10 Reasons Why Applying For Jobs Sucks

It’s hard to keep your head up and stay strong when you’re job hunting. I recently saw this post on Facebook: Is there anything more humbling, and possibly humiliating, than looking for a new job?

I’m sure there are a few things. A wizard making your clothing disappear when you’re giving a speech to thousands of people, perhaps? Let’s face it. Sometimes a tooth extraction is less painful than a 120 question “assessment”.

So, heads up, employers. Here are 10 ways your job application process can discourage and frustrate candidates before they even get to the interview stage:

1. Long online applications aka your life story (and every address you’ve ever worked at) aka there’s a special place in hell…

Sound familiar?

Dear Minion,

Thank you for filling out our novel-length application four times (we know it’s buggy). Our robots will carefully review your qualifications, and we’ll be in touch if they think you’re a match. Otherwise, you’ll never hear from us again.

Look, I get that applications are needed for legal reasons. But can’t the application wait until after the first interview, considering only a small percentage of job seekers make it to that stage? I’ve lost track of how many employers have said something like: We got over 80 applications for this job and we’re only interviewing 3 of you. With odds like that, some job seekers just won’t apply to jobs that require online applications.

Fun Stat: You’re 8x more likely to score an interview if you apply within the first 96 hours. 

2. Include your salary history with your application. 

Sure, buddy. I’ll show you my salary when you show me yours. Deal? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

3. Don’t apply unless you’re willing to work for free.

Design a new logo for our start-up as a “test” of your design abilities. Send us an original 1500 word article with your application. Develop a marketing plan for our new product.

Sure thing! My hourly rate is $100/hr. When would you like to start?

4. Job ads that YELL AT YOU.

You know the ads I’m talking about.

We’re looking for someone with great communication skills and Excel experience. NO INTROVERTS! To apply, please send a cover letter and a resume. APPLICATIONS WITHOUT A COVER LETTER WILL NOT BE CONSIDERED.

Can you imagine the emails you’d get from this hiring manager? I found my cookie jar empty this morning. FILL MY COOKIE JAR NOW!

5. Software Developer/Graphic Designer/Accountant with lawn care experience and at least 15 years of management experience who is willing to answer phones, greet customers, and take care of my dog. PhD preferred. $12-14/hr.

Just stop.

6. Give us your references immediately or ACCESS DENIED.

I’ve never been comfortable providing the contact information for my previous supervisors and colleagues to whoever is on the other side of a blind Craigslist ad—or even a company that appears to be legit. For all I know, you’re going to hit them up with emails or phone calls, asking them to try out your dog-shaped vacuum cleaner. IMHO, there is no good reason to ask for references before you actually interview the candidate.

7. Take this short 120 question assessment, and this one, and that one. Oh, one more!


8. Must love Star Wars, the oxford comma, and Lady Gaga. To apply, share ten Lady Gaga songs to listen to while writing a sci-fi novel.

You’ve got a super cool geek culture going on. I get it. But I’m not applying for a best friend. I’m applying for a job. My taste in music should only come into play if I insist on blasting this in my cubicle every morning.

9. Answer these 30 behavioral questions we should be asking in an interview.

This job opening probably has a hundred other applicants. Are you seriously going to read 3000 responses? Probably not. If you need help narrowing the applicant pool, try just asking one important question. That should make the process less overwhelming and time-consuming for everyone involved.

10. I know the ad said we’re hiring a marketing manager. But you’ll actually be handing out flyers on the street.

If they’re looking for a “director” with no experience required, chances are it’s too good to be true. Do a little research on the company and try contacting them by phone before agreeing to interview in-person.

In my experience, how you’re treated in the hiring process can be an indicator of how you’ll be treated as an employee. No hiring process is perfect—and that’s okay. You’re not perfect. We all have to make some allowances for each other. But we all deserve to be treated with respect. If an employer can’t give you that, move on and don’t look back. They aren’t worth your time.

What ridiculous experiences have you had applying for jobs? Share your stories below!


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You’re 5x More Likely to Get a Job Interview If You Apply by 10am

Applying to jobs can be a full-time job itself. It’s especially taxing if you’re already working. When do you have time to fill out job application after job application? After work, maybe. Before lunch, if you’re especially committed. But, here’s the thing: they’re the absolute worst times to apply for a job.

We’re always looking for ways to make the job search easier. While looking through our latest data, we discovered this nugget: Applying to a job before 10am can increase your odds of getting an interview by 5x.

The best time to apply for a job is between 6am and 10am. During this time, you have an 13% chance of getting an interview — nearly 5x as if you applied to the same job after work. Whatever you do, don’t apply after 4pm.

We analyzed a subsample of 1,610 job applications (that were sent at random application times) to see how much time of day affects your likelihood of scoring an interview. Here’s what we found:

  • The best time to apply for a job is between 6am and 10am. During this time, you have an 13% chance of getting an interview.
  • After that morning window, your interview odds start falling by 10% every 30 minutes. If you’re late, you’re going to pay dearly.
  • There’s a brief reprieve during lunchtime, where your odds climb back up to 11% at around 12:30pm but then start falling precipitously again.
  • The single-worst time to apply for a job is after work — if you apply at 7:30pm, you have less than a 3% chance of getting an interview. You’re fighting another clock here (the number of days a job has been posted) but, at this point, it’s better to save your email until the next morning.

One really important (but subtle) aspect above: You have to send the application during the morning of the employer’s timezone. If you don’t manage against the employer’s timezone, the effect disappears.

What’s the big deal about morning and lunch? Well, there’s one really intriguing insight into what might be happening here…

A few years ago, a group of scientists from Princeton published a stunning discovery about bias in the judicial system. This wasn’t about money, sexism, racism — no, nothing like that. Instead, it was about coffee breaks. Seriously. (Here’s the original paper.)

Your chances of getting parole depends more on when your judge had a coffee break, not whether you’re actually rehabilitated or not.

In short, if your parole hearing was scheduled after a judge got her coffee break, you had a 65% chance of getting parole. (That is, if you were lucky enough or if your lawyer was smart enough or if you were rich enough.) If you were scheduled right before break, you had a near-zero chance of getting parole.

How do parole hearings relate to the job search? Well, just that there’s two nameless, faceless committees of people who can change your life with the stroke of a pen…

I’ll let you connect the dots.

So much of life feels random and out of our control — applying for a job, for one. But really, when something feels random, it usually means that there’s something we don’t understand. When you discover what that is and start to understand it, you can begin the process of taking back control.

What does all of this mean? When you combine this with the last post in our series, there are already two big things that you can do to take back control in your job search:

  1. Apply to jobs in the first 3-4 days of a job posting; and,
  2. Apply to jobs before 10am (in the employer’s timezone).

There’s both an art and a science to the job search — in combination, just these two optimizations can (scientifically) increase your odds of getting a job by nearly 40x.

Are you looking for a job? If so, try ApplicationAssistant. In addition to your job applications being submitted before 10am, we also make sure your job is applied to in the first few days and that every other optimization is also followed — you’ll automatically get the benefits of everything we know about the job search.

EDIT 1: Holy smokes, Batman — this went viral. Reddit reports 25,000+ people in ~4 hours and it’s accelerating fast. As I’m not able to reply to all the requests personally or get ahead of the comment wave, I wanted to clarify a few things about methodology:

  1. This is a randomized controlled trial and so accounts for correlation vs. causation. Specifically, these are semi-automated job applications that TalentWorks submitted on behalf of our ApplicationAssistant users.
    • Job applications were randomly sequenced (and submitted) by our systems without regard to users’ qualifications, personality, experience, resume, etc. There is no correlation between application time and user traits.
    • We’re incorporating this study’s insights into ApplicationAssistant to make sure our users have the best, most optimized application possible.
    • This will inhibit our ability to do an analysis like this in the future, but our #1 mission is to help people get the job they deserve and that’s more important.
  2. This subsample of 1,610 job applications covers users across a wide cross section of experiences, roles and industries.
    • There are 30 distinct industries and roles represented in this subsample including sales, writing, software engineering and project management.
    • Work experience ranged from 0 years to 26 years, with an average of 6.7 years of experience per user.

EDIT 2: 100,000+ people in ~15 hours! And it’s still climbing fast.

EDIT 3: Looks like things are starting to taper out. 130,000+ people in 1 day!

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Resume Makeover! Getting Riley a Digital Marketing Job.

This week in Resume Makeover, we’re featuring… “Riley” (*). (* Names changed to protect the innocent.)

Riley is a recent MBA graduate with an economics background looking to break into the digital marketing industry. In the newer age of marketing, skills related to online content strategy, SEO, social media management, etc. are in high demand, so why not gain those skills and be part of the hiring party?

With little luck after graduating (and consistently applying to 15+ jobs per week), Riley contacted us. We immediately saw how his resume might be stunting his job search. It had too much visual flair and was overwhelmingly dense. Resume-filtering bots are the first filter against your resume — they get easily confused.

Here’s Riley’s resume makeover:

We made three visual changes to Riley’s resume:

1. Simplify the formatting of your resume. These days most employers use an ATS (Application Tracking System) to do the initial candidate screen. Make sure your resume is free of images, tables, and even columns so it doesn’t trip up the software!

2. Avoid crazy colors and weird backgrounds in your resume. Many people are tempted to add color to their resume in attempt to be unique. Unfortunately, screen displays vary and ink can be pricy — keep it simple by sticking to black & white. Tip: Bring the fancier, more visual version of your resume to the interview instead.

3. Choose one classic font and use it throughout your resume. Unique or designer fonts can be visually intriguing but the risk when using them is that it doesn’t render correctly on someone else’s computer. So keep it all simply by choosing a classic font and using the same one all through your resume. Reminder: you can always bring a printed, fancy resume to your interview!

And, of course, content changes as well:

4. Make your skills section more prominent, readable, and comprehensive. Separate your skills into broader categories and make sure it lists all the tools/industry-specific skills you list in your experiences. Remember, recruiters only look at your resume for 6 sections and your skill set is going to be one of the first places they check — so make it good!

5. Group all your relevant experience together. Move your “Side Hustle” position under “Work Experience” as it’s just as relevant as your other professional positions and should be showcased as such. Remember, relevant experience is more important than whether or not the position was paid/an unofficial position.

6. Be more concise with your tasks/achievements (3-5 bullet points). Each experience shouldn’t have subsections or too many bullet points, especially if it wasn’t an executive position. Combine like items and get rid of any achievements that start with passive verbs or don’t display ownership/positive impact on the company.

7. Simplify your education and watch out for spelling errors! There’s a whole lot of honors societies (with greek names) out there, and truth be told, employers gloss over them; what matters is the raw GPA. Also, we all make silly mistakes, but it’s extra silly if programs spot our errors and we still don’t fix them.

8. Remove irrelevant (or less relevant) experiences. Unless your extracurriculars/hobbies are something you know the hiring manager will be impressed by or able to connect on (e.g. same frat/sorority), get rid of it. Often times recruiters will see this as filler on a resume, which they’re not too fond of.

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Ask Sarah: Why Do I Keep Getting Ghosted by Companies?


I don’t expect a response from every job I apply to, but what is up with getting no response after multiple interviews, even after I follow up. Do I suck at interviewing or are employers just that rude?

Feeling Ignored

Dear Feeling Ignored,

Some employers are just that rude. I mean, I can’t say if you suck at interviewing. Maybe you’re showing up in an orange tutu. Maybe you have no idea what the company does and biffed your way out of the classic “What do you know about us?” question. (If you’re not ready for this one, you really need to give one of our wonderful TalentAdvocates a call.)

Although it’s still uncommon to get ghosted after an interview, it’s happening more and more. But, what does happen all the time is getting ghosted after a job application. In fact, it’s pretty much the norm.

Chances are it’s not you. Most of us have the tendency to beat ourselves up about it. “I should’ve worn the blue shirt instead of the black.” “I should’ve smiled more.” “Maybe if I’d asked better questions…” “Oh, God, what if I had a massive booger hanging out of my nose? I knew I should have grabbed that Kleenex!”

We focus on the small, nit-picky things that might have made a difference. It’s easier to do that, because it puts a little control back into our hands. But, here’s the truth: we can follow every bit of advice out there — show up a little early (but not too much), dress up (but not too much), do our research beforehand, give killer answers — and still never hear back. There are so many things that can happen behind the scenes:

  • They already had an internal employee in mind (this happens a lot). Maybe the nephew of some VP needed a job at the last minute.
  • The hiring manager didn’t feel a connection. Personality is a huge part of the equation for a growing number of businesses. You’ll be spending more time with these people than with your own family — finding the right culture fit is just as important for your sanity and health.
  • Another candidate had fancy-schmancy experience. Maybe they worked for big, name-brand companies. Maybe you’ve got years of experience producing videos, but they made feature films.
  • Maybe you applied during the Resume Blackhole. After a job has been posted for more than 10 days or so, it’s almost not even worth applying to it. You’ll get ghosted (almost) every time.
  • They’re simply too busy.

And that last one? That’s the kicker.

Most of the time, it really isn’t you — it’s them. Let’s take a moment to think about it from a hiring manager’s perspective:

  • For every open job, there are often 100+ job applications. You have to review each application and pick 5-10 people to interview.
  • Even if you spend just 15-20 seconds on a resume and 2-3 minutes writing an email, that’s still nearly an hour.
  • The interviews basically take you a full day (assuming 30-60 minutes for an interview, plus notes, plus any other random emails and meetings you had).
  • Making the offer, writing it up, setting them up in payroll, getting them started on their project is probably a full day on its own.

Replying to 100+ job applicants is (realistically) never going to happen. Worse still, replying to every interviewee often falls through the cracks. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

But, honestly, here’s the thing: You’re going to drive yourself crazy with all the whys and what-ifs. Your time is precious — whatever the reason, don’t give them another moment of your time and energy. Instead, focus all of yourself on looking ahead and maximizing your job search.

There’s both an art and a science to the job search, and making sure you open enough (job application) doors is a big part of that science. The only way you can do that is by looking ahead — not at the closed doors behind you.

Look ahead, sister!



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