Answering Job Ads - What are the odds?

Most job searchers immediately start by looking at ads or calling recruiters and hope they can succeed quickly with this reactive technique. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Except that it doesn’t work very well. Every year or so, I investigate how well the various search techniques function, and usually the ads and recruiters together, according to the research, account for around 12–13% of the overall job market. Most jobs are found through personal networks. 

       So, why do people depend so much on the 13% and not the 87%? Because the prospect of answering an ad, and then getting called for an interview sounds easier and more appealing because it is easier. 

       Why don’t ads account for more jobs? Because most people do not precisely fit into the specific skill sets the ads are primarily seeking.

       When I recruited for a large bank many years ago, I used ads in The New York Times for large projects and occasionally for hard-to-fill positions. We were opening a large data center and staffing it at all levels. There were 36 positions for which we advertised internally as well as in The Times. It was a half-page ad, a major and expensive recruiting effort, and we received 5,000 responses for the 36 positions within two days. We were only a staff of four and had to figure out a way to get the best possible candidates for the positions quickly. 

       5000 resumes! We split up the jobs and split up the resumes, 1250 per staff person. Our goal was to get five candidates to interview for each position. I cannot speak for all corporate recruiters, but I can say that what followed was fairly typical of many I’ve met over the years. I had responsibility for seven of the positions and actually ended up reading maybe 250 of my 1250 resumes in order to find enough initial candidates for each position. Basically this means 1000, or 80%, of the resumes were never even read on this first pass. Later on, I might have read an additional 100 if I’d been unable to find enough qualified candidates for a specific position or two. 

       You have probably had the experience at some point of reading the perfect ad practically screaming, “This job’s for you!” And you write a great cover letter to accompany your brilliant resume that fits the job perfectly. And you send it to someone like . . . me, at the big corporation, the guy who only needs to read roughly 20% of the resumes he receives. In other words, there’s a high probability that yours will never receive so much as a glance.

       You end up feeling terrible because either you get a form rejection letter (from the better companies who are conscious of their public perception) or nothing (from the organizations who don’t think that way). You may also end up feeling that something was wrong with your resume, cover letter, or credentials, when in fact that was not the case. This is only one reason, among many, why answering ads is essentially a gamble. But in a comprehensive job search, it’s a technique not to be ignored because even in a gamble, there’s a chance for success. 

       One technique that often work is to answer the ad twice. First, answer it immediately, and then . . . answer it again, maybe 10 days later. The second response will be received in a batch of maybe three, rather than the hundreds elicited earlier. Even in a small organization, an ad will draw many responses, even if only placed in a specialized trade publication. Don’t worry that someone will notice the two responses. First of all, it would be surprising to me if someone would actually notice a duplicate, and, even if that were the case, so what? Would it be perceived as a negative if two responses were noted? Does it appear desperate? My take would be that the candidate was extremely interested in the position. What could be wrong with that? 

From In Search of the Fun-Forever Job: Career Strategies that Work

© Jiri Hera |