Don’t apply for your next job (and what to do instead)

Most people would probably be shocked to learn that applying for your next job is only going to work 5% of the time, but when you look at the numbers, this is only the tip of the iceberg. We are all engaged in a process that doesn’t work for us and honestly doesn’t work for the companies looking for new talent. We need a new approach, and I’ve had some recent experiences that I think might be able to help. In this episode, we will explore some of the 2022 job data that will show you why you shouldn’t apply for your next job, discuss a new approach to your job hunt, and go over my playbook for how you can make it work for you.

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Where do I even start…

Since I’ve said it before and I am going to say it again. The biggest reason why companies aren’t more innovative is because of how they try to hire people

It’s a topic we have talked about before as back in episode 107 we talked about how to outsmart the broken recruiting system. And before that, in episode 98, we talked about what to do when you get laid off.

Those two episodes took on a whole new meaning for me recently when about a month and a half ago I was laid off – for the third time. I found myself going and listening to my own episodes as I could use some insight and advice on how to handle it – that is a weird moment. Since then I have been thrown back into the maddening, emotional, and deeply broken process that is looking for a job.

This journey has made me once again realize something I have known for a long time – applying for jobs doesn’t work. And when you do some research you find out it doesn’t work to a shocking extent so all of this felt like the perfect inspiration for a show. In this episode, I want to explore the numbers that show why applying for a job doesn’t work, what can change, what will not change, and what you can do differently instead of engaging in this broken process.

Job applications by the numbers

Let’s start by breaking this problem down by the numbers behind the job application process from 2022 job data.

I don’t think any of these numbers will surprise anyone. I find them comforting to know that I am not alone in my frustration but also sobering to see just how bad it is.

• 90% of people apply for jobs when searching for a new position.

• The average job listing gets 250 applications

• 95% of all Fortune 500 companies use applicant tracking systems to help them deal with that volume to sort through and track those applications. These systems make things easier for the company, they weed out about 75% of all job applications.

• On average, you have to apply to 41 to 80 job listings to get one offer

That means the job application process works about 5% of the time. Let’s say that again – 90% of the people are engaging in a process that works 5% of the time. I struggle to think of another case where this many people are engaging in something that works at such an incredibly low percentage.

• By contrast, 80% of jobs are filled through networking

• Applicants with an employee referral get an interview 50% of the time

Those two numbers will be the foundation for what we are going to talk about more today. I could not find in the data the gender or racial makeup but I am guessing that if we looked at gender and race the numbers would be even worse. So this begs the question – WHY THE HELL ARE WE ALL ENGAGING IN THIS BROKEN SYSTEM?

I can only that question from my perspective and share that what I have experienced over the past 2 months completely aligns with these numbers. I share that to point out that too much of this process is the same for everyone – it doesn’t matter your level of experience. I saw this layoff coming so before it happened I applied to about 50 jobs before they finally laid me off.

Of those 50 applications, I heard back from 2 companies – based on the statistics we just covered, that is twice the average response rate. Since then, I am sure I’ve applied to at least another 30-40 jobs and have heard back from none of them – which brings the average pretty much in line, going 2 for 80 or 90 applications. I am filled with a mix of rage, disgust, and extreme inadequacy having to say those numbers out loud.

This is a process that at its best can be so amazing and life-changing but everything before that moment I think, is one of the worst things you can go through in your career. It has made me laugh at how inhumane people can be, cry with extreme frustration and make up new four-letter words. Even though I know the numbers and the failure rate I still keep applying for roles against even my better logic. I know I am doing this because of the anxiety that comes with the job hunt and it is even worse if you have been laid off or fired. I can only interpret it as a way for me to self-soothe and deal with the anxiety.

Breaking away from the broken system

But since this is the third time I have been laid off, I also decided to do something different this time. I have come to understand that you need to build a hope economy for yourself. Let me explain what that means.

It means that you need to find ways of creating and controlling hope as you move through this process. Too often people lose hope or feel like there is nothing they can control – which is really understandable – but how do you have more of a voice and role in this process and change things around?

I tried to answer that question for myself so this time instead of quietly looking for a job and applying to endless openings only to hear nothing back – I got loud and told everyone what happened. Some people told me that doing this was going to be a huge mistake, but it is hardly the first time I have done something everyone else thought would be a mistake. I was laid off on a Friday, and Monday I decided to take my power back and let the world know what happened. I was not prepared for what happened next…

In the first 72 hours, the post got over 350k views, hundreds of comments, and messages. It took me a week to go through it all, and I had interviews with over 50 companies over the next three weeks. I think it is a great reminder and proof to all of us that you never know how much support you have until you actually ask for it.

Results may vary

Your results on this approach will vary but I am very happy to report that I have been working with a number of other people who have been laid off and they have similar results and gotten new roles very quickly. Obviously, this approach only works if you do not have a job, but you can also strategically reach out to people and recruiters if you are employed and looking for something new.

This was not something that happened overnight, but this latest experience grew out of the first time I was laid off. I didn’t see it coming, and I was completely unprepared. My site, my resume, and my network were in shambles, and it took me months to get the process going to find something new. The feeling from that experience drove me to build my brand and network so I would never be that weak again. So it is something that you have to work on, but it is something anyone can do.

Too often, our imposter syndrome gets the best of us, and we go quiet. For me, what started as something out of fear and selfishness grew into something more when I saw I could really help people. But it was putting that work and energy out there in the hopes and fears that one day like the one that happened not long ago I would need to ask for some of that help and karma back. That is what was behind the magnitude of the response I got. But you can easily do it too.

What should you want to happen?

To get different results, we have to use a different playbook. That playbook is driven by what the statistics show us and flips things around knowing that outreach is the new recruiting.

We will go into more detail in a minute, but the basics are that you want to:

• Reach out to people

• Use and build your network

• Share over social media

• Have conversations

I think that last point is especially important because we also have to recognize that titles are usually meaningless, and job descriptions cause more imposter syndrome than anything. So I want to get around those things and be able to talk to executives, hiring managers, and recruiters to hear what is really going on and build a relationship. This helps me stand out, go around the broken system and greatly increase my chances of getting hired.

What do you work on?

We went over some of this back in episode 107, but you want to short circuit and go around this broken system.

Before anything, make sure you build your brand

Put in the work on your portfolio and resume

Reach out, show your passion and ask for a conversation

Build your network

Ask people you know with connections to make introductions

Be more visible and vocal on social media can draw teams to you

Take care of your mental health and attitude

If what you are doing isn’t working – reflect, refine and evolve

Final thought

Own your story – good and bad

Relationships matter

How you move through the world and reputation matters

Stay tuned and we will see where this latest adventure lands for me

But hopefully, this new approach will help you the next time you find yourself in this position

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