Getting an Interview is Tough: It’s a Numbers Game


If you’re wondering why you haven’t received a call-back from a recruiter for a job that could have been written for you, then you’re not-alone. Not even close to being alone.

Are you are a senior manager or executive trawling through advertisements on job boards to secure your next big gig? Then be warned; the search is likely to be frustrating and prolonged.

Why? It’s as simple as this: getting an interview is tough. It’s a numbers game. 

I’ll give you an example. A couple of weeks ago, I was talking with a job search consultant who was acting for an employer seeking a Chief Information Officer. It was a big job with a big salary to match. The advertisement’s prominent placement on the site, attractive sales copy, and well-known company name, meant that this job was going to receive many applications. (Even though there are probably only a finite number of people in the whole country with the skills to do a job that size).

So how many people applied? 400. 400 people who either are CIOs now, who had been CIOs in the past, and who aspired to be CIOs in the future.

400 people that that this job search consultant had to cut down to a short list of five to interview by being ruthless.

Not had a CIO job before? He’s out! Not in the same industry? Out! Wrong background? Out! Resume rubbish? Out! No local experience? Out! A background in infrastructure when the client wanted application development? Out!

At the end of the culling, 10% of the people had 100% of the skills and experience needed. That’s 40 people and the recruiter needed to interview five.

35 people, all of whom thought that this job was made for them, were lucky to receive a “thanks but no thanks” email. Those people right now must be wondering on what criteria they were judged. (That too is a good question; the final five may have been based on random facts—the recruiter asking trusted industry advisors of about your reputation, seeing who you know on LinkedIn, checking endorsements, and more. One thing is true, you won’t be able to plan for the randomness of the selection).

The fact is, if you are responding to advertisements on, or through agencies, you will be competing with the largest pool of candidates possible. And, despite having 100% of the skills and experience, you may not even get an interview simply due to the sheer numbers of people with similar experience.

In other words, it’s a little like winning Lotto.

If this is going to be your method for job search, then ramp up your efforts. Applying for a couple of jobs a week will, on these numbers, be unlikely to yield even an interview.

And, while you’re waiting for the telephone to ring, start working your network and find people you know who can help you by keeping their ear to the ground.

One senior IT executive I know has created his own role several times simply by connecting with the right people, maintaining his network, keeping an ear out, making a pitch for his services, and creating the desire to bring him on board. He doesn’t need to compete with anyone; he’s made it happen. He’s not going for interviews, he’s having a chat over coffee. He’s not obsessing over a word in his resume or a comma placement, he’s busy selling the big picture.

Why not give networking a try? Get on LinkedIn, listen to what friends are saying about their employers, review those employers, see who is coming and going.

What do you have to lose?

Posted by Gayle Howard

Gayle Howard

If you are interested in working with Gayle Howard—an executive resume writer, Certified Master Resume Writer, multi-award-winning resume writer, and Master LinkedIn profile writer, drop her a line now using the contact form at the link above. Gayle can help you get interviews for your dream job and bring the world of business to you by maximizing your exposure and connections on LinkedIn.

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