Ask LH: Should I Apply For Jobs I Know I Won’t Get?

Dear Lifehacker, I am currently looking for a new job and have been applying for positions that I know I won’t get as I don’t have the experience or knowledge for that particular product or area. Does this damage my chances with the same company or recruiter for when a job turns up that I am qualified for? Thanks, Eager Beaver

Rejection picture from Shutterstock

Dear EB,

Yes, this does damage your chances, in two ways. Firstly, if you’re applying to an individual company, your name will quickly become familiar. In previous roles when I’ve been responsible for hiring, I’ve learned to recognise the people who apply for every single job. Re-applying is fine if the role is similar, but when the same name showed up for wildly varying posts, I tended to reach the conclusion that if the applicant could not be bothered reading the ad, I couldn’t be bothered reading their application. (That could also happen with a recruiter, though the odds are lower as much of the early process of selection is automated and the volumes are much higher.)

The second reason it damages your chances is that it means you’re wasting time applying for jobs you definitely won’t get rather than focusing on ones you might have a chance at. Writing a decent job application takes time; you need to customise your resume and your cover letter to match the role as closely as possible. If you’re applying in a scattershot way, you’re probably not doing that. You may be applying for jobs you know you won’t be hired for, but you co uld also be applying for roles you might be considered for if you put more effort into the application. Either way, you need to stop. Focus on jobs it’s reasonable to apply for. If you lack skills or training, consider the steps you need to take to fix those problems. Don’t just fire off another automated letter.

Job hunting always requires a modicum of chutzpah, and stretching the criteria occasionally can be a worthwhile exercise. Once you’re making a habit of it, it’s definitely time to reassess.


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