1 common job search tactic that doesn’t work

According to a March 2019 study done by the National Federation of Independent Business, 54% of business owners reported few or no qualified applicants for the positions they were trying to fill. This suggests that many people apply for jobs they aren’t qualified for, which gives hiring managers the idea that qualified candidates aren’t out there.

Studies show that global IQ scores have risen by an average of 20 points since 1950, implying that there should be qualified candidates out there, so why are so many people still struggling to land a job? The answer lies within the job application tactics being used.

One Common Job Search Tactic That Doesn’t Work

Often people employ the “spray and pray” tactic when applying for a job. This term has become common among recruiters when describing a candidate that applies to tens or hundreds of positions in the hopes of getting a response from at least one. On average, each corporate job opening attracts 250 resumes. This means that your resume has to be outstanding in order to stand out from the crowd. When using the spray and pray tactic, resumes usually don’t hold the specified requirements or keywords, causing them to get turned down immediately. When you don’t customize your resume to each job, it’s clear that you’re using the spray and pray tactic, and this doesn’t bode well for your reputation.

Why this tactic doesn’t work well

On top of the fact that your resume is among hundreds of others in the application pool when you apply online, there’s another internal issue that makes it hard to secure a job. Scott Uhrig at Agile. Careers explained that, “Roughly 80% of jobs are never posted–probably closer to 90% for more senior jobs. The competition for posted jobs is insane…the best jobs are almost never posted.” If a job isn’t posted, you’re going to have a pretty hard time applying for it online.

What job search tactics you should be using instead

The Beatles had it right when they sang, “I get by with a little help from my friends.” Being referred by someone at the company boosts your chance of successfully landing a job as high as nearly 7%.

Don’t have any direct contacts in your industry? Use your LinkedIn profile to leverage who you know and increase your professional network. You never know who will be able to connect you with someone who can help you develop your career. At the very least, use LinkedIn to connect with recruiters. Research also finds that staffing agency referrals increase your chance of a successful job placement by more than 5%, and in-person referrals (such as meeting a company representative at a job fair and giving them a resume) increase it by about 4%.

Why these tactics work

Referrals generally produce a better hire, and statistics suggest that referrals lower the company turnover rate. 46% of referral hires stay over one year, 45% over two years and 47% over three years. Amy Segelin, president of the executive communications recruiting firm Chaloner, explains how the best (and most unexpected) hires happen: “Out-of-the-box hires rarely happen through LinkedIn applications. They happen when someone influential meets a really interesting person and says, ‘Let’s create a position for you.’” Why? Because it’s much easier to establish a connection and show your personality in person. While you can highlight what you’ll bring to the table and the skills you have, it’s almost impossible to show how well you’ll fit in with the company culture or how well you’ll get along with other employees through your resume alone.


We live in an age where you can apply to hundreds of jobs with the click of a button, but doing so is one common job search tactic that doesn’t work.

This job tactic doesn’t work because when you apply through an online application, you’re one of the hundreds of applicants, which makes it hard to give off a lasting impression. Instead, focus on leveraging your network, asking for internal referrals, and using your contacts to get your resume in front of the right person.

And when in doubt, remember that the quality of your application will always serve you better than the number of applications you’re submitting.

This article first appeared on Write Styles.