Why You Need To Stop Panic Applying for Jobs, with Cassie Spencer

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We’ve all been there – it’s 10:00 at night and we’re hitting “apply” on every possible opportunity we see on the job boards. It’s called panic applying and it’s harming your job search. What should you do instead? Find Your Dream Job guest Cassie Spencer says you have to start with a list of your non-negotiables. Next, make a solid plan for your job search, and remember that panic applying tends to lead to more stress. Cassie also recommends checking in on your goals weekly and changing your strategy if the current one isn’t working. 

About Our Guest:

Cassie Spencer is a career coach, a higher education professional, and the co-host of the “Your Career GPS Podcast.” Her clients range from college students to seasoned career changers.

Resources in This Episode:


Find Your Dream Job, Episode :

Why You Need To Stop Panic Applying for Jobs, with Cassie Spencer

Airdate: January 19, 2022

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.

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You need to find a job soon. Very soon. 

So, you start sending lots and lots of applications. Lots of applications. 

Stop right there, says today’s guest. You’re only making your search harder and longer. 

Cassie Spencer is here to talk about why you need to stop panic applying for jobs and what to do instead. 

Cassie is a career coach, a higher education professional, and the co-host of the “Your Career GPS Podcast.” Her clients range from college students to seasoned career changers. 

Cassie joins us today from the coast of New Hampshire.

Well, let’s jump right into it, Cassie. What does panic applying during a job search look like?

Cassie Spencer:

Panic applying is kind of that process that we’ve all been in. I often describe it as a Tuesday or Wednesday night, it’s maybe nine or ten-o-clock, and you’re just scrolling through job boards and applying to everything you see, and it’s really that process of being in a panicked mindset and just putting out as many applications as possible, all at once. 

Mac Prichard:

Has this been going on forever, or do you see more of it now that it’s so easy to apply for so many jobs? 

Cassie Spencer:

Yeah, I think it has been a process that’s been common for a long time. But I do think that the ease in which people can apply to jobs right now, especially with things like easy apply buttons on different platforms and that ability to submit a resume and just click, click, click to apply, does increase that process of panic applying and just submitting hundred, potentially, of applications out at once.  

Mac Prichard:

Is this something that happens at the start of a job search, or can you predict that it’s more likely to happen at a certain point? 

Cassie Spencer:

I think it does happen at the start of a job search. I think it also happens, most commonly, when people are starting to get exhausted and burnt out from their job search. Maybe they’ve been applying to jobs for a month or two and aren’t getting that traction that they’re hoping for.

I think panic applying is also really common when someone’s had a bad day. You know, they get home from work, something went wrong, and then, they’re in that mindset of, I don’t care what it is. I just need a new job, and so they get into that panicked mode of applying without really thinking about what they want, and what they’re seeking, and, you know, why they’ve had a bad day, and they’re now in that mode of panic applying.

Mac Prichard:

Is this a good use of someone’s time, this kind of sending out so many applications at once? 

Cassie Spencer:

I would say no is the quick answer to that. I find that with so many of the people that I work with, whether they are college students or young professionals, seasoned professionals, and career changers, that panic applying is really just a waste of your time.

Job searching is already a time-consuming process and, for most people, already an exhausting process, and I typically find that, then, adding on to that, these moments of panic applying just tends to increase that. Usually, the reward or the outcome it doesn’t match this. Right? You have that night or those days of panic applying and submitting twenty, fifty, however many applications, and usually, the results are the same. You’re getting either those automated emails back that say thanks but no thanks, or you’re hearing nothing from a company based on going through this process. 

Mac Prichard:

What do you say, Cassie, to someone who says it’s a numbers game? And I know if I send out X number of applications, eventually, I’ll get a hit. I’ll get several interviews and eventually an offer. I just have to keep grinding them out. 

Cassie Spencer:

Job searching definitely is a numbers game to a degree. But what we really want to focus on is finding that balance between submitting hundreds of applications and then also submitting quality applications. And typically, when people are panic applying, they’re not tailoring their resume or cover letter to the job that they’re actually applying for. 

In a lot of cases, when people are panic applying, they’re not even really a hundred percent sure what they’re even applying to. They’re just submitting applications to jobs that look like they might be a good fit or might be offering a benefit that they want, whether it’s a certain commute, or the ability to work remotely, or a certain salary, or something like that. 

So, they’re submitting these applications without really getting the full picture of the job, of the company, why they’re a good fit and those types of things. And the real challenge here is that then, in the end, you may get an interview, or you may move along in that process only to find out that it’s something you don’t even really want, or you get a call for a job, and you’re like, “What even was that that I applied to?” And so, you’re not even really sure what you’re applying to. 

And so, it is a numbers game to a point, and I would tell anyone that you do have to submit more than just a handful of applications for most job searches. But we can do it in a much more strategic way and in a way that allows us to be particular about what we’re applying for while putting forth quality applications and not reaching that point of like, panic and exhaustion, and job search burnout.  

Mac Prichard:

I know you have a process that you take your clients through as an alternative to panic applying, and I want to go through that. Before we get there, Cassie, what would you say to someone who, they got bills to pay, and they don’t know what to do, other than send out a large number of applications because the rent’s due or they’ve got other financial obligations? 

Cassie Spencer:

Yeah, I think if you’re in that situation where you need a job more immediately, I would first be inclined to look at and to ask someone, what are you willing to do? Because, especially right now, we’re seeing a lot of job opportunities that maybe are at more of that minimum wage level or in service areas. But a lot of those types of those organizations are hiring right now and where you can get a sign-on bonus and a more immediate response.

So, that’s something to think about. I very much want to recognize that that’s not the right path for everyone, but that is an option. 

In addition to that, I think it’s, again, really balancing the time and effort, and energy that you’re putting into your job search with opportunities that are a good fit. So, again, even if you are in that situation, you have bills to pay, and you’re looking for that job, and you need it to happen quickly, it can still happen quickly without spending one hour, two hours, five hours applying to everything that you’re seeing on some of those really popular job boards. 

Mac Prichard:

And when you talk to employers, do they tell you that they can tell if they’re receiving applications from somebody who’s panic applying? 

Cassie Spencer:

Yeah, I think employers can tell, and some of the quickest ways for them to tell is that the person doesn’t know what they’re applying to, or they’re not making any sort of connection between their skills and experience and education and that job. 

And so, in addition to just getting a resume that just doesn’t make any sense for the job or a cover letter that is addressed to the wrong company or the wrong job title, you know, those are kind of the quick giveaways that someone is panic applying. 

But I also hear a lot from employers where they will see that someone has applied to, you know, maybe it’s thirty or something jobs in one company because they’re taking that approach of like hitting quick apply on a job board or something like that. And so, again, they’re seeing right away like, this person doesn’t even know why they want to work for us, or if they do. They’re just applying to everything, and there, again, are strategies that can be so much more effective to get in with a company that you want or to move your job search along a little bit quicker versus submitting multiple applications.  

Mac Prichard:

Okay, well, let’s talk about those strategies. I want to take a quick break, and let’s go through them one-by-one.

Stay with us. When we return, Cassie Spencer will continue to share her advice on why you need to stop panic applying, but even more importantly, what you need to do instead. 

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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 Cassie Spencer.

She’s a career coach, a higher education professional, and the co-host of the “Your Career GPS Podcast.” Her clients range from college students to seasoned career changers. 

She joins us from the coast of New Hampshire.

Now, Cassie, before the break, we were talking about why you need to stop panic applying for jobs. Let’s talk about what to do instead.

What do you recommend to your clients when they come to you, and they say, “I’ve been applying everywhere, and I’m not getting the results I want. What should I do?” 

Cassie Spencer:

With any job search, and kind of no matter where you’re at in your job search process. Is to get really clear about what you want, and a lot of people, I think, hesitate to kind of narrow down what they’re looking for and what they want in their next job because of this fear of, you know, narrowing it down too much, or not being open to enough opportunities. 

But when we don’t know what we want, we don’t know what we’re looking for. And so, when you are looking on job boards and looking to network with people, and connect, and explore companies you may want to work at, it can be really helpful to have an idea of even just some basic non-negotiables, and that’s what I like to call them.

Kind of, what are your non-negotiables? What are those things that you absolutely want or need to have in your next job? So, a lot of people start with salary needs, different needs around a commute, or flexibility, and that type of thing. But your non-negotiables can also include things like certain benefits that you’re looking for in a job. It can include certain types of company sizes or elements of a company culture, supervisor models that people follow. So, it can really include anything that’s important to you. 

But I think it’s really key with any job search to get clear about what you want and to recognize that it doesn’t have to be just one thing. You can still be open to two or three different types of opportunities or different types of companies. But having kind of that clarity on what you’re looking for is going to help your job search, again, no matter where you’re at in that process. 

Once you’ve kind of gotten some of that clarity and you know what you’re looking for, the next step and really my number one tip to avoid that panic applying, and also to keep your job search on track, and to avoid that burnout from your job search, is to make a plan. And again, with all the students that I work with and different clients, we talk about making a plan, and I think if you can do this and if you can follow that plan, and hold yourself accountable, or have someone else check in on your job search and hold you accountable with it, it can really be a game-changer for a job search. 

Mac Prichard:

Tell us what that plan looks like, Cassie. 

Cassie Spencer:

Yeah, so when you’re making that job search plan, I like to start with things like determining how many jobs do you want to apply to a week? And really thinking about that from a practical standpoint and knowing that we all have lots of other responsibilities, whether you’re working another job, or have a family, or have hobbies, and whatever it may be. What is a number that is going to like practically fit into your life? 

And so, for some people, that may be two applications; for someone else, that may be seven. So, there’s no perfect number here. But I think step one is kind of making that determination. 

Mac Prichard:

Let me ask you about that number because it would be easy, as we talked about in the first segment, to send out dozens or even a hundred or more applications. What kind of preparation do you recommend when sending out applications in the future? If you’re gonna do two, how much time do you recommend investing in each application, or if you’re going to do seven? 

Cassie Spencer:

I think it really comes down to, once you know what you are looking for, using that time when you’re applying to check in with your application materials. To be looking at your resume and really asking yourself, does this make sense for that job? Now, depending on what type of job search you’re doing and what experience you have, you may not need to change your resume or tailor it a lot for each job that you apply for. 

You know, for example, when I’m applying to jobs in career centers on college campuses, for the most part, my resume doesn’t need to change a lot. But as I’m looking at a job, if there’s a really big emphasis on supervision versus coordinating an internship program, I may change the way that I’m describing the work that I’ve done and the skills that I want to showcase, or even just the order of the bullet points in my description. In that same way, I would be tailoring my cover letter differently based on the skills that are most important to that job. 

So, I personally don’t like to put like an hour or minute time limit on any of that. But just picking a number of applications that you’re applying to a week that factors in the amount of time that it may take you, and it is a little bit of a learning process for everyone to kind of figure that out. 

Mac Prichard:

In addition to thinking about the time that’s involved, what steps does someone who’s following the process you recommend take before hitting the send button on an application versus a panic applier? I imagine they’re doing more than just uploading their resume. What are some of the central steps you recommend before you actually apply when you’re doing it in the process that you’re sharing? 

Cassie Spencer:

I think the first step before hitting that submit button is really reading the job description and getting a good sense of what that job is looking for. I typically suggest that people look for the two or three kind of key themes that are coming through in that job description. Those can be skills or experiences. But generally, most job descriptions do have a handful of keywords or phrases that are repeated multiple times that can kind of give you that insight to those themes—so paying attention to those themes. Making sure those themes are represented in your application materials. 

But then also, taking, even if it’s just a couple of quick minutes, to do that check-in with yourself. To look back at that list of non-negotiables, and I often suggest that it is a physical list or a list on your phone, and to do a quick check-in and to determine as much as possible from the information that you have on that job description. Is this going to meet the needs that I have? Or does it meet most of my needs that I can figure out from this job description? And then, once you’ve done that, going through the process of hitting submit.  

Mac Prichard:

What happens next, Cassie, after you hit that send button? What else do you do in your process? 

Cassie Spencer:

Yeah, after submitting applications, I think if you’ve met your goal for that week, then that’s great, we want to celebrate that and celebrate the little wins, and it is important to kind of take a step back from your job search. A lot of people hit that burnout point because they go, then, into panic applying, or they kind of have that high of submitting an application and feeling excited, and then applying to ten more in one night. 

And so, we do want to monitor that. You know, if you’re finding, as you’re going through this process and you’ve made this plan, that you’re consistently meeting those goals, and you do have the energy and time to be doing more, you can adjust them, and that’s really the purpose of having this solid plan to be working from. It’s not just to have the plan and to follow it and to keep going forever with it or until you get a job. But it’s to purposefully check in with yourself. 

I personally like to work on like a four-week basis. So, you know, once a month, checking in and saying, okay, what goals have I met consistently? What’s working with my job search? And what’s not working? Because again, if you’re consistently finding that you’re meeting that goal in the number of applications, or if you’re consistently finding that you’re not, we may need to make some adjustments there. 

It can be the same thing with this plan if you’re not finding enough things. If you’re scrolling the job boards, but you’re just not finding jobs that are resonating or that are interesting to you, then that can be another clue that we need to reevaluate either where you’re looking or how you’re looking for those jobs. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, you mentioned two goals – being clear about what you want and then setting targets for the number of applications you might send out in the course of a week or a month. What other goals do you recommend to people to avoid panic applying and do their job search along the terms that you’re describing? 

Cassie Spencer:

I think setting goals around networking is really important as part of any sort of job search. I also like to encourage people, this is less of a goal, but more of another thing to track is just the types of keywords that they’re using. The types of job boards that they’re using and the other steps that they’re taking kind of throughout the process of their job search. I often say to the people that I’m working with, if you really dislike the job board that you’re using, we don’t need to be using it. If you’re not finding the types of opportunities that you want on a specific job board or using specific keywords, then we need to make those adjustments. 

So, that’s another kind of goal that I would set. And then, along with that goal of checking in with yourself, I think it’s important to reevaluate and to really use the clues that your job search is giving you. So, if you’ve spent a month, you met all your goals, and you’ve submitted your applications, and you haven’t heard anything back, then maybe we need to add in a goal to follow-up with companies, or maybe we need to adjust the goal around networking. That may also be a clue that we need to take another look at how you’re tailoring your documents for an application. Same type of thing if you’re getting interviews and then not getting offers, that’s a clue that we maybe need to look at your interviewing skills. 

So, kind of using the results of your job search. Checking in with that and then making adjustments as needed. 

Mac Prichard:

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

Cassie Spencer:

Yeah, next for me is Your Career GPS Podcast. We’ll be out with new episodes and really great guests all throughout 2022, so that’s definitely a top priority and project for me. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, I know listeners can learn more about you by following you on Instagram, and your Instagram handle is careercoachcassie. We’ll be sure to include that in the website article and the newsletter, and I know you also invite people to connect with you on LinkedIn, and I hope they’ll mention they heard you on the show if they do so.

Now, Cassie, given all the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about why you need to stop panic applying for jobs and what to do instead? 

Cassie Spencer:

The number one thing I would say is to keep in mind that panic applying doesn’t solve the problem and that it actually, in most cases, creates more exhaustion and more burnout from your job search. So, be strategic with it, make a plan, and if you’re in that moment of panic, take a deep breath, go back to that plan, and know that there’s tons of resources between this podcast and other career coaches that can help you with your job search. 

Mac Prichard:

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Next week, our guest will be Juliet Murphy.  She’s a leading career strategist specializing in executive career advancement and millennial leadership development.

Your credentials, resume, and job search skills all make a big difference when you look for work. So does your mindset. In fact, says Juliet, if you don’t believe in yourself, there’s no point in applying.

Join us next Wednesday when Juliet Murphy and I talk about why a winning mindset matters in your job search. 

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

This show is produced by Mac’s List. 

Susan Thornton-Hough schedules our guests and writes our newsletter. Lisa Kislingbury Anderson manages our social media.

Our sound engineer is Jeni Wren Stottrup. Ryan Morrison at Podfly Productions edits the show. Dawn Mole creates our transcripts. And our music is by Freddy Trujillo.

This is Mac Prichard. See you next week.