you are “super-qualified,” know someone within the company (as a referral) and can apply for the opening early. If you have all three of those going for you, your chance of making it to a phone interview list are “many times greater,” he said.

The StartWire research is based on 6,600 jobs at all levels filled in the last 12 months at 15 employers. The employers are anonymous, but employ 1,000 to 15,000 people. One way to avoid the black hole seems to swallow up resumes is to be one of the first applicants, said Forman.

If you are behind the curve, you may want to go ahead anyway and apply late. StartWire’s research is an interesting factoid, but it may not apply to every situation and it doesn’t show a cause and effect between being early to apply and getting hired, said Forman. Plus some jobs are difficult to fill, such as those that require a security clearance or advanced programming languages or the ability to speak Hindi or Mandarin, so your chances will be good even if the opening has been around for 30 or 60 days.