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Career Advice

How Selective Should I Be When Applying for Jobs?

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

January 16, 2020

When browsing through job boards, you might be tempted to send out an application to anything and anyone. This impulse is even stronger when the roles don’t require you to fill out a lengthy application or attach a cover letter. 

According to Glassdoor, only 2% of applicants on average actually receive interviews. Thus, applying to job after job can become quite tiresome. So, as a job seeker, when should you be selective with the places and the roles you apply for, and when should you blindly throw your resume into the black hole of applications? Let’s evaluate both scenarios.

The case for being selective with your applications

If you’re shooting out your resume to every job that pops up without being selective, you could end up spending your time filling out applications for jobs that don’t align with your goals, interests, or experiences. 

Lauren McGoodwin, founder of Career Contessa explains that when you’re not selective “you waste your time applying to a lot of places and you don’t hear back from any. In addition to wasting your time, you can damage your confidence, which is something you’ll definitely want to keep strong when you go in for an interview”.

McGoodwin explains that before you start applying for jobs, you should narrow down your targeted companies. You can do this by researching and making a list of companies that you love. That research will hopefully lead you to remove a few from the list because they aren’t a good fit for you or your career goals. 

Next, McGoodwin says to see if you can have some informational interviews with people who work at those companies. If you’re still interested, then you can start applying, filling any skills gaps you might have, and focusing your job search on great companies you know you want to work for.

Another great way to be selective during your job hunt is to create job alerts. For example, if you’re interested in marketing, you can create job alerts using keywords like “marketing” or “content”. This way, you can be updated regularly on jobs that align with your goals, rather than sifting through endless postings every day. 

Being selective does not mean you need to meet 100% of all the requirements listed on the job description. When evaluating a role, remember to view the list of requirements as a “wish list”, rather than set in stone. Remember that your unique experiences, passion, and the human factor can easily make up for any skills that don’t match up. 


The case for being less selective 

You might not yet have the necessary skills or experiences to land a job within the roles and companies that you’ve researched and that interests you. Here, heading to the job boards and casting a wider net could be a good option to help you find a job that can serve as a stepping stone. 

In some cases, interviews with many different companies for different roles might not help you get the job you want, but it could help you gain a stronger understanding of what it is you don’t want. Going through interviews will usually give you a strong “hell yes” or “hell no” feeling, and you can use this intuition to help you learn more about yourself. 

Another point to consider is that just because you see a job description for a company that you’ve never heard of and may not be part of your research, does not mean you shouldn’t apply. For a case and point example, I had never heard of my current employer, nor did I have any experience in the industry. However, the job description stood out to me and once I did some research I realized it could be a good fit. 

If you are randomly applying to many jobs online, be tactful and make sure you’re not applying to several different unrelated jobs within the same organization. Be sure to do your research on the organization if you do make it through to the interview phase, and always have a clear answer to the question “why are you applying to this role”. Highlight your interest and the alignment between your skills and what is needed to be successful in that particular role.

Whichever way you choose to navigate your job search, remember that there is an average of 250 applicants applying for the same role. Because of this, anything less than a perfect application will make it hard for you to get noticed. This means your resume and cover letter need to be tight and your job narrative needs to be well thought out. 

There are many different schools of thought when it comes to job applications so be sure to a/b test what works best for you and tackle this new year with the success you deserve!

Stacy Pollack is a Human Resources professional on a mission to improve the workplace for employees and employers alike. She is passionate about coaching and helping people succeed. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or at


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