what’s a good application/interview rate?

A reader writes:

I am a recent graduate putting out dozens of resumes and applications with tailored cover letters. I was wondering what seems to be the ratio of applications sent out to interview ratio for applicants. I want to get a better idea of how many call backs I should be expecting and when to know if I am above or below the curve so I can take a closer look at my process.

There’s no one answer here. It depends heavily on your field, your location, and your experience level. It also depends on how you approach the decision to apply for something; some people are very cautious and only apply to things they’re very sure they’re well qualified and others take a broader approach.

It’s easier to say what response rate might indicate a problem. I’d say that if you’re getting fewer than one interview request (including phone interviews) per 10 applications, it’s time to take a look at your resume and cover letter, as well as at how strongly qualified you really are for the jobs you’re applying for.

But also, I’d pay a lot of attention to the employers who you’re hearing from. Even if there aren’t many, if they’re jobs that seem like strong fits and you’re getting past the initial screening stages, then your application materials are doing something right. After all, in the end, you only need one.

{ 123 comments… read them below }

  1. soupysk*

    I was unemployed a couple years ago and (thoughtfully) applying to places for jobs that I was both qualified for and interested in. I’d say that the rate of response I received was less than 10%.

  2. BRR*

    I do pretty well, maybe 40%. Alison has a good point about looking at who’s calling you. Remember your job is a lot of your life so I’d prefer quality over quantity.

  3. Beebs*

    I spent about a year job searching, mostly to positions that seemed like a good fit (though at times I started throwing my resume around a bit more freely). I would say I applied to 120 positions that were a good fit and of that had 6 interviews and 1 job offer.

    1. J.B.*

      That makes me feel a little better anyway! (Not OP) This applying or interviewing and striking out can get you down, although not as bad if when you walk away you feel it wasn’t the right fit after all.

    2. Adam*

      That sounds like my last serious job search. The market was definitely tougher then particularly for someone like myself who doesn’t have a hard skill set that’s really in demand. It’s a little better now, but doesn’t really feel like it. Also I’m trying desperately to get out of a field I feel pigeonheld into (customer service) which is really hard to do now as well.

      As Alison said, you only need one. There’s just no telling which one will be the one.

  4. cuppa*

    I’ve been looking seriously since the beginning of the year, and I am mid-career in a field with a lot of people that know each other.
    I also have gotten a resume review from Alison and used cover letter advice, which has helped a lot.
    IIRC, I have applied for 8 jobs this year. I have been fairly selective. (I may be forgetting a few, so it might actually be 10 or so), but I have had 5 interviews, so a pretty good success rate. 2 were for internal positions, which get an automatic interview where I work.
    The last time I seriously looked for jobs, I probably applied for at least 100 jobs, and I had probably 4-6 interviews. I think some of it was because of my materials and some of it was because I was looking for an entry-level position, and it was when the economy was starting to tank.

  5. Bend & Snap*

    My last job hunt was almost 4 years ago, but in one year I applied to 40 jobs carefully selected jobs, got interviews for 4 of them and got 2 offers.

    It was a LOT of work.

  6. KT*

    I view the line “dozens of cover letters and resumes” with some side-eye. Dozens can mean a lot-spread out over a few months, that’s not much. But if you’re sending out dozens of resumes and cover letters every week, there’s no way you can tailor them as well as they need to be. I would focus on view applications with more thoughtful cover letters for jobs you can really dig into.

    1. heymacerena*

      I take it you didn’t graduate in the last few decades. A few well-crafted cover letters aren’t gonna cut it these days – if you want to break into any field as a recent grad, your only choice is to send out, yes, dozens of apps.

      1. Koko*

        That’s not necessarily true. I’ve always been highly selective about what I apply to, and had a very high interview ratio.

        6 years ago when I graduated I sent out 3 resumes, got 1 interview and 1 offer.

        A year later when the company downsized and I had advance warning that my position was being eliminated, I sent out 13 resumes over the course of 2 months and got 4 interviews and 1 offer.

        When I was looking to leave that job a couple years later I sent out 1 resume that didn’t go anywhere, then about a year later I sent out 1 more, which yielded an interview and an offer.

        That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong if you have to send out a lot more than that, but it’s definitely not your only choice.

      2. KT*

        Erm, yes I did. And careful cover letters and resumes got me several competing job offers at once. I’m still a fairly young professional and mentor fresh grads, and most of my mentees have landed jobs after sending out maybe 10-15 applications, but dozens. It of course is different per field or location, but I think quality applications will always win.

      3. LAI*

        I have to disagree with heymacerena. I’ve changed jobs 3 times in the last 10 years and each time, I applied to less than 10 jobs before getting an offer. I’d say I have about a 50% rate both of applications yielding an interview, and of interviews yielding an offer. With the amount of research and personalization that I was putting into each application (while still working full-time), I’d say the most I could apply to was maybe 3-4 positions a week. There also weren’t more positions than that available that truly fit what I was looking for, so it wouldn’t have made sense to send out more applications anyway.

      4. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Echoing what others have said above, I get a lot of mail from people (nearly all of whom have graduated in the last few decades, since that’s the majority of the college-educated work force) who found that they got much better results when they started sending out fewer applications and spending more time customizing their cover letters.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Even in good economic times, I have found this to be true. It’s better to channel your energy on a few good choices. Dear Family Member (DFM) sent out 50 to a 100 resumes a week. I’d call this spam. Anyway, he did not get a single nibble. There was no way in heck that he was going to get a job with this machine gun approach.
          What finally nailed him a job was an interview where he did his stuff. His field was procurement. His interviewer needed X and could not find any. DFM said, “Can I borrow your phone?…. Hey, Bob, it’s Joe here, my friend is looking for X, got any?” Bob had X, Interviewer ordered it on the spot and DFM got a job. When DFM tailored his responses to meet this interviewer’s concerns that earned him a job.

      5. Ad Astra*

        That’s only helpful if a) your objective is to find any job you can because you need one RIGHT NOW in order to survive, or b) there are dozens of positions being advertised that match your qualifications. If you’re in situation a, that sucks and I’ve been there and I feel for you. If you’re in situation b, that’s awesome and I’m jealous of all your opportunity. But applying for a job you know you wouldn’t accept or a job you know you’re not even close to qualified for is a waste of time.

    2. BRR*

      I feel like I can customize very easily because I’m applying to certain jobs that are almost the same just at different places.

      1. Sara*

        I had the same experience during my last two job searches. I’m an elementary school teacher; with the exception of the highly specialized schools (like Expeditionary Learning schools, or the one “arts academy” I applied to), teaching 4th grade at School A isn’t much different from teaching 4th grade at School B – at least not from the perspective of someone who’s never worked at either school.

  7. Spooky*

    Wow, Alison’s suggested rate seems…unusually good for a recent grad. It completely depends on your field and region, but honestly, I don’t think I know ANY recent grads with a response rate anywhere near that good. In my last job hunt, my response rate was about 1/12, and that was with some experience under my belt. But trying to land that first post- college job, my numbers were quite literally in the hundreds.

    1. Stranger than fiction*

      I think it also depends if the Op has work experience (interning) in her field yet or any work experience with teansferable skills, too, versus having been full time student and not working at all.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I know recent grads with that response rate! But they have awesome cover letters (I talk about that a bit more below). I’m not saying yours isn’t awesome — but I will say that nearly all the time when someone tells me they’re having trouble getting interviews and I ask to see their resume and cover letters, it turns out that those are not nearly strong enough and that’s what the issue is. Again, might not be the case with you, but it very, very commonly the case.

      1. Spooky*

        Actually, you edited the cover letter I was using as a base (which I then tailored for each job)! :) I think the kicker here is the industry – I’m in media, and I have a background in two different areas of the field, so I was applying to jobs in multiple sectors trying to get anything I could. It’s just really, really tough to break into media – the industry is swamped because everyone thinks they can do it (which goes back to yesterday’s graphic design discussion.) But the good news is that once you’re in, it becomes substantially easier (hence the more recent 1 in 12 rate, using another cover letter/ resume you reviewed. Thank you again for that service, by the way.) It’s just always shocking to me to be faced with numbers like this that highlight how different most people’s experiences are to mine and that of my colleagues.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Did I? I normally never edit cover letters as a matter of practically, like, religion, so I am fascinated. (I believe you! I’m just wondering what else I don’t remember doing.)

          1. Spooky*

            You’re correct – my apologies! You only reviewed the resumes (though we discussed a few things on the resume that were better moved to the cover letter, which may be how I got it mixed up.) But the cover letters I was using were somewhat formatted/based on some samples that you posted a few years ago as good examples, which is why I had mentally filed them in my “Alison-approved” file.

            My mistake -I’m really sorry about that! Please ignore previous comment about cover letters, everyone!

    3. Ad Astra*

      Some majors (engineering, education, journalism, marketing, accounting) graduate with quite a bit of relevant experience through internships or on-campus jobs, so they have an easy time convincing employers that they can do the job, while someone with a degree in English or Classics has to dig a little deeper to demonstrate transferable skills. It levels out after a few years in the work force, but it does give some students an advantage right after graduation. That’s all in addition to what you said about differences in field and region.

      My friends in engineering and accounting had response rates like that out of college, my friends in journalism absolutely did not, and with my friends in education, it varied a lot from one year to another.

      1. AnotherFed*

        I think it’s really, really industry dependent. I graduated with an engineering degree right about when the economy was tanking, but even then had ~75% response rate, and as a college student I was probably a ‘what not to do’ example – I refused to write cover letters, went to career fairs in sneakers and jeans, and probably did not remember to limit use of swear words. I didn’t send out that many applications, but I only remember 2 companies/3 different job postings that didn’t at least interview me.

    4. Sweaty*

      When I was applying for jobs just out of college, I sent out maybe ~200 applications over ~5 months (while working a part-time contract position). I got 8 interviews total, if I remember correctly (I often had multiple interviews with the same company — but 8 different companies). I took the first offer I got. It’s worked out well (I’m still at the same company and happy), but it was all luck. I really had no clue how to interview/screen the company for fit.

      Another company was running a background check at the time I got the offer, which I knew would clear, but I took the known thing. In hindsight, I really lucked out because the other hiring manager would have been an awful fit. I was miserable after a 1 hour interview! He would answer everything I said with a lukewarm “ok”, and wouldn’t ask any follow up questions. He wouldn’t even tell me his name or give his contact info (for thank you note etc). I interviewed with my would-have-been coworkers at the same company and they were normal human people. The HR recruiter was also normal. But the hiring manager was so weird. So glad I didn’t end up there.

    5. hermit crab*

      After I graduated in 2008 (following a seasonal position for that summer), I actually applied to 2 jobs, got 1 offer, and am still with that company. But I think I’m the exception that proves the rule. I also don’t think I’d be hired for the job I got, if I were applying for it as a new grad today!

  8. GS*

    Yeah, 1:10 seems ambitious for a recent grad for many industries. In my legal job search I was closer to 1 out of 30. Sigh.

    1. Anoning it Up*

      This makes me feel better about my current response rate. I think the type of job matters, too – I’ve applied for a lot of positions in Government, and whether or not my application makes it out of the USAJobs black hole is mystery to me.

      In general, I take a mixed approach to these things – if I think I’m a particularly great fit for the position, I’ll take a lot of time making a really targeted cover letter. But I just can’t do that for every job, or I would never get my applications in. I’ve gone through spurts of trying to make a truly awesome cover letter for each job, but it is exhausting and then disheartening to do that a bunch of times and never get a response. Now I take a middle of the road approach – I have a basic “template” cover letter that aligns with a variety of types of jobs I’ve applied to – think “government,” “law firm,” “in house,” etc – and about a paragraph of it changes based on the company I’m applying to. If I think I might have a great chance at a particular job for some reason, I might modify it more, but given the state of the legal market I feel like I need to go for breadth over depth sometimes.

      Dunno if I’m really one to take advice from here, though, since I’ve submitted about 20 applications and gotten 0 interviews so far.

        1. Liztomania*

          It’s not uncommon to have 200 or 300 people apply for entry-level government jobs, so even getting an interview is a big honor.

          1. Stephanie*

            Yeah, only government job I was called for from an application was for my first job, which went through mass hiring sprees. And even those mass hiring sprees were capricious. A friend kept trying and trying to land the same role I had and had little luck.

        2. ElCee*

          Yup. I have sent in applications for at least 30 Federal jobs and have had 2 interviews. One of the interviews, I was one of THIRTY interviewees. They said 500+ had applied for that position.

          1. Regina*

            I actually got a federal government job with no resume or interview. I started volunteering in a federal Member of Parliament’s constituency office a few days a week, was offered a job after about two months, and now I have inside access to many federal government jobs.

            I worked full-time at an entry-level job while volunteering, but I was surprised at how much I lucked out.

      1. Meg Murry*

        Oh goodness, yes, I never got the tiniest peep out of anything I applied for on USA Jobs, so I wouldn’t even count those.

        The other thing that was unusual in my search as a new grad was that on campus recruiting sometimes did things a little bit backwards. For some of those positions, you would submit a resume first (either online or by handing it to a recruiter at a job fair) and then might get called for an on campus interview – which would be more like a phone screen than a traditional first face to face interview. Only if that went well and they wanted to invite you to an in person interview did you then go through the apply online, answer a bunch of questions and submit a cover letter and resume. It was bizarre and backward in some ways, but made sense in others.

        I think a huge part of this also depends on whether OP majored in a field where you often get hired for a more straightforward career path (think- finished law school, applying for jobs as a lawyer, or majored in architeture or mechanical engineering and now are applying for positions with job titles like “architect” or “mechanical engineer”) vs majoring in a liberal art and now are applying to a lot of very different entry level roles that all want a bachelors degree but don’t require any one specific type of training/degree. I’m guessing with the phrasing OP is using (talking about ratios and being above or below the curve) makes me suspect s/he is from the more analytical, STEM side of things, but I could be wrong.

        Basically, OP, you just have to keep applying until something sticks. Unless you are really in a unique situation, it is highly unlikely that you are going to be at the point where you just have too many interviews and don’t know how to juggle them all – so if something looks promising, apply for it. If you are still near your alma mater and there is a career fair, go to it and try that approach as well, and talk to your former professors – you will probably get better results that way than on the big national job search boards like Monster or Indeed.

      2. Dan*

        During my last job search, I applied to a fed job that I was qualified for and wanted. I spent a lot of time carefully crafting my resume.

        USAJobs also happened to be my fallback for my UI “job contacts” requirement. I liked them because I didn’t have to worry about “accidentally” getting a job I didn’t want and having to turn it down and screw with my UI checks. With USAJobs, even if I apply to something I’m qualified for, they have to wait until the req closes before they even look at them. That can be upwards of a month.

        I actually got contacted by another fed agency, where I didn’t put any special effort into my materials. I was really surprised, I totally didn’t expect it. But by the time they called me, I had started my current job.

        1. Anoning it Up*

          That’s the other thing – they’re so slow! I might get interviews in 6 months for the positions I’m applying for now, if I’m lucky. That’s not a lot of good positive feedback on the application/interview ratio front.

      3. AnotherFed*

        USAJobs takes some finesse to make the HR cert, and then some knowledge of the actual organization doing the posting so that you understand what they actually want. Also, the cover letter doesn’t help much there – put the time into revising your resume to match the key qualifications for the job you’re applying for.

        The timelines do suck for federal hiring, but keep an eye on the grade level of the position – I think high grades have to be filled within 45 days of the posting closing, though that may only apply if they are restricted to current government employees.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This is going to be a very annoying response, but how are your cover letters? In many, many fields they are what will make the difference in what your ratio is. If a friend told me she was at 1 out of 30, I’d ask to see her cover letter.

      1. Anoning it Up*

        I don’t know about GS, but I would say my cover letters are probably middling. They’re not super generic, but they’re not as good as some of the examples you’ve posted here (and I know they aren’t!). To some degree, I think I struggle finding my voice in cover letters while trying to maintain the level of formality that I think law (in particular) expects. I might also be a little jaded, since I think so much legal hiring is focused on prestige things instead of tangible things. Also, I’m exhausted all the time and writing a good cover letter is really hard. These are my excuses, anyway. I thought hard about doing your resume review, but decided against it because I think my resume it pretty strong. If you did a cover letter review though, I would buy that in an instant! I admit I’m not very good at it.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah, so I think that’s probably relevant here. If you’re happy with the ratio you’re getting, then cool. But if you’re not, that’s where I’d start.

        2. Anonymous Ninja*

          Another request for cover letter reviews. I know they’re more time consuming, but it seems they make the difference and so many of us are clueless on how to write them. I’ve studied the examples you’ve provided, but am willing to pay for more specific advice.

      2. Oryx*

        I should send you the cover letter I used to land the job I got two months ago. I had a job in my field and had been applying to new positions for 2+ years and finally just threw caution to the wind and broke all the rules but it apparently worked! (It’s also a job in the tech field, so that may allow for some more….creative flair)

          1. stellanor*

            Yeah, as a third person in tech I’m really interested in what a good tech cover letter looks like. I broke all the rules and got creative/showed personality in one cover letter for a job I thought I was an awesome fit for, and… nothing. Soooo that didn’t work!

  9. CollegeAdmin*

    Where was this post 6 months ago?? I was trying to explain to my brother (new grad, electrical engineering) that his 50% response rate was absolutely incredible; he thought it was atrocious. (And I firmly believe that good rate was because I put tons of time and effort into helping him craft a strong resume and excellent cover letters that got him in the door.)

    (He also though that phone interviews were not real interviews. I set him straight ASAP.)

    1. just another techie*

      I finished a grad program in EE in 2012 and had around a 33% hit rate, which was abysmal compared to my cohort. I did my undergrad degree in 2006 and I don’t have records but my recollection is about 25%, which was also pretty bad compared to peers. (But I wasn’t a good student and was hindered by a low-ish GPA both times. I do much better in industry than in school. )

      1. K*

        I graduated in EE in 2013. I applied to 114 jobs, over Christmas before graduation, only to get one interview with the one company that seem impressed with me at a job fair. All the other companies literally laughed or scoffed at me. I did everything I was told to do. I wore the suit. I had special 26 lb cotton resume paper. I told them of my internships on the wind turbines. I told them how I designed my own 1ph to 3ph VFD. I worked day, night, and weekends at my company only to be laid off due to politics 2.5 years later. My co-workers loved me so much and were outraged that I was laid off. So, they all gave me their key recruiters. I got 20 recruiters fetching me interviews with 60 different companies over 2 months. I told them how I did my own design work on my projects. I told them how I prioritized the electrical maintenance repairs. I told them how I was invited to every project. I told them how I was laid off due to a major closure and how other engineers were laid off. I got back, “We are looking for a self starter,” “We are looking for someone who can advise, not lead,” “We think you are so smart you will just find a different job.” The 60th interview finally offered me one of the worst jobs you can imagine.
        I worked until I literally couldn’t work anymore. I spent a whole day just trying to move my mouse, but I was so depressed and beat down at that point that I couldn’t move my own hand. I was just about to quit that day with no job lined up when my first job realized the work I did and offered for me to come back. I took up on the offer immediately.
        I conclude I must be doing something very very wrong in life. However, I have always followed my peer’s advice. I am stumped. All of my peers are stumped. Professional recruiters who got me interviews with name brand companies are stumped. I certainly didn’t expect electrical engineering to be a walk in the park, but this experience was freakish. If I cannot figure out what I am doing wrong, then I guess I will find a different career.

  10. over educated and underemployed*

    I’ve been job searching seriously for about 3 months, and out of 33 job applications, I’ve had 5 phone screens, six interviews (including one request I withdrew from after finding out the salary), and no offers. I’m a recent grad with a pretty irrelevant PhD and a few years of part time and temporary work experience. I have no idea whether this is “good” or not, but I think one of my problems is just that I am not a traditional candidate. As a new college grad at least that is in your favor.

    1. over educated and underemployed*

      (Or I was supposed to have phone screen #5…10 minutes ago…if I haven’t heard from them in another 10-20 minutes I guess I’ll have to write a nice email asking about a different time? Or maybe this is a soft rejection….)

    2. I forgot the clever name I used last time*

      I am right there with you when it comes to being an non-traditional candidate. I’m getting interviews for my field, but it’s a super competitive field, so I know I need to expand out. I know I’m qualified for the other positions that I’m applying for, but I also know that I need a hiring manager to read between the lines to see that. It’s so frustrating.

    3. Dan*

      IMHO, that’s a pretty good rate. I have an MS, and my response rate looks like that, although I get offers.

      Are your interviews in fields where your PhD doesn’t matter? If your interviews are in your field of study, I’d reach to someone that you had some good rapport with and ask what you can do to improve your candidacy moving forward. It could be the way you come across in person.

      1. over educated and underemployed*


        These are mostly in fields where my PhD doesn’t matter. It is related to some of them but the proper degree for those jobs would be an occupationally oriented MA (sort of like “PhD in ancient Hebrew applying to market Birthright trips” or something); the PhD itself doesn’t help, and I think it’s my related part-time work that is getting me the interviews. Other jobs are totally unrelated.

        1. over educated and underemployed*

          And now I can add: geez, I just got an offer for a job I sort of convinced myself I didn’t want. Research job in a TOTALLY different area than what I studied, so I have to think both about the huge career switch itself, and the fact that it’s kind of a crappy commute and low pay. The HR guy asked for a response by Thursday morning. AAAAH. (I’ve already turned down one job this year, I don’t want to do it too many times and wind up with zero options….)

          1. Stephanie*

            As someone who’s doing a crappy commute with low pay at the moment, I’d pass unless you have no other options. Like if it’s this job or doing an irrelevant stop gap job, take the job. But otherwise…

            1. over educated and underemployed*

              It’s “this job or more of the same temp stuff.” On the good side, I talked to the supervisor and she said it would be OK to work flexible hours (e.g. start at 7:30 and leave early), and since I have a little kid in day care that would make the commute way more feasible. Also, it pays badly, but it pays a little better than my current job….

    4. BRR*

      Depending on your phd and what you’re applying to it could be great. My husband is abd in the humanities and searched for two years before getting a job. At least 100 apps, two phone interviews for part time jobs and one interview which led to his job. This included me working my network to the bone and buying an Alison resume review.

  11. Liztomania*

    I graduated a couple years ago and did one right after a graduated as well as a job change earlier this year (my field is HR). I probably got call backs about 8-10% of the time for job search number one, but as soon as I had two years of experience under my belt my numbers went up to about 30-40%.

    Just remember, you really only need ONE good fit! Anything else is gravy.

  12. ElCee*

    I’m searching for positions at a mid-career level in editorial (crowded field) with a minimum salary above what I have now, so my callback rate is low-ish. I’ve applied for probably 80 jobs, had 10 callbacks, and 6 real interviews.
    For my field that actually feels not too bad. (Or maybe I’ll just keep telling myself that! ;) It just really depends on so many factors.

    1. Lebanese Blonde*

      I’m a very recent grad looking for entry-level (or even paid internships!) in editorial/journalism/non-profit communications, and your rate seems really good! I’ve applied to 21 in the past 2 months and haven’t even heard back from 80-90% of those. One implored me to submit freelance work instead, and one flat-out rejected me (and even the rejection was a blessing after the weeks of silence from other positions!) So, I’m very impressed with your 6 real interviews–hoping I’ll be there once I’m mid-career.

      (Oddly, the one only-barely-related job I applied for resulted in an offer…which I turned down because I want to spend several months at least trying to land something that I’m actually interested in before abandoning my intended path.)

      Side note: if you have any insight on how to stand out at entry-level in your field, send them my way! :-)

  13. Intrepid Intern*

    I think it depends where you’re searching, too. As an undergrad in the Midwest, I had about a 50% response rate for internship applications. Now I have a Master’s and 3 years of intern/ part time experience and I’m looking for my first full-time thing– but in DC, which is both great for my field and super competitive. I submit probably 20-30 applications per interview, and half of those interviews are for internships.

  14. Stephanie*

    I started ramping up my search again. I haven’t expected a ton of responses just because I haven’t been at my current company super long. I’ve done I think 5 or 6 carefully curated applications and gotten one phone interview.

  15. Lucy*

    I kept track during my last two searches – this was for positions asking for 3-5 years of experience, as a benchmark.

    Search 1 – spread across two cities (current one and where SO lived 6 hours away), 8 months, 40 applications sent, 14 responses (anything from a phone interview to multiple in-person interviews), 2 offers (1 in current city, 1 in SO’s city)

    Search 2 – SO’s (now mine) city, 3 months, 16 applications sent, 6 responses, 1 offer (I was also a finalist – 1 of 2 – for another position that I bowed out of once I got the other offer)

    And just echoing what everybody else says – at the end of the day, you only need one!

  16. Anonymous Educator*

    It depends heavily on your field, your location, and your experience level.

    This is a key bit right here. When I was an English teacher, it didn’t matter how many jobs I applied to. It was usually crickets. I’ve heard many times from hiring managers and department heads that “English teachers are a dime a dozen.” And then when I worked at an educational recruitment firm, I found the same thing. Math teachers had no problems getting interviews. Highly qualified English teachers still had a hard time getting interviews.

    Now that I work primarily in technology, the past few years it’s been relatively easy for me to get interviews (landing the job is another story). I think on my last job search I averaged about one interview per three applications.

    Ultimately, hiring has a lot to do with supply and demand. Because hiring managers aren’t judging you as an individual and saying “Is this a good candidate?” or “Can she do the job?” They’re thinking “How does she compare to the rest of the candidate pool?” Even if you don’t look like a great candidate, but they’re having a tough time filling the position after an extended search, you’ll look a lot more appealing as time goes on. On the flip side, if you look like a great candidate, but they have 27 other equally-qualified or better-qualified candidates, you may not even get a phone screen.

    1. SL #2*

      That last paragraph is key. I was a second-round applicant for my current job (as in, they’d reposted the ad and that’s when I found it). I don’t know how I would’ve stacked up to the first round of candidates. I don’t know if the applications were good or bad or if the candidates withdrew from consideration. But in comparison to the current pick of candidates, I was apparently good enough to warrant an offer. But if I was in the pool of first-round candidates, who knows what would’ve happened?

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Yeah, I had that happen when I changed careers. I applied for a job I was 0% qualified for (on paper), forgot about it, got a call about it two months later (did I apply for this?), and then ended up getting the job (clearly because they couldn’t find someone actually on-paper qualified). I did well at the job, but there’s really no way they could have known that.

  17. MA in OH*

    Yeah, I think the 10% is ambitious as many others have commented. My husband graduated with a BA in Math/minor in Actuarial Science and 1 exam passed, he had around 110 applications, 5-6 interviews, and ultimately, 1 offer in 8 months of searching. He was, admittedly, a non-traditional student who was unable to do internships while in school due to working as well but the fact that he started searching before graduation and had a job (as of 1 month ago) 3 months following graduation, we felt very lucky.

    I myself received a master’s in liberal arts this past May and also have been looking since December 2014 ahead of my graduation. We’ve switched our focus a few times geographically to try to ultimately find the best place to land a job, and I’ve put in my fair share of USAjobs black-hole applications that I honestly don’t even consider as part of the application count because of how abysmal the odds are. Now being located in southern Ohio, where non-analytical/business skills are very hard to sell, I’m just hoping that I can find something before I hit the 1 year anniversary of looking. Ultimately I think being flexible is what got my husband the job he just recently started, but having a higher level degree is what is partially hurting me as well as this location.

    1. Dan*

      I went to grad school in southern OH, studied business analytics. That’s a pretty hot field, graduates get jobs.

      1. MA in OH*

        I’ve done both my degrees in southern Ohio and it seems that everyone in this area expects anyone with a higher ed degree to automatically defer to high caliber business, when there are a great deal of other opportunities out there. While I understand the opportunities available in Business Analytics, that’s neither a field I’m qualified for nor a field I’m interested in, respectfully. I don’t do numbers in pretty much any capacity beyond super basic mathematics, which is why my degrees are in liberal arts. Companies around here have a hard time however opening their minds to the idea that there are skills other than business-related skills. For what it’s worth, I have experience in commercial real estate appraisal and if I were to go in a direction other than the way I would like to career-wise, that would be the way I would go. But I do appreciate your thought, genuinely; my frustration stems from the fact that it seems everyone around here (including my 2-time university) wants to one-track everyone.

    2. Koko*

      Keep in mind though that Alison wasn’t saying *every* candidate should expect 1 interview for every 10 applications. She’s saying if you’ve totally optimized your cover letter and resume to be the best they can be, you should expect about a 10% or better rate. And most people haven’t totally optimized their cover letter and resume. The success ratio for “good application package” is WILDLY different for the success ratio for “typical application package.”

      As someone who has read hundreds (thousands?) of resumes from the other side of the table, about 10% of the cover letters stand out and the other 90% are generic and indistinguishable from each other. That doesn’t mean those folks weren’t qualified. But with application volume being what it was, for most positions I could extend interview offers to a half-dozen candidates without ever dipping into the “generic and indistinguishable” pool. A candidate had to have something really stellar/unusual in their resume to overcome a half-hearted cover letter or a sloppy resume (like working for a Fortune 100 and for some reason they’re considering working for us!), but almost everyone who wrote a strong cover letter convinced me to talk with them further even if they had just typical/average work experience.

      In a previous role there was one guy in particular I remember who applied to every position we posted over a six month period, often multiple times for the same role when we refreshed a job ad. His cover letter was an obvious form letter – we’re talking the position title appearing in a different font and size than the rest of the letter and the specifics of the letter having absolutely nothing to do with any of the roles he was applying for. (He kept mentioning his cross-cultural experience and ability to interface across multiple cultures as his strength even though there was nothing about the standard US-based jobs that particularly demanded it.) He was a particularly egregious example, but the bulk of the packages I received honestly were closer to that guy than they were to the people I invited to interview. My guess is this is an 80/20 principle in action – most of the people I was interviewing has other interviews, and most of the people I was rejecting I would bet were sending dozens of packages and getting rejected from all of them. 20% of the people are getting 80% of the interviews.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes, exactly. I didn’t say 1 in 10 is an average rate; I said if you’re not hitting it, it’s a sign that you might need stronger application materials (which is also true for the vast, vast majority of people, so it’s already likely anyway!). I think people might be misinterpreting that part.

      2. Anoning it Up*

        For the 10% of cover letters that you saw that stood out, what stood out about them? Was it the experience itself (for instance, being different than the resume/expanding on it), the tone, generally being well-written, something else? Just trying to figure out how to make mine better!!

        1. Esperanza*

          I’m not Koko but for me, the letters that stand out are the ones that are tailored to the job description, and talk about why this specific role would be a good fit. The vast majority of the cover letters that I receive are very generic and could have been written without reading the job description at all. We don’t interview those people.

          Now that I’m on the hiring side, I understand why some people claim they have applied to 200 jobs and heard nothing. They’re probably sending the same bad cover letter to all of them.

          1. Jules*

            I want to just second Alison’s point about thinking your application package is better than it is….

            Three years ago when I went job hunting, I thought I had awesome materials and great experience and sent about 30 applications and got one interview (which turned out to be a giant mistake after I took the job, but that’s another story). When I went to leave that job, I looked at my application materials again and the penny dropped. I revamped them completely (ie, chucked it all out and started from scratch – new format, new layout, new text, new letters….) and my response rate went through the roof. I sent eight resumes, got interviews at seven of the firms, and job offers from four. Nothing had changed in my job history, except that I now had a four-month stint at a horrible job for which I was wildly overqualified on my resume….

            From the hiring side, what makes a good cover letter is something that’s personal – I want to get a feel for you as a person from your cover letter. If you come across as interesting and human in your letter, I’ll know pretty quickly whether you might fit into the gap in my team, and likewise whether I’m interested in meeting you. I’ve hired people who had terrible resumes (eleven lines of printed text in six typefaces, with three extra handwritten sentences which were all but illegible, photocopied from a photocopy of a photocopy of a bad photocopy….), simply because their cover letter was so engaging that I had to meet them and they then proceeded to tick all the boxes at the interview. (BTW, this is not an excuse to get off topic, just a chance to show how charming and knowledgeable you are!)

            I also can’t stress enough that when we say you should write a new cover letter for each job, we mean you should start with a blank piece of paper and write a new cover letter (minimal copy and paste, please!) for each job!

        2. Koko*

          In my case it was nonprofit jobs, so I was really looking for signs that the applicant had some kind of personal connection or natural interest in our cause. Given the way nonprofit salaries are, people who don’t connect with the cause are more likely to burn out or be dissatisfied.

          In a for-profit context I imagine I’d look for something similar but it’d be more about some sign that they have an intrinsic enjoyment of the work, some kind of curiosity about the field that drives them to excel.

  18. Zach*

    I get a response rate of about 20-40% for the average of two legit job applications I submit a week. I kinda don’t count applications via Indeed or LinkedIn because I have never received interest from any apps done on those sites (If I counted those, I would put in about five applications a week).

    I think that’s decent, considering I am picky and applying to mid-career communications/digital strategy positions in a competitive market.

    I’ve had an in-person interview about every 2-3 weeks the past few months, but no offer yet. :(

    1. Stranger than fiction*

      Don’t know what field you’re in of course but my BF got his last two jobs via linked in and recruiters hit him up via linked in all the time still. He’s in product/project mgmt for software

      1. Zach*

        Good info, thanks.

        I do take it back –– I have gotten a few interviews from LinkedIn, but they were back in the spring when I started my job search. I guess I am in the middle of a dry spell. :-/

    2. Audiophile*

      I’ve had a fair amount of luck on Indeed. I just applied for two part time jobs (communications/social media) because I can’t seem to get any headway with full time jobs. I got responses very quickly.
      I’ve had maybe 1 or 2 interviews from jobs I found on LinkedIn.

  19. Devil's Avocado*

    I’ve been applying pretty actively since April. I definitely thought I’d have an offer by now and have been feeling quite discouraged… but then I flipped back through my files and was shocked to see I’ve applied for 15 jobs in that time, and have had interviews for 7. I am quite shocked – I think I’ve been focusing the rejections, and didn’t see the number of responses and interviews I’ve had as a positive.

    I’m actually getting ready to head off to an interview now. Wish me luck – I’m really hoping this one is a good fit on both sides! Can’t wait to be done job hunting for now.

    1. afiendishthingy*

      Good luck! It really is easy to get stuck on the rejections. My last job hunt was very discouraging, and even my first thought reading this post was “Wow, no way did I get that many responses.” But then I thought back and I got two interviews and one offer, and I doubt I applied for more than 15. It seemed like about fifty applications though. Have some anecdotes ready for behavioral questions, be yourself, you’ll get a good offer soon.

  20. lowercase holly*

    Seven yrs experience, looking since May, still employed now at place with name recognition, probably sent about 40 applications, interviewed about 7-10 so far (my downfall).

  21. Dan*

    IMHO, the application to phone screen ratio isn’t that important. One really has no idea what’s going on behind the scenes. That posting may very well be for an internal candidate, a resume grab, have budget issues attached to it, who knows. If they call you, they’re interested. It’s the ratio between phone screens to in-person interviews that tells an important story. If you screen a lot, and the match sounds reasonable, and they don’t invite you in for the big song and dance, something’s wrong.

  22. Seal*

    When I was fresh out of library school in 2006, I applied for 9 positions, got 7 phone interviews, 6 in-person interviews, and one job offer within 7 months. However, I also had over 15 years of paraprofessional experience in libraries, including 5 years in a special collections library; the jobs I applied for were all in similar types of libraries. It all came down to timing – it just so happened that there were an unprecedented number of openings for the type of librarianship I hoped to practice around the time I graduated. Had I graduated a year earlier or later my career path would most likely have been quite different.

    After several promotions at my current job (the one I got fresh out of library school), I’m more than ready to move on. Unfortunately, my timing hasn’t been nearly as good this time around. I’ve not applied for many positions because there haven’t been many available in my niche of the profession. Still, I’ve submitted a few applications and gotten interviews, just not landed anything yet. This topic was good exercise in positive reinforcement. Over my entire working career (going on 30 years!?!), ratio of applications to interviews has been close to 70% and during that entire time I’ve only been unemployed for a few months between jobs. I must be doing something right!

    1. Sparkly Librarian*

      When I received my MLIS, I applied to 2 public library systems only, as I was not willing to relocate. I was already employed (outside the field), so I could afford to be selective. Good thing! One system posted positions that were very specialized (bilingual in 2 different languages I don’t speak, and an archives position), so I didn’t continue with the application process. The other was accepting applications for a biennial hiring pool but had no open positions. It took a year and a half from my application submission to my offer letter.

  23. CheeryO*

    I spent most of 2014 job searching in a small market (fairly in-demand degree, though), and it took 87 applications before I landed a job. I had maybe 15 interviews including both phone and in-person interviews. I also turned down two offers, which felt crazy stupid at the time, but it ended up working out.

  24. Dang*

    I stopped keeping track because it depressed me, but a glance at my inbox folders suggests that I applied for roughly 450 jobs (over the course of a year and a half). Last I counted, I’d had about 30 interviews (not including callbacks) and roughly another 10-15 phone interviews that never got past that stage. About halfway through this I started working a temp job, and eventually ended up with 2 offers.

  25. Jennifer*

    I’ve been looking for the last 4 years. I’ve gotten one interview a year except for this year, where I got 2. I probably end up applying for 10 or less jobs a year since I don’t qualify for much.

  26. Ad Astra*

    When I was collecting unemployment benefits and required to apply for two jobs each week, my ratio was pretty bad. But most of those jobs were not a great fit and I don’t blame them for not being interested.

    In six months, I got four interview requests.
    #1 – I turned down the first one because it was located on the other side of the country and my husband had just accepted a job in our current location. Obviously, no offer.
    #2 – Looked like an ok fit on paper but in the interview I realized it was not a role I wanted or would be good at. No offer. In fact, they never called me. :(
    #3 – I felt I had enough transferable skills to maybe do the job, but the interviewers kept asking questions (from a written list) like “What kind of experience do you have with [thing that is not mentioned once on your resume]?” I started running out of creative ways to compare stuff I’ve actually done to stuff I’m probably capable of doing. No offer.
    #4 – Very nice fit on paper, as if the position was tailor made for a journalist transitioning to marketing. After three interviews, I accepted an offer.

    So, if you’re really hell-bent on quantifying your success as an applicant, look at the number of jobs you applied for that you feel you were well qualified for. You should be getting calls from a lot of those companies. If you’re not, as Alison said, it’s time to look at what might not be working.

  27. BB_NYC*

    As Alison says, “It depends…” As a 32-year-old, I moved from Toronto to Los Angeles. In the next 14 months, I did not receive a single interview for any job I applied for. I then started to apply for jobs in New York, and was invited to interview almost every place I applied for and at least three (small nonprofits) flew me from LA to New York for a second interview. I thought I was unhire-able, and then by changing where I was looking I was in demand. Keep applying and goodluck!

  28. De Minimis*

    Mine really varies depending on the type of job and the field.

    Local/county government jobs–I have nearly three years of experience as an accountant for the federal government. My interview rate for things that are more or less at the entry level and that are specifically accounting related is around 75-80%. However, after job searching for just over three months I have yet to get an offer. There is a ton of hiring here though and I usually find something to apply to at least once a week. When the job is higher than entry level, my rate is a lot lower, maybe 5%, and honestly that was a case where I probably shouldn’t have gotten an interview because it was pretty clear I was out of my league.

    Federal government jobs–no interviews at all. I don’t have competitive status as a fed, and am not considered internal for most federal jobs. To be fair, I haven’t applied to that many. I did get referred to the selecting official once but wasn’t selected for an interview.

    Private sector jobs–much lower percentage, maybe 10-15%, and that’s only if you limit it to healthcare related jobs [last job was in a healthcare environment.]

    Private sector, not healthcare related—big fat 0%.

    Non-profit, academic [not government] Probably about 10-15%. Frustrating, though, you can really work hard to do a good cover letter, have your experience be a fit, be a local candidate, and never hear anything.

  29. Nobody*

    In my job search right after I graduated from college (with an engineering degree and two internships), I applied for 200 jobs and got 9 interviews. I got no response whatsoever — not even an automated rejection e-mail — from 175 of those applications.

    In my next job search, after I had several years of experience, I applied for 14 jobs and got 5 interviews.

    I think cover letters are less important in some fields than others. At my current employer, I don’t think anybody even looks at cover letters. HR screens applicants and gives the hiring manager the applications for those who meet the minimum qualifications. The hiring manager gives each applicant a numerical rating based on a point system for education and experience, and then selects a certain number of applicants to interview. The interviews are scored, and the interview points are added to the education/experience rating, and then the applicants are sorted by total points to determine who gets an offer. Cover letters do not enter into it in the least.

  30. Vicky*

    I read through most of these comments and figured I’d add my experience too. Background: I have about 4 years of work experience, and I just completed my Masters (full-time program, didn’t have a full time job). I’ve been selective about accepting a job, but wasn’t selective enough when it came to applying. Since early June, I’ve applied to about 120 jobs. Out of that 120, I’ve had 27 interviews and canceled/declined to proceed with 8 of those. Out of the remaining 19 – I’ve been rejected 10 times, had 3 offers (declined them), and have 5 pending interviews (round 1 and 2 interviews).

    What I’ve learned over the past few months is that casting a wide net can be a waste of time, but I don’t regret it because that wide net has actually led me to be recommended to a role I’m now really excited about. Overall, If you plan on being selective with the offers, then I’d recommend applying carefully and selectively as well. That’s the direction I am now taking. Hope this helps someone out there!

  31. SL #2*

    Hmmm. I was a recent grad with a temporary fellowship 6 months ago, actively job-hunting but being selective about where I applied to… I sent out probably around 8-10 applications for entry-level and very junior positions (mostly admin and non-profit “program associate” type positions), heard back from 2 and got offers from both. That’s a 20% “success” rate.

  32. Diluted_TortoiseShell*

    When I was unemployed (and not a current student) my interview rate was about 5%. Maybe less. I was unemployed for 6 months, applying to about 1 job per week, and only got two interviews and one job offer out of it. Each resume was very tailored as was the cover letter.

    My employment interview rate has been 66%. Sadly employed candidates really are “more desirable” it seems. : /

  33. Hillary*

    I’m a mid-career professional in a fairly specialized field. I’m four weeks into my new job after a couple months off. While I was searching, my response rate was around 50%, but I was applying to one or two jobs a week. But a lot of those I was either overqualified or the salary didn’t match (in ways that weren’t obvious from gather posting).

    Geography matters, and so does networking. If I was willing to move to Houston it would have taken about a week to get a job in my field. This is the first job I’ve had that came through a public posting. Every previous one was through a headhunter or networking.

    hang in there. Something will come through.

  34. ModernHypatia*

    Since data is sometimes handy. Librarian, currently at about 5 years professional experience (that includes two different jobs, hiring, budget, some other things.)

    Most recent job hunt (about a year, ending this past April): 35 ish applications, 14 in person interviews. (Plus about 15 referrals through a school placement service, 6 initial interviews and one in person from that.) The downside for that is that they all involved at least 8 hours travel, so there was a *lot* of driving associated with them.

    Previous job hunt, in 2010-2011: 150 applications, 35ish phone interviews, 6 in person.

    I found my odds of interviews went way up once I started focusing more. When I was entirely unemployed in 2010-2011, I aimed to do 5 high quality applications a week (reducing the number if I had substantial prep or travel or an in-person interview) and found that worked a lot better for me than applying to everything that was vaguely plausible.

    The most current round, I was working full time, so I was aiming for 1 application a week (and sometimes had to do 2-3 because of deadlines, but also had weeks in which nothing was posted for jobs in places I wanted to end up.)

  35. Anx*

    I don’t have the stats, but I have a much higher response rate for jobs that ask you to apply with a resume and cover letter.

    I’ve never received a call back for an online application.

    And I only got my current job (the job that ended a 4 year job search) because I dropped off my resume and cover letter. In my defense, I had them prepared for a job fair, but they had left their booth early.

  36. HarryV*

    I think these stats aren’t very helpful and isn’t very telling of anything. No two candidates application or experience is going to be the same or the locality. I’m in Los Angeles and a person with extensive in media will have a higher chance of getting interviews / application than someone in a not so hot media market.

  37. been there done that*

    # 2 is one reason why my husband refuses to get a cell phone. Nothing he does is that time sensitive and when he’s not in the office he’s either on leave or he’s out of town where he’s dealing with one specific task and trying to get as much done as possible.

  38. JMegan*

    This is such a great question. I was actually thinking about it the other day – it’s fascinating because it really does vary so much by field, geography, level of experience, and a thousand other things.

    In any case, here are the stats from my most recent search.
    ~Looking for mid-career level, non-managerial job in information management/ privacy
    ~Government/ NFP sector
    ~Was employed at the time, so I was being selective

    Active job search Oct 2013 – Sept 2014.
    I sent 12 applications, and had 5 first-round interviews.
    So roughly one application a month, and a 42% hit rate for interviews.
    And one job offer, which I accepted. :)

    I’m sure this method (and these numbers) would give hives to the people who are still advocating sending as many applications as possible “just in case!” But for me, for this search, the goal was not just any job, but the *right* job, so I was deliberately very specific about what I wanted.

  39. CrazyCatLady*

    I’m pretty selective about applying to jobs – I only apply for positions for which I’m qualified and in businesses I like. It makes it much easier to customize a cover letter and resume when I’m both qualified and like the business. I usually have a 75% response rate (whether it’s a phone interview or in-person interview). Much of the time, I end up turning down an in-person interview after realizing it’s not a good fit. Sometimes, they don’t move me forward in the interview process but I haven’t tracked that.

    My most recent real job search was moving cross-country and I applied for around 10 jobs, and had around a 50% response rate, in spite of being across the country. I had two job offers.

    1. Cass in Canada*

      That’s awesome! I’m looking for a job cross country as well. How did you handle that in your cover letter? I’m struggling to figure out how to word the fact that I am not expecting any relocation assistance and really want to move to be closer to my family.

  40. Deni*

    It’s feast or famine. I am looking right now. I will go a week or so with no response from anyone, and then a week where my phone doesn’t stop ringing. Here is a tip if you think your resume isn’t going well: do several versions, keep track of which company gets which version, and if you see that one in particular gets you more phone screens, let that one be the keeper. It’s what I did and I am interviewing like mad lately.

  41. Recent Engineering grad*

    I just graduated this past May. I had 1 whole year of full time internship experience prior to graduating. I started applying aggressively for jobs starting in January all the way through May. I think I counted 70~ jobs I applied for, got a phone interview for 3, had an actual in-person for 1 position, and that was the interview that led to me getting a job that probably pays more than my whole class that I graduated with. Don’t give up and be persistent!!! It will pay off!

  42. pomme de terre*

    I just gave notice at my job today! I am excited for the new opportunity and so grateful for AAM. Does AAM have advice for what to do, personally and professionally, for what to do during my notice period? I won’t be able to take time off between the jobs, and I want to set myself up for success.

    For example, I need to get my oil changed in the near future, and I decided I should do it during the notice period rather than during the first few weeks at the new gig. (It won’t impede on work hours; the shop is right near my current office and there’s nothing similar near the new place.) Or refill prescriptions one last time on my current health plan, just in case it takes me a while to get enrolled in the new one, that kind of stuff.

  43. Stevie Wonders*

    So what is a good interview/offer rate? Many years ago the rule of thumb was 7/1, which correlated with my experience. But last 10 years supposedly this has at least doubled to 14/1. Any good stats on that anywhere?

  44. Juls*

    I work in the NHS as a hospital pharmacist and my success rates are as follows:
    2010: applied for 1, offered (internal)
    2012: applied for 2, 1 interview, 1 offer
    2014: applied for 3, 3 interviews, 1 offer
    2015: applied for 1, offered (internal)
    2017: applied for 5, 4 interviews, 1 offer

    I’d say that as you move up it become more difficult.. but never give up! Learn from your previous mistakes and put yourself in the interviewers’ position. Have a bank of questions and practice before the interview! Good luck !!

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