Posted: 17th April 2013

How often have you heard sensational stats like ‘500 applicants per job’? Since the beginning of the economic crisis stories like this have continued to gain attention in the media and I don’t doubt that the majority of cases are true. The thing that concerns me is that the media has spun these figures in such a way that it appears as though nobody has a hope of landing a job because there are 499 other people applying who are just as good. This is just simply not true.

In recruitment it is a fundamental part of any candidate search to post advertisements that will attract the right calibre of candidate for our clients. Unfortunately, the vast majority of applicants aren’t even close to acceptable. I don’t want to knock people for having a go but any job hunter needs to understand and work within their limitations.

An example from my own personal experience was when I received an urgent brief late in the day from a company that operated within the UK Defence sector. They required all applicants to hold a British Passport and relevant security clearance, as well as roughly a decade’s worth of experience of handling some pretty dangerous goods. You’d be forgiven for thinking that writing an advert looking for such people would yield little, if any, results. Imagine my surprise when I opened my inbox the next morning to roughly 50 applicants. I donned my salesman guise and started rubbing my palms together in anticipation…

10 minutes later I’d reached the bottom of the list and the end of my tether. It wasn’t that people were slightly off the mark – that would have been fine; you can’t expect the best candidate to land in your lap – the thing that troubled me was that all 50 had seemingly bypassed the 3 separate points in the advert declaring, in capitals, that ‘YOU MUST HOLD A CURRENT BRITISH PASSPORT AND RELEVANT SECURITY CLEARANCE’. You couldn’t miss it if you tried. But out of the 50, exactly none had any form of security clearance, current or otherwise. A substantial amount didn’t have any security clearance or a British Passport and there were even some applicants who would have required sponsorship to gain a UK working Visa. It’s always worth reviewing whether the job ad has been clear enough, but that wasn’t the problem in this case.

This is just one, albeit poignant, example of how some people simply aren’t spending adequate time understanding their chances of landing a job. Yes: it’s tough out there, but why waste your time applying for a job if you haven’t got what is required? Irrelevant applications aren’t limited to adverts with security requirements; it can be due to anything from qualifications to previous experience.

Recruiters and employers will put your CV straight into that special cylindrical filing caBINet under their desk unless you’ve got what is required. If you’re getting desperate the last thing to do is apply to every job that looks ‘about right’; you’ll ruin your own reputation and people won’t take you seriously when you are right for a role.

My advice is simple:

  • Read the advert fully
  • Only apply if you’ve got all of the essential requirements
  • Be specific; don’t apply for anything if you’re not certain you can do it.

This is something to consider when you submit a CV for a job. Read the job description. If it’s unrelated to your experience, it’s not the job for you and therefore it would be a waste of your time to pursue it. If the job is interesting to you but you don’t have the experience, talk to someone in the sector and see whether you can get some experience in that area.

If people follow this advice, the 500 applicants should look more like 50 and everyone will save a whole lot of time and anguish. Most importantly: if the job hunter is specific and only applies for the jobs that they have the required skills for, they will avoid disappointment and land the right job sooner.

Happy hunting!

Huntswood h purple

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