An important lesson in spending your time on the job hunt

An important lesson in spending your time on the job hunt

Quality versus quantity

The concept is not new, nor is it unique to the job hunt.  The job hunt is often filled with spending hours, days, weeks, maybe even months to craft an amazing resume.  Reviewed by your many close friends, maybe by employment assistance offices, and whomever else you can find that might have some valuable feedback.  The resume is attached to application after application on job posting after job posting based on whatever you are able to find online that might fit your job hunt criteria.  Or perhaps you took the “networking” route and forwarded it off to all of those close and distant acquaintances that might be able to help you with a job.

At the end of the day, let’s say you submitted 100 resumes each taking about a half hour (after creating logins, completing the forms and all the details of the applicant tracking system software for the posting), then that’s 50 hours of work, over a full work week spent on resumes.

If you have an infinite amount of time available, then more is better, however, if you don’t, then is that the best way to spend your time to be effective on the job search?

I offer two analogies to provide my viewpoint to the answer to the question.

The lottery analogy

Would you rather have 100 lottery tickets each with a 1% change of winning or 5 lottery tickets each with a 20% change of winning?

Let’s say each of the 1% lottery tickets takes half an hour to earn.  And each of the 20% tickets takes you 10 hours to earn.  The folks with statistics majors/minors knows that the answer is that the 20% tickets win hands down.

So if we apply this analogy to the job hunt process, if you had 50 hours to spend, you can spend half an hour on 100 resumes.  Which is the typical conventional wisdom of applying to as many jobs as you can.  The alternative that I’d propose is to spend 10 hours for the application to a single job/role/company.  Now I’m not proposing that you spend 10 hours on your resume alone.  But I do suggest that you spend some time narrowing down the list of companies that you should realistically want to work for and that you realistically should work for.

If probability and statistics don’t do anything for you, let’s try another analogy…

The Fishing Analogy

Which way would you rather fish, throw 100 hooks into the water, or get 5 hooks, each with a worm, a small shiny lure, a bobber to hold it at the right depth thrown to an area of the lake that you know has fish with a fish finder?

This one should seem more like a no brainer.  You don’t have to have ever been fishing previously but if you can imagine a single bare hook in the water, what do you think is it’s chance of catching a fish?  Well what about 2? 5? 10? Now does having 100 make it anymore interesting to a fish?

Where to focus your time…

So to get to the practical part, here are my suggestions:

Spend time up front to research the jobs you want to work for and realistically should work for

Let’s say you took a business degree and majored in finance.

  • Where would you work?
  • What would you want to do?
  • What is it about a company that would make you want to work for them?


When you think of finance you typically think of a bank.  But keep in mind that every business has someone doing finance, so you could potentially work anywhere.  Plus you could easily work for a bank and NOT do anything finance related (i.e. if you took computer science and wanted to be a developer, banks tend to have very large technology departments; which is kind of what I did but I took my computer science degree and started as a developer at a management consulting firm).

What would you do

In our finance example, finance is a large field and you’ll want to expand from the “stereotypical” roles you would do with your degree.  Get to know what are the options for your degree and you’ll be surprised at the potentially unexpected roles.

  • What values are important about a company: find out the culture of the company
  • Now that you’ve done the research then short list the top 5 (maybe 10 if you are fresh out of school, very adventurous or have time on your hand)
  • Leverage your network.  There is a theory that everyone is connected by 6 degrees (i.e a friend of a friend x 6 will find a connection to pretty anyone – so goes the theory); so you’ll be surprised who might be a few degrees into your network

Tailor your resume for the role and the company

  • Hopefully you understand the opportunities and the challenges of the company, and most importantly, how you can contribute and add value
  • Make sure that comes out on your resume!
  • Try to have your resume submitted through a network referral if possible

There are more details to these activities, but doing these things at even this high level will greatly increase your probability of finding that dream job!

Now you’ll tell yourself, “that sounds like it would take a long time”.  And I’d say yes, it probably takes 20 times more than how much you would normally spend on an application.  So just go back to the analogies, and hopefully you’ll make the connection that what I’m saying works.

Good luck!


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