How to Get A Job Workshop

For several editions, we’re devoting the Q&A feature to a workshop. Instead of Q&A, this limited series of columns will be “All Answers,” or, if you will, “How To.” So the only question we’ll be addressing will be about how to get a job. We began with Don’t write a resume! This week we continue with There aren’t 400 jobs for you. I hope you find this deep dive helpful, and that you will — as always — dive into the discussion in the Comments section below!  — Nick

How to Get A Job: There aren’t 400 jobs for you

“Apply for hundreds of jobs with just one click!”

400 jobs“That just showed up in my inbox,” a subscriber wrote me. “Sigh… who needs your advice when I can apply for hundreds of jobs with just one click?”

“In the interim,” he added, “I’m waiting to hear back from a hiring manager who needs help securing networks. A former team member introduced me to him. I suspect I’ll have a new job shortly, for some reason…”

That subscriber is highlighting a harsh truth.

There aren’t 400 jobs for you.

When you write your resume, or apply for jobs online, you are working with a ridiculous premise: that going after a lot of jobs is a good thing. You might as well go buy a lottery ticket, because it doesn’t work that way.

Here’s the biggest load of bunk:

“When you’re job hunting, the most important thing to do when you wake up each day is send out 20 resumes and job applications. Do that first, and you’ll feel better because you will have done something to find that new job!”

That’s the conventional wisdom.

Here’s why it’s bunk: After a month you will have applied for 400 jobs, but there aren’t 400 jobs out there that are right for you. There might be a small handful at most. The rest are someone else’s idea of what job might be right for you. And they’re wrong.

Wrong jobs

Where do all these wrong jobs come from?

  • Silly solicitations like the one a reader reported above.
  • The job ads, which tell you next to nothing about the actual work, the manager, or the people you’ll be working with.
  • Your friends, who think that in desperation you’ll consider just about any job they’ve run across.
  • Your college (if you just graduated), which leaves you thinking you must get a job related to your new degree.
  • A headhunter, who calls to tempt you with something, anything.
  • The media, which daily tell us what jobs are “hot.”

The right job is the work you want to do at the company where you want to do it in the industry you want to be a part of. So, ask yourself while you’re climbing out of bed, are you pursuing the right job, or 400 wrong jobs?

Don’t walk blind on the job hunt.

From the lowliest support personnel to the most highly paid executives, earnest job seekers venture out on the job hunt with their eyes closed. They smile that idiotic “I’m your solution!” smile at employers they don’t know from Adam.

These people are all conducting a blind job search. That’s where you broadcast information about yourself to people you don’t know who don’t know you and who have no reason to care. Then you wonder why these employers aren’t impressed. You wonder why they haven’t called you back.

It’s because you’re walking blind.

  • Know who you’re contacting, or don’t contact them.
  • If you don’t know the person you want to contact, first contact someone that does and get introduced.
  • If you wouldn’t recognize someone on the street, don’t walk blind into an interview with them.
  • Send a resume only when the hiring manager already has at least two other solid reasons to be interested in you. Those reasons are probably people the manager trusts.
  • Never pursue jobs you’ve “heard about.” Pursue only jobs where the manager has heard about you. If they haven’t heard about you yet, see that they do.

Open your eyes before you venture out. The best employers are watching and, in general, they don’t think you know where you’re going. Don’t walk blind on the job hunt.

Pursue companies, not jobs

Audiences look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them the best way to find a great job is not to look for a job.

What’s the logic behind this? If you pursue a job, you’re probably going down a dead end. Soon you’ll be looking for another job at another company.

If you go to work at the right company, you should have a future of progressively better jobs. Why pursue one job, when you can have a career full of them in one place? Think ahead!

So, why is it that people bang the Submit! button and apply for jobs in lots of companies, rather than investigate the depth and breadth of opportunities in a single company where they may have a chance to grow and prosper? (Maybe it’s because employers themselves can’t see past six months or a year. They pitch individual, often ephemeral, jobs rather than promote their company’s future prospects. Hey, no one said it’s easy to find a worthy company.)

Pick a small handful of the best companies. Companies that ring your bells. Companies that excite you. The leaders, the shining lights of the industry you want to work in. Life is short, so why waste time with anything less?

Study each company’s business. Study its competition. Look at the problems and challenges it is facing. You cannot do this for 400 companies! Lasting success depends on careful choices.

I know there’s a lot of justified cynicism among job seekers. Employers have laid waste to any ideas of loyalty. They hire for the short term. They leave workers high and dry without training or professional development. But that’s not true of all. Worthy employers are still worth finding.

Companies worth the work are the only companies worth pursuing

Very few jobs and companies are worth the hard work you must do to prepare for an interview where you will truly stand out.

When you have settled on less than five companies that are truly worth your time, sit down and ask yourself, “How can I go into each company and help contribute to the bottom line?” If you don’t take a profit-based approach to your job search, you’re wasting your time. You’re then just another job candidate. You’re just another resume.

Do what none of your competitors will. Talk with people who work in the company and people who do business with the company. Talk with vendors, customers, and people who are involved in the industry. Do the hard work of picking the right targets. Learn what problems and challenges a company faces in the area where you want to work.

You need only one right company

Once you’ve figured out what you can bring to a company’s bottom line, put together a little business plan. A business plan basically says, “This is how I would do this job in a way that would be effective and profitable for your business — and for me. Your company is worth the work I put into this plan.”

When you are able to prepare this business plan, it means you have chosen a worthy company you’re ready to talk shop with. To create this plan, you developed contacts who tutored you and got you in the door. Now you have something that is better than a resume — proof that you’re worth hiring at a company worth working for. (See How Can I Change Careers? It’s not just for career changers.)

Do you see why you cannot possibly do this for 400 companies?

Now you don’t need to apply to 400 companies.

How many jobs have you applied for that you did not get? Do you think maybe you applied for too many and wasted precious time pursuing the wrong ones? Did you ever take a wrong job just because “it was there?” What’s the best way to pick the right jobs to pursue?

: :

  1. Excellent advice. I’m going to implement immediately.


  2. Got nothing much to add, Nick’s nailed it with the company focus, clarifying the saying that “looking for work is work”. And the return on your sweat equity investment in yourself is much better with a company & industry focus, than tire kicking jobs.

    There’s something inferred that should be clarified. If a hunter takes this approach with zeal, there’s one more thing to gain. Differentiation. Having been on the receiving end of applications for decades I can tell you that very very few people do this. You will stand out. Rarely have I run across people that do this. Including myself sorry to say. I followed traditional SOP for years before I saw the error of my ways.

    A company focus works especially well with small companies where the owners and/or senior managers aren’t far removed from recruiting. The words “I want to join your company” and/or I want to work for you” are attention getting.

    And walk the talk. If you REALLY do want to work for a targeted company, don’t be picky about doing what, for what. A predominant factor in a company focus is more about career than job.

    Jobs change, and if you targeted well, the company will serve as your career foundation & that won’t change. And as you grow, your jobs will change and perhaps even your profession.

    • @Don: What’s troubling is that HR advertises “Career opportunities!” in job postings when the truth is, all they want you for is one job right now. It’s false advertising and this practice actually hurts all employers across the board because it encourages “drive-by interviewing” by candidates who have no intention of sticking around (and who can blame them?). Employers shoot themselves in the foot and workers beg for the same. Then everybody complains about ghosting!

      The real truth is, very few companies are worth working for. The ones that are need to promote their integrity more, and job seekers should demand more integrity from all employers.

      I pity most the desperate job seeker who just needs to pay the rent, because they get the most abuse. And what government entity gives a rat’s A that this is costing taxpayers enormously?

      • Yeah I’ve seen that over the years. But in the last company I worked for, private owned, small & we never did that. Every job was real. And were up front. It was in the oil&gas space & we could not, would not compete with the big boys. You’d have to like to work for small companies, opposed to mega corporations.
        And as I said in 7 years there I never had anyone seek us out and say I want to work for you guys. As you said a lot of tire kickers who wanted to interview so they could check off unemployment requirements.
        The closest I saw, & it was fair, a guy who was zero’d in on making an industry change. He was in tire retail and wanted in Oil & Gas. Hadn’t a snow ball’s chance of getting attention in the mega corporations. He applied and I passed on him, but he doth persist and when he came back about the 3rd time I brought him in & saw a fit. Further I could see he’d done his homework, learned all he could about us, and his focus had clarified to our company being his best shot at making a change. (he was sales guy). I then persisted with the sales mgr et. al to meet & talk with him. Long story short he was hired into inside sales, then moved into outside sales, and by the time I left he was VP of Sales.
        Back in the day when he showed up we 2 recruiters reported directly to the owner/ceo. And at times if I thought the mgrs weren’t doing due diligence I’d pull that cord and suggest the ceo personally talk with someone. That’s a silver bullet I didn’t often use, but was prepared to do it for him.
        He also differentiated. I don’t know how many people I talked to, senior people (level not age) who got interviews, said all the right things about their love affair with the company, not get an offer, and I’d never hear from them again. As I said, he persisted, he came back. His message “I really do want to work for your company”.

  3. If you’re one of the rare few to have the luxury to apply to 4-5 prospective plum employers, and land a whale, then good for you. But realistically, most people have to shake the bushes and go with what falls out, and that includes inundation of prospective employers with resumes, lots of resumes. It’s a roll of the dice, and most people may have 1-2 to or even 0 offers. Happens. This last recession I had a lengthy stint of unemployment. During this time (kept a log) I handed out in person, mailed out USPS, and sent out on Indeed over 1,300 resumes. From all that it resulted in about 30 hits, and about 10 phone or face-face one hit wonder interviews. I finally landed a phone, then face-face interview with a bottom shelf outfit that resulted in an offer at 50% less salary than my previous job.

    • It sounds like your experience supports the article’s argument.

      • If you mean applying to 100s upon 100s of employers for posted or unposted jobs, and having to broaden one’s search, even outside of their experience and skill sets without ticking every box on the qualifications, and it’s a complete waste, then yeah, I’ll concede that it supports the premise of this article. But choosing 4-5 select employers (and the proverbial “networking”)the same 4-5 select employers that 100s of other applicants = younger, cheaper, better pedigrees, good ole boy networks, yada…yada, are choosing), with the hope that your going to find the “sweet spot”, especially in the throes of one of the worse recessions in history, we’ll that’s delusional, and delusional, IMO, is endemic in our society today.

    • 4:36 AM 03/11/2022


      You are MORE than correct.


      IT. NetWorking/LANs/WANs/Systems/NetWorks/InfraStructures/DataCenters/etc … worldwide.

      ~38 yoe (years of experience).
      3 Degrees. Not 1. Not 2. 3.

      Worked ONLY for large enterprise name-brand world-wide’rs:
      IBM, HoneyWell, Rockwell, Fortis, Johnson Controls, SC Johnsox Wax, numerous others.

      Administrator. Engineer. Designer. Architect. Project Manager/Leader. Tech/Team Lead.
      IT Manager. IT Director. Principal Consultant.

      Have also been business(es) owner/operator.

      (Oh, by the by, whole 2nd life as Pro Musician, 2 major label record contracts, Atlantic Records.).

      Have travelled/toured world.

      Average day when working, ~14 to ~16 hours, no lunch.

      ~16,000+/- résumés sent out (yes, you read right, SIXTEEN THOUSAND).
      43 jobs fairs attended.
      Each fair, average, ~100 booths. Made point to drop résumés at every booth at every fair.

      Not only do I have NO interviews NOR offers in pipeline but have absolutely NO ONE contacting me out of blue to interview with and work for them. The COMMENTs stories on here and other web sites make it sound like the COMMENT authors are these unbelevably indispensable SuperMen that these companies simply cannot live without. C’mon.

      I have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA of wtf the world is talking about how we are in this MASSIVE economic expansion with EXTREMELY low unemployment and companies cannot find workers.

      I am seeing and experiencing just the exact opposite.

      I am interviewing like a banshee.

      Companies are contacting me, wasting MASSIVE amounts of my time, and then either ghosting or rejecting me like they have a million candidates to pick from.
      Then they’re complaining they cannot find anyone.

      GE contacted me.
      11 interviews, with 7 individuals, over ~60 days, including 3 interviews with hiring Manager.
      At least 4 of 7 told me TO MY FACE they were going to recommend hiring. One of the 4 was hiring Manager.
      When the whole thing started, they were practically BEGGING me to interview with them.
      After ~60 days of interviewing, they disappeared for ~4 weeks, ie, another 30 days.
      One day I get a call from GE’s RPO’er (outsourced HR, original chic who started this whole thing) asking me if I had heard anything or knew what was going on.
      I asked her, why was she asking me?! I’m on the outside. They’re on the inside. How would I know?! All I know is I’ve been ghosted.
      She said she’d look in to it.
      2 days later, a form rejection eMail.

      Trissential IT Consulting.
      Ran me through a series of telephone, face-to-face (meetups at StarBucks, etc), etc, interviews totalling ~8 to ~9 total conversations over, probably, ~45 to ~60 days.
      Last one was with a person who literally looked like a buffalo and talked like a doofus and was, unbelievably, some Senior Schmuck or Other.
      I have NO IDEA how that person got or kept a job … especially in IT.
      This buffalo also told me they’d, unbelievably, been some VP IT at some small schmuck place before this job at Trissential.
      This was like being on the other side of The Looking Glass.
      Original recruiter then contacted me, HIRED ME, at a grand 6 figure salary, had me sign all the stuff, NDAs, etc, then proceeded to tell me welcome aboard BUT we cannot pay NOR place NOR have you start work yet ‘cuz we have no place for you. We’ll call you when you can start.
      I’m STILL waiting for that telephone call.

      Weigel BroadCasting (METV, DECADES TV, Heroes And Icons, etc, TV stations all over US).
      Interviewed ONLY with Director IT numerous times.
      Stated at end he wanted one more technical interview on specific router firewalling technology.
      I contracted COVID for 2nd time.
      Interview delayed ’til my recovery … or so I thought.
      Never heard back from j/a/k/a/$/$.
      Still waiting for that telephone call for final interiew.
      COVID discrimination.
      After I recovered, telephoned corporate HR to follow up.
      Ran into nastiest black woman receptionist who refused to help and hung up on me.
      Looked up Weigel on indeed, GlassDoor, etc … nothing but nasty vile COMMENTs from former/present employees.
      Private Family-run empire.
      By the by, Director IT was from Northern Indiana, had his own company in N Ind, and told me he was being paid a full-time IT Director’s salary with a requirement of only 27 work hours per week input by him, remote, but that I’d have to be onsite Chicago for less money and more hours.
      Again, just a f/u/k/n TwiLight Zone of a company, schmucks, and bizarre-ity.

      Sargento Cheese.
      Multiple elongated interviews all going into extra innings overtime, then ghosted.

      Electric public utility in my State.
      Multiple interviews culminating with online “inquisition” interview with 4 people over 3 hours, then ghosting, then rejection, then cancellation of the job. GAD.

      Silgan Containers:
      They make metal cans. Kind that holds your soups, vegetables, etc.
      Applied for numerous and multiple IT jobs.
      They contacted me to interview … for a can-maker machine fixer (technician).
      I asked them if they were aware of my extensive IT background and NUMEROUS IT applications.
      And you still want to interview me for a can-maker machine repairer?
      Whatever fills their rubber.
      So I interviewed.
      What a f/u/k/n surprise.
      Talk about rock b/a/s/t/u/r/d bottom.
      Every kid, at age two, sits playing in the sandbox, dreaming of the day working for a can maker … oh, someday.

      Right up there with working in a factory putting handles on paint cans. Thrilling.

      List goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on …

      Just the most bizarre experiences, crap companies, and completely incompetent a/$/$/h/o/l/e/s.

      Does ANYBODY in these CRAPorations add up what it costs to failingly interview?!

      And, GAAAD, the absolute LOSERS you run into interviewing you.
      … I’ve had wittier conversations with carrion pancaked on the road.
      How the hell do these morphlodytes get AND keep these jobs AND get to a point where THEY’RE interviewing ME?!

      Zoli is correct.

      I read the braggadocio all the time about big salaries, big jobs, big offers, big retirements, early retirements, how companies are chasing “them”, contacting “them” out of the blue, can’t live without “them”, throwing their virgin daughter(s) into the deal because “they” are so SOO valuable, eh, oh, uh, ooo, BLAUGH!!!!

      Again, I t’ain’t experiencin’ nones of it myself … and I’m a 38 year IT/business veteran.


      I’ve worked my a/$/$ off my entire life and things keep getting WORSE, not BETTER.

      Zoli, you are d/a/m/n dead on … and not alone in your frustrations, anger, and antipathy.

      I have seen other Professionals offered and taking 3 .. 4 .. 5 Professional jobs over the time I haven’t gotten ONE offer.
      … and some of these I wouldn’t hire to lick toe jam much less in a Professional capacity.
      I personally know some who couldn’t BUY an interview much less a job and suddenly a crony rings them up and they’re now employed at 6 figures.
      I personally ran in to someone I’ve known for years,
      a person I could NEVER stand,
      basically an arrogant loser,
      who, when out of work, came begging to me for help,
      I got him a job with the caveat to not forget about me still out here unemployed,
      and as soon as he started his new job I got him I never heard from him again,
      until ~4 months later,
      he rang me up snivelling on how he got fired from the job I got him (thanks, you j/a/k/a/$/$, that’s all I needed),
      and then, almost in the same moment, his old company came chasing him down to hire him back,
      and this bastard actually, unemployed with a wife and 5 kids, told me he did everything he could to discourage his old employer from taking him back (asked for outrageous salary, title, demands, etc) all because “wittle Davey-wavey” wanted to now be a public school teacher, something he had absolutely no training or experience in,
      so, to get him, his old company met his demands … ,
      this twice-fired arrogant loser!!!
      Again, you couldn’t HollyWood script this s/h/y/t if you tried!!!

      Demonic possession comes in 6 forms, according to Roman Catholicism’s former Chief Exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth.
      Sometimes it feels like demonic possession.

      Nothing and nobody is making any sense any more.

      … and H1B carpetbagger opportunists have DEVASTATED STEM and IT, and non-Citizen FAANG and MANGA, and even WITCH, and other IT jobs, are literally stealing away American STEM financial futures, retirements, and security. See the web site “blind”.

      I have no idea what ship I missed or how I missed it.

      Again, I’ve worked my a/$/$ off my whole life and things keep getting WORSE not BETTER.

      Make no mistake. “The Silent Majority” is made up of Zoli-esque’rs out here.

      Confused, befuddled, pissed, and hanging on by fingernails, financially and otherwise, as retirement looms large.

      And there’s ABSOLUTELY no reasons nor excuses for this treatment.

  4. I once was recruited to work in an engineering support position to a government agency. I asked to meet the person I would be supporting and it was arranged. We got along well, and both thought it was a good fit. Only then did I find out that the company that had recruited me could only pay about 60% of my prior salary. I refused that offer, as I knew I would never get back to my former salary level. A couple of weeks passed, then I received a phone call from the government person I had interviewed with. He said that a 2nd company had an unfilled slot supporting him that paid more, and would I consider working for that company? I was hired by the 2nd company and worked for them almost 7 years until that contract ended. It was hard to turn down the first offer, as I was unemployed at the time. But it worked out in the end. The 2nd company paid about 95% of my former salary, and I could live with that.
    Key for me was meeting/interviewing with the person I would support. Had I not asked to meet him, he would not have known whether I was worth going to bat for or not.

    • @Tango: Clearly, you’re talking about 2 “staffing firms” in the middle of this. While some staffing firms provide a good service, stories like yours reveal the fundamental problem with these “third parties.”

      Good for you for insisting on meeting the person you’d be working with! That’s a minimum requirement! Taking a job without that is insanity.

  5. “Very few companies are worth working for”
    “Demand more integrity from employers”
    “Desperate job seeker who just needs to pay rent”
    Maybe there’s some hope for my fellow (those out of touch) boomers who see the sign of the times and that the old “take care of your job and it will take care of you” has no validity now.

  6. “When you’re job hunting, the most important thing to do when you wake up each day is send out 20 resumes and job applications. Do that first, and you’ll feel better because you will have done something to find that new job!”

    Perversely, that’s pretty much what your state’s unemployment department expects you to do. Years ago, after ten years with a company and and the group I worked in were all laid off, and I applied for unemployment, the people in charge of the session explaining what was required to continue getting that UI check, when asked by an attendee how to find all the jobs one needed to apply to each week in order to meet the requirements, told the group: “Indeed”. [sigh]

    • Yes that’s how the unemployment game is played. You want a check, you make X applications. I did that. then once done, do what I really wanted to do that needed time doing.
      And as a recruiter I’ve been on the receiving end of it. Mostly they are just applications and you get to recognize unemployment check offs. Unfortunately, because it wastes time. Some are qualified and we call them in, to find they really aren’t interested in us or a job at that time. They’ll go for an interview for practice, to fill time, curiosity.

      The unemployment services I’ve dealt with, as an unemployed also had counselors, training sessions etc. As a recruiter it was much more useful for all concerned to develop contacts with these folks. The good ones could become advocates for you/your company as it helped them make placements.