How to Apply for Jobs the Right Way and do Better than the Job Search Lottery

Job Search LotteryNot too long ago, I spoke with my cousin, an executive recruiter. I was surprised by what she said. 

She recently posted a job for a mid-level executive at a finance firm. And had over two thousand people apply…  Many were not what she expected.

Most applicants had never held a job in finance. They just wanted a job.  Yet they were going about it the wrong way. Let me explain.

See, they were hoping to win the job search lottery. In this ‘lottery’, job seekers submit their resume hundreds or thousands of times in the hopes of getting their name picked.

Yet, like one of those big jackpot state lotteries, the odds of winning this way are really quite small. Fortunately, there is a smarter way. Here’s what I recommend for how to apply for jobs the right way.

Instead of applying to many jobs per day, what if you worked on just a handful per month. And you dove in deep.

Or think about this way: what if you were only allowed to try for a job at one of three organizations. And those three were your only possible chances.

How could you do it?

First, you would pick these three jobs carefully. Which three would be best for you? Consider how each job fits your experience and which you would be most excited about.

Now these jobs may not be posted on They may be places that you just always wanted to work and knew you could add value. Or, places where someone already knew your work.

Next, you wouldn’t just count on your resume getting found in that pile of 2,000 others. You’d want to be in an entirely separate category. On the VIP list that gets to cut the line.


And like the VIP list at a nightclub, it’s all about knowing the right people. And more contacts is probably better.

Like who? You could connect with the HR rep who posted the job. You could use your network to meet people who work there (in any department).

Or you could reach out to people cold, the smart way. You could use professional associations or other common groups as a basis for a conversation. Perhaps you would follow people who worked there on social media.  Give comments or share responses on their blogs. Read about their published works and send responses. Maybe you would go to events they were attending, conferences or lectures, and introduce yourself.

And you would build relationships and trust before asking for a favor of passing your resume along.  

When they did pass along your resume, you would finely tune it to the job. You’d also craft a very focused cover letter. The letter would include the people that you met and the reasons you knew that you would be right for the job (using the info you got from insiders).

And all of this information would make your interview preparation easier. You would only need a bit of the right kind of refining to prove your fit during the live meeting.

Now, the worst case is that it won’t work out, and you’ll have to start over.  Yet your chances will be much better than if you rely on the job search lottery.

Listen, I know the job search can be tough. I hope you consider, at least try this approach to applying for jobs. Whatever approach you take, just keep on going.