Why you Need to Stop Applying for Every Job, with Serena Chan

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Find Your Dream Job, Episode 298:

Why you Need to Stop Applying for Every Job, with Serena Chan

Airdate: June 2, 2021

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.

Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.

Find Your Dream Job is brought to you by Top Resume. Top Resume has helped more than 400,000 professionals land more interviews and get hired faster.

Get a free review of your resume today. Go to macslist.org/topresume.

Many job seekers send resumes to as many employers as possible.

But today’s guest says you’ll get much better results by focusing on the jobs that you really want.

Serena Chan is here to talk about why you need to stop applying everywhere and what to do instead.

Serena is a recruiter with Cambia Health Solutions, a nonprofit health care company.

She joins us from Seattle, Washington.

Well, let’s jump right into it, Serena, I’ve talked to candidates and I bet you have too, who think the job search is a numbers game and their theory goes like this, if you send your resume out as widely as possible, eventually you’ll get interviews and offers. Why isn’t this a good strategy, Serena?

Serena Chan:

It’s not a good strategy because it looks like you don’t know what you really want in a position or in terms of your career path. If you’re just sending your resumes out for every single position that you see and apply for, for me as a recruiter, when I’m looking at this, especially here at the company I’m at, and I can tell if you’ve applied for more than one, then that’s what I’ll be questioning. Well, what are you really looking for in that next opportunity?

Mac Prichard:

How can you tell? Are you talking about people who’ve applied for more than one job in your organization? Or can you also tell if someone is sending their resume out to many different organizations?

Serena Chan:

I can tell if someone has applied for more than one position at the organization I’m at. I would not be able to tell if someone has sent their resumes on to other companies there, but if you see something like this, it’s probably a given that they’re probably doing that with other companies, too.

Mac Prichard:

If you’re eager to work at an organization like yours, shouldn’t you be open to any opportunities that might be there and apply for as many jobs as possible?

Serena Chan:

Not necessarily, because if you don’t have the qualifications and skill set for a particular position, but you’re just submitting your resume for it, again, as a recruiter, if I’m looking at someone’s resume, and I don’t see where anything matches and it seems like they were just submitting their resume for any position, then I’m going to question how serious are they in wanting to come work for us?

Mac Prichard:

What…say there are 5 positions open at your organizations, and an applicant might be qualified for one but they apply for the other 4, how will that affect their prospects for the position for which they do qualify?

Serena Chan:

In that scenario, I will be looking at what other positions they applied for to see if they’re similar positions or if they’re entirely different positions. It doesn’t necessarily disqualify them; there are more than one recruiter here at Cambia, and it could be other recruiters who are looking at their resumes too, and if they do match the qualifications and skill sets that they’re looking for in that particular position, then I think the chances are that they can get sent on to the manager for review. But if they’re applying for just anything and they’re not even meeting the minimum qualifications, then, most likely, they’re not going to be sent on for review.

Mac Prichard:

Why do you think people do this, Serena?

Serena Chan:

I think probably part of this is, if they are looking for a job, or any job, and they feel like the more that they do this, like you mentioned earlier in the call here, where they think if they just send it all out, at some point someone will contact them. And I just don’t think that that’s a good idea to do it this way. You should really be applying for something that you’re truly interested in and that you do feel that you meet the qualifications and skill sets for it.

Mac Prichard:

Tell us more about why you don’t think it’s a good idea.

Serena Chan:

It’s almost like where you’re just doing this without being really serious about finding that right position. And depending on what your career path is, too, I’ve spoken with candidates where they may want to go into a different industry and go on a different career path because they’ve done all they could in the current one that they’re in. And so, maybe they want a change, and that’s fine, so if that’s the case, then you should be including a cover letter, and that way, we’re not just looking at the resumes where this candidate doesn’t look like they’re qualified. Why did they apply for this position? But if you include a cover letter, then it can make a little bit more sense.

If you state your interest in the position and where there could be relevant experience or skill set, or why you want to make that change, that will help us out when we’re looking and screening resumes for the position.

Mac Prichard:

What would you say to somebody who thinks, “Well, doesn’t sending out a large number of applications or applying for multiple positions at a single organization, doesn’t that show that I’m eager to work? And isn’t that what matters to employers?”

Serena Chan:

Yes, it does matter, but again, it shows that you don’t know what you’re looking for if you are just sending your resume for every single position regardless. It tells me, okay, you’re looking for a position, but are you going to be happy in…what position though? I won’t be able to tell when you do something like this.

Mac Prichard:

Well, if applying for every available job isn’t a good idea, Serena, what’s the better approach?

Serena Chan:

The better approach would be where, if you’re on the company’s website, what you should do is look at the information about the company to get to know the company a little bit more. And if this is the company that you want to work for, then look at what job opportunities the company will have, and then from there, look at those opportunities and see if there are positions that you are interested in. And you feel that you are qualified for and would like to work in that particular position. That’s when you should be submitting your resume and filling out the application for it, include a cover letter if you want to, especially if it’s not going to be clear where you do meet those qualifications for that particular position, but that’s what you should do.

Mac Prichard:

You mentioned including a cover letter and talking about why you’re interested in a position; what other steps do you recommend, Serena, to, whether it’s in the application, resume, or other materials, to indicate that interest? What is persuasive to you as a recruiter?

Serena Chan:

Sure, and I can actually give you a few examples here. So, I recruit for actuarial positions, and usually as an actuary, they have to take these exams, and it’s a commitment to being an actuary and to go through these different exams. What I would look for is, when I’m screening resumes, would be on there whether they’ve taken at least one exam or not because that will be what the manager will be interested in. Because if we’re hiring someone into this position, they have to show that they can study for these exams, take these exams, and pass them because it’s on the exam track. And so, if you can show on your resume that you’ve taken a couple, that’s wonderful, besides having for maybe entry-level actuaries, to show some internships in actuarial or, again, if they are currently employed, that they have some relevance from their work history to show that they could become a good actuary.

Then if they haven’t taken any of the exams, that’s where the cover letter will be nice. Where they can kind of indicate why they want to go into this type of position. And maybe they’ve scheduled an exam but they haven’t taken it yet, and so if they don’t put that down on a resume, we’re not going to know, so something like that.

Another example would be strategic communications. I hire for that department, and usually, for positions in that department, you need to be able to write really well and I have a manager who wanted a cover letter and that would determine whether someone would move on in the process or not. Because if that cover letter is not well written- there are typos or grammatical errors- most likely they’re not moving on there, and so, you know, just a couple of examples to provide.

Mac Prichard:

I love those examples. I want to dig into both of them, but let’s take a break.

Stay with us. When we come back, we’ll continue our conversation with Serena Chan about why you need to stop applying everywhere.

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Now, let’s get back to the show.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Serena Chan.

She’s a recruiter with Cambia Health Solutions. It’s a nonprofit health care company.

Serena joins us from Seattle, Washington.

Now, Serena, before the break, you were giving examples of what recruiters and hiring managers look for in applications and I loved the specific detail that you provided. One thing that struck me, you talked about actuaries and the value of having taken a certain exam and how much that mattered to the hiring manager that you were working with.

Do you have suggestions about how listeners can find out that information? It might not have appeared on the job posting, for example.

Serena Chan:

Usually, with the job postings that we have for actuaries, it will state on there that they would need to be on the exam track. Now, we also have positions where they don’t have to be on the exam track but it will tell you. It may not list specific exams on there but there’s credentialing too, if somebody does want to be an actuary and there’s a way to find out. They could probably go on the actuarial association. I don’t remember the exact name of it, but again, whenever we have candidates applying for this position, they’re pretty much already committed to wanting to become an actuary and have already listed everything on there because they know, this is the type of position that they want. And there could be a position that you don’t have to be on the exam track and that would be listed on the job posting, too.

Mac Prichard:

Do you recommend candidates reach out to hiring managers or recruiters to find out more about what might matter in the selection process?

Serena Chan:

We’re always happy to hear from candidates and they can certainly do that, where they can send out an email to our company. I think that there’s a specific email address that they can do that with. We have an inbox where we actually have somebody that does look at that and respond to these emails. And I’ve spoken with other candidates, where they’ve found me on LinkedIn, and wanted to know more about specific positions, and I’m always happy to speak with them about it.

Mac Prichard:

I’m pleased to hear that because I think that many candidates worry that they might jeopardize their chances by reaching out to a recruiter or hiring manager, but has that been your experience, Serena?

Serena Chan:

Not necessarily. I think that it might be better to reach out to the recruiter versus the hiring manager. If they do find out who the hiring manager is and send an email out, the hiring manager is just going to forward them on to the recruiter, so we would be the one that they end up speaking with anyways. So, it’s probably better to just reach out to the recruiter if they have any questions about any of the opportunities on the website.

Mac Prichard:

One of the points you made that came through loud and clear is to be clear about what you want in your next job and, again, not apply everywhere. What advice do you have for a listener who might be struggling with getting that clarity, getting clear about what they want to do next?

Serena Chan:

I think, again, what they’ll probably want to do is think carefully on that next step, in terms of what they want to do, by doing a lot of research. They’re going to have to look at the different industries that are out there and research the companies. For us, we have a lot of information online about our company, what we do, the awards that we have, our leadership teams, and just kind of see, what does the company do? What do they stand for? And if it sounds like this is a company that they want to work for, then please, apply for opportunities that that company will have.

A lot of it is probably going to have to be on them to really do that research and to look at the resources that could be out there. They can Google off that and look up some of that information.

Mac Prichard:

When you get applications from candidates who are clear about what they want to do next, what makes them stand out, Serena?

Serena Chan:

For me, when I am screening resumes, I am going to be looking for specifics and that’s because I will know what the manager is looking for. So, I’m going to be looking at all of that. Ideally, of course, that they would meet the qualifications that are in the job posting, the minimum requirements, that type of thing, and then I’ll send them on. I can also be looking for some intangibles, which sometimes with resumes you might not be able to tell, and that’s where, if there’s going to be something that will catch my eye on that resume, I’m probably going to reach out to the candidate, and then we can schedule some time to discuss some more, and then I’m going to be asking some further questions at that point.

Mac Prichard:

Can you share an example of something that has caught your eye in a resume and inspired you to reach out by email or phone and talk to that candidate?

Serena Chan:

I have an underwriter position and this candidate was in an entirely different location, and in working with a manager where it was supposed to be for a specific location but knowing that the manager has staff in some of our other offices and some of the different states, and I saw where the candidate was, I wanted to see, from the manager at least, whether the position can be in one of the other offices, and if that’s the case, then I’m going to reach out to this candidate and see if, potentially, they may be interested in the position and we can maybe keep it in that location where the candidate is at.

There was some experience on this candidate’s resume, where it may not necessarily be exactly the type of experience that I was looking for but it was a different industry. But the skill sets were transferable, and so that caught my eye, and I wanted to be able to consider this candidate for the position, and so it worked out. I did speak with the hiring manager and it was fine for that position to be in that particular location, and I reached out to that candidate and we had a conversation and we were able to schedule the candidate for an interview.

Mac Prichard:

Great example. I’m curious, are there other cases of steps that candidates have taken that have signaled to you that this is an interesting person? Something that they said or did in their application materials that caught your eye and inspired you to reach out to them?

Serena Chan:

It was really interesting, there was another candidate who included a cover letter and actually had written down a little bit about their life story, which normally, you want to look more at someone’s experience and their qualifications. But there was just something about that life story that kind of resonated with me and that really caught my eye. And then I took another look at the resume and went ahead and decided to send them on, because there was something there where it could work, in terms of this particular position. Because you also want to look at, is somebody is going to work well within the team, too? There was just something there from that cover letter and from that person’s life story that kind of resonated with me.

Mac Prichard:

I wonder how often do people share those personal details in their cover letter because it sounds like it might be an effective approach, a way of standing out?

Serena Chan:

Yeah, it’s not that often that they do that. So, that particular candidate was certainly very creative in doing so. And I think that sometimes too, if somebody wants to go into an entirely different industry and wanting to go into a particular position, then they should try to see if they can maybe take some courses at school. Go back to school and take some courses to get that skillset so they can be a more competitive candidate because with each position that we have, sometimes we get a really large pool of candidates and it can be so competitive. And so, that could maybe help them a little bit if indeed they are looking for something where it’s entirely out of the realm, where they haven’t had that experience in that type of position. And if they truly want to make a change, then that’s what they should do, is to try to look at maybe taking some classes or courses on that or just developing their skills so that they can be more competitive.

Mac Prichard:

Well, Serena, it’s been a great conversation. Now, tell us, what’s next for you?

Serena Chan:

Well, so right now, we’re definitely hiring and we would be happy to have candidates and your listeners apply for our job opportunities. And so, they’re listed out on the corporate website, and they’re welcome to also look me up on LinkedIn if they want to connect and have a conversation with me. I’d be happy to speak with them, too.

Cambia is a company where we have a portfolio of other smaller companies, Regions is one of our companies where they offer health insurance plans, but the other companies are more innovative and creative, as they look at health care needs for people who may have kind of different ideas about what their needs might be. And so, more information about us online, which I hope they will go out there and do a little bit more research on our company.

Mac Prichard:

Listeners can learn more about Cambia and the job opportunities that you offer by visiting cambiahealth.com/careers, and I appreciate your offer to connect with listeners on LinkedIn and I hope that they’ll mention, when they reach out to you, that they heard you on the show.

Now, Serena, given all of the great advice that you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about why you need to stop applying everywhere and what you should do instead?

Serena Chan:

The one thing that I would like them to take away from this is, do your research on the companies and making sure that that is indeed where you want to work. And it’s something where you can believe in their mission and the values that they have, and apply for the positions that really interest you, that you think you’ll be happy in. Because we’re at our jobs Mondays through Fridays, 40 hours per week, maybe even more than 40 hours per week, and we spend a lot of time here, and so, we should really be happy doing what we’re doing in our jobs.

Mac Prichard:

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Next week, our guest will be Kamara Toffolo. She’s a resume writer, LinkedIn consultant, and job search strategist. Kamara was also recognized as a LinkedIn Top Voice in 2020.

Not every job search tip you get is a good one. But how do you decide what advice to follow and what to disregard?

Join us next week when Kamara Toffolo and I talk about job search advice you need to ignore.

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

If you’ve been laid off or need to find a job quickly, you might feel tempted to send your resume or application materials to every open position you discover. But Find Your Dream Job guest Serena Chan says that’s not a good plan. Hiring managers and recruiters need to know you have the specific skills necessary for the position you’re applying for. Serena also says it’s important to do your own research to be sure that the company you’re applying to is a place you truly want to work, based on their vision and company culture.

About Our Guest:

Serena Chan is a recruiter with Cambia Health Solutions. It’s a nonprofit health care company.

Resources in This Episode: