application deadlines are misleading you

You know when you see a job posting and it lists an application deadline? And then you figure you have until that deadline to apply?

Well, you might not.

Here’s why: A lot of job sites require the employer to list a deadline or closing date when submitting a post. There’s often no option for “we’re looking at candidates on a rolling basis.” So employers are forced to pick a date, even if it doesn’t reflect how they’re actually handling the search.

This is a bad system, because it forces employers to list information that might not be true and that will mislead candidates.  On the candidate side, you see that date and think “great, I have four weeks to submit my application.” But if the employer is actually looking at applications as they come in and talking to good candidates on a rolling basis, when you apply in four weeks, they may have already assembled a group of finalists they’re excited about, and thus the bar is going to be a lot higher for adding someone else in last-minute. Or they could be poised to make someone an offer, or the job could even have been filled already.

Of course, like everything in hiring, this is not universal. Different people handle things differently. But from the outside, it’s hard to know. (Personally, I will take a fantastic candidate at any time, even if the deadline has passed — I’m not going to turn away a great candidate because of an arbitrary deadline. But I also evaluate applications on a rolling basis, and if I find someone great before the deadline is up, I’m not going to risk losing her to another offer while I wait for the clock to finish ticking.)

So if you see a job you want to apply for, apply now, no matter what the application deadline says.

{ 6 comments… read them below }

  1. Charles*

    Of course, apply ASAP.

    But there is also an advantage to seeing a deadline listed; as a job seeker it sort of lets me know how old the posting is.

    Also, as many (wait, make that MOST) employers do NOT get back to interviewees to let them know that they were not selected, seeing that job posting that you just interviewed for last week being updated with a new deadline date lets you know that you didn't get the job.

  2. Anonymous*

    On the other hand, it can go the other way: I've heard of some recruitment agents purposely setting early deadlines in order to discourage last minute applications and give themselves good leeway between receiving applications and the interview stage. They'll may still accept applications after the date, although it probably doesn't reflect well on you!

  3. Lani*

    What I hate is applying two or three weeks before the deadline, only to find out "this job is no longer available".

    How about deleting the ad if you don't want people to apply anymore?

  4. Gene*

    The big exception to this is public sector jobs. Our deadlines are just that (by law). If the announcement says "recruiting closes at 5:00 PM on October 22", and you get there at 5:05 PM, we can't accept your application. And it really sucked telling someone that last week.

    However, you can be sure that you have until that time, we won't close recruiting early and there will be no one already interviewed or offered the job.

  5. rleyser*

    In the UK you aren't even allowed to open the applications until after the deadline, by law.

    Which I know has nothing to do with this blog since you are in the US, but thought it might be interesting anyway!

  6. Anonymous*

    Thanks for this advice. I've been getting so discouraged with my job search that sometimes it takes me a week or two to get up the stamina to apply for a job. (It's just hard to put in all the work of writing a new cover letter and tailoring my resume when there's a good chance I won't even hear back.) I recently applied for a job a few days after it was posted and got called for an interview right away. I am beginning to think some of my problem is that I wait too long after the job is posted to apply!

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