Take a Focused Approach When Applying for Jobs

(Airman 1st Class Tyler Woodward/U.S. Air National Guard)

Question: I've been applying to 20-30 jobs each week since leaving the Army. I want to work in project management with a defense contractor or aerospace company.

I'm applying for everything from marketing jobs to entry-level project management to warehouse positions. I just want to get into the company and figure it out from there. I'm not getting any interviews.

What am I doing wrong?

Answer: The reason you might be seeing so many job openings today is because, across most industries, there's a surplus of available jobs and a shortage of applicants in the U.S. That's good news for job seekers.

That said, applying to so many jobs must be extremely time-consuming and frustrating for you, and may not be the best approach. Instead, let's look at a more targeted strategy.

While it's true you can "get a foot in the door" at some companies by taking any job and then working your way to a better position, this strategy may not build your credibility in the current job market.

When the company hires into a position, it is relieved and moves on to filling the next one. If you leave that first post too soon, it could reflect unfavorably on you.

Remember, too, that for every job advertised, recruiters see an average of 250 resumes. Imagine if that recruiter is trying to fill 10 open positions; that's 2,500 resumes of people competing for those jobs. If your resume shows up over and over, with the same recruiter or in the same company, for different positions, it could be seen negatively.

I'd suggest you look at the hiring process a bit differently and take a more focused approach.

Identify the top defense contractors and aerospace companies in the area where you want to live and work. Learn all you can about who they hire, how they hire and what they're hiring for.

Next, research their position within the industry and learn about their competitive advantages or disadvantages. Get familiar with the company culture and what makes employees stay or leave. Look online for information about compensation and benefits and hone in on the companies that offer what you need in your next job.

Then identify who in your network works at those companies, used to work there or knows someone who does. Conduct informational, or informal, interviews with those individuals to learn all you can about what it takes to get hired there and what the work is like.

These contacts might also provide insight on the job descriptions that are posted and the teams that are hiring. They may even assist you in getting the recruiters' attention on your application.

When you apply for a job at the company, be intentional and confident. Approach the application with a rifle approach, not a shotgun, focusing your efforts in a well-defined way. Your cover letter and resume should speak specifically to the skills, experience and qualities they are seeking to hire.

When interviewed, show that you fit in with the culture of the company, understand and can perform the duties required, and are enthusiastic about the opportunity.

If you have the time to send 30 resumes each week, you have the time to take a more focused, intentional approach. Experience shows this approach yields better results.

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