A conversation with a bright student yesterday got me thinking about the age-old quality vs. quantity debate, this time in the context of job applications.
They said, “I’ve applied for every job even remotely related to CS. But is casting such a wide net the best strategy? I’ve heard some advice that suggests I should only focus on roles that really interest me. But what if I haven’t found my niche in CS?”
Here are my two cents.
Applying for every role may not be the most effective approach for several reasons.
First, increasing quantity unfortunately decreases quality. Applying to so many positions means that you can spend less and less time crafting your resume and cover letter for each position. This means you don’t have enough time to learn more about the company you’re applying to and the position. This means you have to send a cookie-cutter resume and a generic, one-size-fits-all cover letter. Companies receive hundreds of such resumes, and they’re very good at filtering out candidates who send their resumes in bulk. What are the chances that such a resume will make it through the initial filters? Almost zero, unfortunately.
So instead of working on quantity, work on quality.
When you look at a job, try to gauge your feelings. On a scale of 1 to 10, how excited would you be to work there? A “10” would be a dream job that you would be willing to do for free just to have the chance to be there, and a “1” would be a job that you wouldn’t take even if they paid you insane money. Most jobs would fall somewhere in between.
Now focus your efforts on 8+ jobs. Plan to spend 1-2 hours on each application. So you can realistically apply to 5-7 jobs a day if you work at it full time. No more.
Do your homework on each job. Browse the company website, spend some time on their social media (be careful. Rabbit hole alert!). Learn about their products. What are the coolest things they do? How are they different? Find their LinkedIn page, spend a few minutes looking at the pages of the people who work there. What are they up to? What is their culture like? Formal or informal? Creative or structured?
Then think about how you might fit in - just try to imagine yourself at that company. What would you do? How would you make a difference? What makes this job an 8+ for you?
Now write that in your cover letter and let your resume show you as a fit for THAT job and THAT company from the angle you see yourself here.
Yes, this is hard and time-consuming. But that’s how the “match” can happen.