The honest truth about your job search

Have you ever been rejected during a job application? Feels bad, doesn’t it? Most people know this feeling. Some have even racked up a few rejections in a row. This can be demotivating. It makes you wonder: how often do I actually have to apply to succeed?


Turns out, most people have very unrealistic expectations of their job search. They start their job search full of optimism. They quickly send out a few applications – and then they wait. At first, nothing. Then they receive an email from the first recruiter. Anxiously, they open it… “Thank you for your application. Unfortunately, we want to inform you…” Rejection. Bummer. But, they think, Rome wasn’t built in a day – there’s still plenty of other companies that would love to have me!


As the days go by, several other rejections come in. This often causes people to worry. Have they done something wrong in their application? Are they not qualified for these jobs? How many other candidates are there? If this feeling persists, it can cause people to give up on the job search process altogether. This leads them to settle for jobs that they do not want to be in. What a shame.


All of this could have been prevented by starting the job search process with realistic expectations. Rejection is part of the game. Which leads us to today’s question: what should you expect when you go off to find a new job or internship?


Well, that’s quite a difficult question to answer. How easy or difficult it is to get a job depends on a laundry list of factors. Things such as your age, gender, location, education, experience, sector, and timing can all influence your success rate. Of course, plain luck also plays a significant factor. Therefore, it’s impossible to pinpoint the exact number of applications it takes to succeed. Some succeed on their first try, while others have to fight through a hundred rejections before they land a job. Luckily, it is possible to give an average range.


The average job seeker is rejected by 24 decision-makers before they get the ‘yes’, according to research from career coach and author Orville Pierson. Recent stats from Talent Works show it takes 100-200+ applications to receive one job offer. In a further breakdown, you have an 8.3% chance of getting a job interview from a single job application. That means it takes 10-20 applications to get one interview and 10-15 interviews to get one job offer.


Many job-seekers think these are surprisingly high numbers. And truth be told, they seem a bit on the high side in my own experience as well. These are American numbers, and they are probably lower in Western Europe. But the general trend is similar across continents: it usually takes (far) more applications than one initially expects to find a job. The main reason for that is that the average job posting receives a lot more reactions than you might expect. It’s not uncommon for a single vacancy to receive several hundred candidates. The competition can be fierce, especially during challenging times, such as the beginning of the covid pandemic we’re currently in.


Knowing this, what to do about it? There are two bits of advice that you should keep in mind:


One: don’t get demotivated. Detach yourself from the process. Remember that you cannot control the outcome, but you can control your input. What helps most people is to become process-oriented instead of goal-oriented when it comes to your job search.


Two: make sure you stack the odds in your favor. Optimize your resume. Then, optimize it some more. Learn how to network. Get smart about job interviews. Applying to jobs effectively is a skill – which means it’s learnable. Luckily, there’s lots of content available on portl that will help you get the most out of your job search.


Now go out there and apply!