Sorry for not posting since Thursday; I’ve been flu-ish! In any case, a reader writes:
I am currently on the job hunt and I had a question about applying to jobs online. You know how most websites will tell you the job has been posted 1 day ago, 28 days ago, etc. For some reason, I have concluded that I need to apply to a job the first week they post the position to have the best chances of being hired. Although I heard that it can take up to a month for the company to hire anyone for the position, I feel that applying to a job that was posted 3 weeks ago isn’t that promising. What is your take on this situation?
There’s no universal rule here; different employers handle things differently. It also varies depending on the type of position; for instance, an entry-level, low-skill job might be filled very quickly from the first week’s worth of qualified applicants, while a more senior, higher-skill job can often take months.
But even there, it varies by employer — for instance, for me, three weeks after I post a job, I’m still excited to get a really high-quality applicant. Hell, I’m still excited to get a really high-quality applicant up until I’m about to make an offer, which is typically at least four weeks from the posting and usually closer to six or eight. And there have been plenty of times when I’ve been feeling unenthusiastic about my strongest candidates and am thrilled when someone great shows up a few weeks in to change the playing field. And lots of other good employers operate this same way.
On the other hand, there are people who look for the first five qualified applicants in their stack, interview those, and ignore everyone else. (These people aren’t great at hiring, because there are wildly varying degrees of “qualified,” and if you want to hire really well, you want to draw from the broadest pool possible. But they’re out there.)
However, it’s very difficult to know from the outside how a particular employer works … and there are enough employers on each side of this divide that you can’t even really make a good guess. So if you want the job, you should definitely apply. Does that mean you’ll risk spending time applying to a job that is already filled? Yep, it does. But it also means that you won’t pass over a job you’d really like because you’re mistakenly assuming it’s been filled, when it hasn’t been.
You should apply quickly though. Don’t think it over for days and days or procrastinate; that job could be getting filled while you’re waiting. If you want the job, apply now.
(As an interesting side note, I’ve often found that the strongest candidates’ applications often come in late in the process. I figure this is because they’re not applying to everything they see, or even job-searching on a regular basis; they’re being more selective and even leisurely in their job search. That’s not to say I haven’t had great candidates apply in the first few days, but it’s a definite pattern that shows up almost every time.)