Stop applying to so many jobs! You’re wasting valuable time!

A lot of people think that the more jobs they apply to, the better their odds of success. Sounds good, right? You apply to 100 jobs and at least one of them has to reply requesting an interview. In a bad economy, one interview is better than none. And if you get an interview for a job you hate and know you’ll leave within six months, that’s (somehow) better than sitting on the couch trying to find the job you’ll love…right?


The time you spend applying for jobs you’re not qualified for—either experience-wise or mentally—could be spent positioning yourself for the jobs you are. Additionally, the more jobs you apply to and don’t get callbacks on, the lower your overall success rate.

Success rate for search activity is something many of us don’t think about. We see open positions and submit the same résumé we’ve been submitting to all the others. (I mean, c’mon. It gets tiring reworking your résumé for each of the 100 jobs we’re applying for.)

But what if I said you could have more success by approaching your search like a salesperson? What if I said you could increase your “sales rate” by applying to fewer jobs?

Approaching your search as a salesperson is a better option. Sales representatives speak to prospective clients, learn their needs, figure out what they can offer to address the potential client’s needs, and close the deal.

Good salespeople spend a lot of time researching prospective clients, setting up appointments, meeting with a small percentage of the ones they’ve reached out to, and ultimately closing the deal or being rejected. Not much different than the job search when you think about it, right?

If we break this down further, you’ll see why you should consider thinking like a salesperson.

Key (Search) Performance Indicators

There are a few things good salespeople track to assess their efficiency, which for our purposes means how much effort it’ll take to close a deal. These metrics include number of calls (or emails), number of times they get through to an actual decision-maker, get an appointment, and get the business (sale)—the objective being to bring down the number of calls it takes to get an appointment (interview) and a sale (the job). Here’s how you can apply this to your search:

Track Your Outreach

It doesn’t matter if you do with Excel, a Word document or a notepad. Every time you apply to a job, you need to record it. Your goal with this is not only to sit back and say, “I applied to some jobs today,” but to see how many applications it takes to generate activity (an interview). Though it may take some time, you can set a goal. It could be something like, “For every 10 applications I send out, I’d love to get one interview.”

Track Your Interview Ratio

This part may be more fun for some than others, but it’s equally important. Every time you score an interview, this needs to be tracked in the same place you’re tracking the number of jobs you’ve applied to. If you realize it’s taking 30 or 40 applications to get one interview, then you need to evaluate what you’re applying for and if your application materials are up to par. This is no different than a salesperson figuring out if the clients they’re calling are the type of businesses that actually need their product or services, or if their pitch actually addresses their potential clients’ needs.

Not Succeeding? Evaluate Your Approach

Maybe your résumé is missing keywords. Maybe your cover letter doesn’t convey that you really want to work there. Maybe you’re not spending enough time networking on- and offline. You won’t spend any time thinking about these things unless you’re not hitting your search goals.

A good salesperson thinks about these items. They sit with their manager and talk about their activity, brainstorming what they can do differently. Maybe the manager comes along for a sales appointment, or role-plays with them to see how they’re pitching. Maybe it’s recommended that they go to more industry-specific events.

How does this translate to your search?

Enlist the services of a résumé (or cover letter) writer. Ask a friend who works in human resources if they can review your résumé. Set up an informational interview with someone from a company you’d love to work for, or in a position you’d love to have, so you can learn what you need to do. Find employees at companies you’d like to work for and look up their experience on LinkedIn. These things can all help you secure interviews quicker.

Network and Ask Questions

Sometimes salespeople go on appointments and close the deal. Other times they don’t. But either way, there’s always one question they ask: Do you know anybody else who could make use of our company’s products or services?

When you’re interviewing, out at networking events, or just talking amongst employed (or unemployed) friends, you always need to be asking if they know of any place or person you should be reaching out to. It never hurts. If they say, “Sorry, I can’t help you,” that’s not a bad thing. It means you’ve done what’s necessary to exhaust your resources. If you don’t, you’ll never accurately see how many appointments it takes for you to close the deal.

Are you being the best salesperson you can be?

Rich Jones is a pathfinder for professionals, with a knack for helping the wayward determine the next steps of their careers. He’s also a certified professional in human resources with for-profit and not-for-profit recruiting experience. Visit Rich Jones’s career blog, I Am Rich Jones, and follow him on Twitter @IAmRichJones.