Tips for Deciding Whether to Apply for a Job

We're Hiring Sign
••• filo / Getty Images

How can you tell whether you should apply for a job—or not? Busy job seekers often need to be careful about which jobs to target. It's a good idea to have a robust and active job search because job searching is a numbers game. The more jobs you apply for, the more opportunities you will have to interview.

On the other hand, there's no point in applying for jobs you don't want or jobs you don't have a chance of getting hired for. It's perfectly fine to be selective—especially when there is a strong job market.

You need to apply for the "right" jobs—those for which you are qualified and which you have a good chance of getting selected for, at least, a first round interview.

Here's how to decide which jobs to apply for, and tips for making sure those positions are a fit for your skills, attributes, and interests.

Make a List of the Desired Characteristics of Your Ideal Job 

Consider what would be your ideal job if you could choose what to do next in your career. Try to think of seven or more elements that would comprise your perfect job.

For example, key elements might include: directly using your degree, the opportunity to see the results of your work, people contact of a nurturing nature, applying your skills, growth potential, an opportunity to acquire key areas of knowledge, proximity to home, and work/life balance.

Don't Apply for a Job When You Are Struggling to Decide If You Are Interested

Make sure that the job meets at least a third of the elements of your ideal position. It seems obvious, but many job seekers apply for jobs that they don't really want.

Ask yourself if you'd be excited to receive a call for an interview. Only apply for seemingly unappealing jobs in the most desperate of circumstances. In most cases, you will be better off devoting your resources to searching for a job that's a better fit.

Assess Your Personality 

There are several free career aptitude and career assessment tests that can help you figure out if a job would be a good match for your personality, values, and skillsets.

Tests like 123 Career Test, the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, and the United States Department of Labor’s O*NET Interests Profiler are great resources for determining whether you would be happy in a given profession. Some of these sites also provide detailed descriptions of job fields along with lists of required levels of education or training.

Research the Employer 

One of the exciting things about today’s career search climate is that you can use technology (as opposed to old-fashioned word-of-mouth) to see if a company would be a good place to work. One of the best ways to do this is to look at company reviews at Glassdoor.com.

Both current and former employees provide reviews and star ratings of their employers, CEO approval ratings, salary and benefits information, and descriptions of their personal job interviews. While Glassdoor is free to use, you will need to register in order to see company reviews and salaries.

Make a List of Your Most Compelling Assets 

Make sure that you qualify for a job by listing 8-10 of your most compelling assets. Think in terms of strengths which have led to even minor successes in school projects, volunteer work, campus leadership, internships, and jobs. This will be useful when preparing your cover letter, and in getting ready for interviews.

Review the Job Requirements

Review the requirements for the job you are interested in and compile a list of what seem to be the top qualifications. If you possess fewer than half of the desired qualifications, you are probably better off moving on to other more practical options.

An exception to this guideline would be an extremely attractive position, or a very appealing company, as there is the possibility that they would consider you for some other job when they see your application.

Show That You're a Match

Before you apply for a job, take the time to match your skills to the job requirements. The closer a match between your attributes and the job requirements, the better your chances of being selected for an interview.

Highlight your most relevant qualifications for the job in your cover letter and resume.

Set a Goal for Job Applications Each Week 

This number will vary given the time which you have available for job search based on competing demands on your time like family, school, and work. Also recognize that much of your job search time should be spent on activities like networking, rather than just applying for jobs.

Job seekers who are having trouble reaching their target number of applications should be less selective. Those who are finding plenty of opportunities can be more discriminating.