How Many Jobs Should You Apply For?

by Tiffany Newton, Head Editor, INALJ Missouri

How Many Jobs Should You Apply For?

TiffanyNewtonI’ve been without a job for several months now. I had a student position while getting my MLS, and when I graduated, I lost my job. That’s just how student positions go.

I was recently talking to a colleague and I mentioned that I’d applied for over a hundred  jobs in the last six months. He was shocked. He said he’d only ever applied for around 25 jobs in his life. He is around thirty years old, and has had least three different jobs in the past three years that I’ve known him. He told me only stays at each job 1-2 years before he gets “bored” and ready to move on. But he also said that he didn’t apply for any jobs until he knew that’s what he wanted.  You see, for him, applying for jobs wasn’t as necessary as it is for me. He had a job, and a paycheck in the very least. His wife also had a good job. It wasn’t that necessary for him to apply for hundreds of jobs.

There is also extensive advice online about this. Many mention things like “quality of quantity” and being sure to apply for jobs that match your specific skill sets.  Randomly applying for every job that has the word “library” in the description or “librarian” in the title is not a very efficient way to apply for jobs. I do have a large range of library interests, including reference, circulation, and technical services, but I’m not that interested in the children’s department, so I tend to stay away from those, although I have applied for a few. Most of the jobs I’ve applied for match my skills and interests. I’ve started to apply for tons of jobs, only to realize after trying to write a good cover letter, that I’m just not that interested in that job. If I can’t make my letter sound passionate and excited about the job, then I simply don’t apply.

With little income, it is more necessary for me to apply for jobs. Job searching has become my hobby in the past few months. I try to apply for at least one job a day, and each application takes several hours. I tailor my resume to each position, write a brand new cover letter, fill out the application (if necessary), select the references, edit the cover letter and resume, take a break, then come back a bit later and proofread again. If all is well, then I submit the application.

So to answer the question, how many jobs should you apply for? Are you applying for too many jobs? Take several things into consideration:

  • Do you currently have a job?  If so, you could afford to apply for less than someone who does not have one. Exceptions would include if the job doesn’t pay enough to cover your bills, you’re unhappy with your current position, etc.
  • Are you spending every waking moment thinking about job hunting? If so, you are probably applying for too many. Even I take breaks and relax occasionally. Yes, I would like a job, but I still hang out with friends, watch movies, crochet, read books, clean the house, etc. These things get my mind off the job search for a while.
  • Are you getting interviews for the jobs you’re applying for? Is the quality of applications good enough that you’re getting called back? If you’ve applied for 100 jobs and only had 2 interviews, you might want to double check your quality. Go to a career services, have someone look over your resume and cover letters, etc. I’d even be willing to look at some for you if you need help. There’s no magic number, but getting an interview for 1 in 5 applications seems to be what I’m getting. About 20% of the applications I’ve sent have resulted in at least one interview.  Remember, the reason you apply for jobs is to get an interview. So make your application as appealing as possible. Applying for more jobs doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get more interviews nor have more chances if the application is of poor quality.
  • Are you following up with your applications? Don’t follow up right away, but a few weeks or so after the deadline, call or email and see where the search committee is. There was one application that I followed up with that they had thrown out because they didn’t think I’d be interested in moving such a distance to work for such little pay. When I called and asked about it, I was put back in the pool of applicants and had an awesome phone interview.
  • Are you willing to relocate? I have applied for over 100 jobs, but I am willing to relocate, and those jobs have been in about 12 different states, so I am not applying for 100 jobs in the same city. In larger cities, you might be able to do that, but in rural areas it can pretty difficult to do.

Other articles to read:

Why You Should Go for Quality over Quantity

The Top Five Reasons You Never Hear Back after Applying for a Job

  4 comments for “How Many Jobs Should You Apply For?

  1. Illinois to Missouri editors
    October 22, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    I don’t think you should ever give up, but maybe change your plan a bit. As I mentioned, if you’ve applied for lots but haven’t gotten any interviews, apply for different types of jobs that require less experience, or that are closer to your area. Sara Dixon of INALJ KS, wrote this article: http://inalj.com/?p=29484 about how she moved to Kansas in order to find a job there. I wrote an article last month about how to get the experience needed for your dream job here: http://inalj.com/?p=40370. You might need to take a break for a while and think things through to figure out what is holding you back from getting a job, and then try to fix that. Take classes to increase your knowledge, accept a less-than-ideal job in order to get more experience, or even move across the country to be closer to where you want to work.

    I will think about writing a companion article to this one though, but “give up” is not in my vocabulary, and I will never suggest anyone give up.

    -Tiffany

  2. Clare
    October 21, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    I’ve applied for 20 jobs, but only 10 that I had a good chance of getting. I only got one interview, but a few of the 20 are still in the application review stage.

  3. Michael
    October 19, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    I’ve had only one library interview in 4.5 years, but I’ve only applied for about 10 positions since I graduated in 2009. Most jobs require years of experience and if the job isn’t in driving distance then likely there’s someone closer who would be the preferred candidate. Part two of this article needs to be: “How Many Jobs Should You Apply For Before You Give Up?”

    • October 19, 2013 at 8:39 pm

      Thoughts on a part 2, Tiffany? :)

Comments are closed.