job searching is so much work

A reader writes:

I’m trying to look for a new job, but it feels like the scale of doing so is interminably large. I’m expecting to apply for at least 30-40 jobs before I even get one interview. It’s that competitive out there.

But for each application, I’m expected to research a company and it’s entire legacy to know my “right fit” and “love the opportunity” and then write cover letters which end up as short stories about my vision for the company and then develop ample portfolio projects that demonstrate my skill for that particular role which fits into a unique and lovingly curated resume just for that company.

Then if I get the interview and can manage to prepare for the thousands of possible unique questions the hiring manager or, worst case, small village of interviewers may ask for this specific job, I need to then follow up with curated notes about my experience and profess my love for the people I met and joy of future experience and passion and about a thousand other feelings I never feel or care to about a company.

When is enough enough? I want/need a new job. It’s hard enough to transition and I’m not exactly an overly emotional person but I’d like to manage the move before the sun runs out of fuel. I’m exhausted by all the outpouring of emotion and vision. If I had that much going for me, I’d just start a company myself.

You’re making this too complicated and doing much more than you need to do.

You do not need to research the company’s entire history and legacy before you apply for a job. You just need to know the basics of what they do.

You do not need to create or share a “vision for the company.” Most jobs don’t want to hear what your vision is for their company because that’s not what they’re hiring someone for; they want to know how you’d excel at the specific job you’re applying for.

You shouldn’t normally need to create new items for a portfolio; a portfolio is typically work you’ve already done in the past. In some cases you might need to create a sample or two that demonstrates specific skills, but you’d then use those for your whole job search, not create new things for every position you apply for.

You definitely don’t need to create a new resume from scratch for each job. The jobs most people are applying for are similar enough that they use the same basic resume for all of them. You might have one master resume with all your achievements on it, which you cut down to tailor to the particular job you’re applying for. That’s a five- or ten-minute job each time, not an hour- or hours-long project.

The same is true for your cover letter. Assuming every job you apply for isn’t wildly different from the ones that you applied for previously, you should have one or two cover letters that you can do some quick modifications to (often just changing the first paragraph) to tailor it to each position.

If every job you apply for is wildly different than all the others, then yeah, all of this will take longer. But if that’s the case, having a more narrow, focused search will probably help.

Overall, it sounds like you’re telling yourself a narrative about what’s expected of you that doesn’t line up with what’s actually needed. That narrative sounds exhausting, but it’s not in line with reality.

Possibly helpful stuff:

here’s a template to make writing cover letters easier

do you need multiple versions of your resume?

my step-by-step guide to writing a resume

do I need to do something creative to get a job?

{ 254 comments… read them below }

  1. Caramel & Cheddar*

    “Then if I get the interview and can manage to prepare for the thousands of possible unique questions the hiring manager”

    You also don’t need to do this! Download Alison’s interview guide (linked in the sidebar), it has much fewer than thousands of questions and they’re good ones that are likely to be asked, so you can practice in advance instead of feeling like you have to wing it in the interview.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Seconding this! Some (or most) of the questions in the interview guide are behavioral interview questions, where you answer with a work situation in your past. One good thing about behavioral interview questions is that a lot of previous work scenarios can be used to answer many possible questions. For example, you may have worked on a tough project with a demanding customer and a coworker with a different approach than yours. You could use that project to answer “tell me about a time when you worked with a difficult customer/client” question and you can use that same project to answer a “tell my about a time when you disagreed with a coworker” question.

      If you brainstorm ten or so work scenarios before your interview and also think about different questions they could apply to, you’ll be well-prepared.

      1. A Significant Tree*

        This kind of prep was so helpful to me when I was interviewing. I think I had a dozen commonly asked questions, mostly behavioral, and I wrote up short paragraphs on an example or two per question. It was just helpful to recall all the stories I could think of and pick the most appropriate ones, or ones that I could summarize well or use for multiple questions depending on what aspects I focused on. In the interview for my current position, I used about half the stuff I wrote because I was able to pivot a few of my examples exactly as Hlao-roo described.

      2. Antilles*

        Exactly. The thing about behavioral interview questions is that once you’ve thought through and prepared those sorts of examples, they can be extremely versatile.
        For example, there are hundreds of different ways for an interviewer to try to dig into how you handle something going wrong. “Tell me about a time when a client got upset and how you fixed it”, “What do you do when a project is behind schedule”, even something more generic like “How do you handle setbacks” all sound dramatically different, but you probably have a couple examples in your career of projects going off the rails that can more or less cover ANY of those potential questions (or hundreds of other similar phrasings).

    2. bamcheeks*

      Yes, there are actually about seven or eight main questions you’re likely to get, depending on the roles you’re applying for, and two or three of them will have a curve on them that mean you have to think on the spot. (Think the difference between, “the time I went above and beyond for a customer/client” and “the time my knowledge of a product made a difference for a customer”.) You need to prepare answers covering your four or five significant achievements and two or three different ways to spin each of them to focus on things like teamwork or organisation or meeting a deadline or a commitment to DEI or something.

      You might get two additional “out of the blue” questions— the point if those is to see how you think on the spot and you can’t prepare for them.

      If you have to apply for forty jobs to get one interview, you might be applying for the wrong jobs. Contrary to what it feels like, jobhunting isn’t a lottery where the more tickets you buy the more chances you have. Doing stronger applications for fewer better-suited jobs (and networking and doing informational interviews to help you figure out what the better suited jobs are!) will get you further than trying to play the numbers.

      That’s not to say that job hunting isn’t exhausting, miserable, and confidence sapping, especially when you’re doing it feeling like you desperately need a new job rather than it would just be a nice to havre! Take breaks, stay in touch with friends, volunteer, keep nice stuff in your life. You do need it.

    3. Beth*

      Seconding that you don’t need to do this! It’s in fact impossible to prepare for every possible interview question!

      What you need to do is be ready and able to think on your feet. For me, that means a combo of two things:

      1) Thinking in advance about moments in my work history where I used the skills in the job description. This is so helpful for “tell me about a time when…” questions! You can’t predict the exact question a hiring manager will ask, but you can guess what skills they’re likely to ask about. Tailoring an answer from a prepared example of that skill is way easier than thinking of an appropriate example from scratch.

      2) Practicing interviewing. Interviews are a conversation, not a test–part of the expectation is that you’ll be responding in the moment to the direction that the conversation flows in. It’s really hard to do this when you’re tense and stressed. It’s much easier if you’re feeling confident and comfortable, and practice really helps with that. You can do practice interviews with friends or a career coach–and I personally think of every unsuccessful interview I do as practice for the next (hopefully successful) one.

    4. Lacey*

      Yes! When I was job searching the last time I used a lot of Alison’s advice that is free on this site.

      One suggestion that was really helpful for me was to lookup interview questions & answers for the type of position I was interviewing for. I found a couple of websites that were really for the interviewer but they showed suggested questions and explained what the interviewer should be looking for.

      That was SUPER helpful. Then I wrote out my answers and practiced them. That’s not going to be for everyone, but for me it cemented in my brain the type of information I wanted to get across in the interview and it also helped me have more of my accomplishments top of mind.

      After that, interviews were way smoother.

    5. Original Poster*

      I guess I’m just concerned about the technical questions. The job title is narrow but the field is pretty broad and I’m just nervous because the tech stack and what they build is different at every company.

      1. From someone who hires*

        But you only can know the stack(s) you know. Companies are not looking for exact match up. They are looking for a baseline of relevant experience, the ability to learn, and the ability to play well with others. That’s what you need to demonstrate. Don’t make it too big.

      2. hbc*

        You simply can’t prep for all the technical questions. I was going for a chemical engineering job and got asked how one of those drinking duck things worked, and no, it was not a drinking duck manufacturing plant. I could have studied that exact mechanism beforehand if I knew the question was coming, but there’s about a million other random questions I could have faced at the same level of science/engineering exploration.

        FWIW, I bombed the duck question but got the offer. He just wanted to hear how I thought through the issue, and probably would have pitched me something else if I was an expert on drinking duck operation.

      3. David*

        Ooh okay tech can be different. (probably more reliance on technical questions and less on behavioral)

        In my experience (which you should take with a grain of salt because it may or may not apply to your case), you don’t really need to know anything about the company’s tech stack aside from what you can find out in advance. Companies will list specific technical skills they’re looking for in the job ad, and you can expect those to be the skills exercised in the interview. E.g. I’m thinking of programming languages and software libraries; you should know which languages and (if applicable) libraries you’re going to be asked about before you go into the interview, it’s not something that should come as a surprise. But a similar idea probably applies more broadly across other kinds of technical interviews too, not just programming; you should have *some* idea of what you’re going to be asked about. If the job ad isn’t clear, you can ask the recruiter to clarify. And if it’s a mismatch for your skills, you can just not apply.

        It may occasionally happen that despite your best efforts you wind up in an interview about some specific technology that you don’t have experience in, and in that case it’s really not a problem to tell the interviewer “Hey, sorry for the misunderstanding, but that’s actually not something I’m familiar with. I might not be the right person for this role.” (or something to that effect) Or it could be that expertise in that specific technology isn’t a dealbreaker, and maybe the interviewer can restructure the interview to account for that. (Programming story time: at a previous job we had a C language coding question that we’d give all our candidates, but sometimes I’d was interviewing someone who didn’t know C, and it really wasn’t an issue; I’d just have them do the same task in C++ or Python or Java or whatever they did know. Not every interview process can be adapted like this, but it’s common enough.)

      4. MigraineMonth*

        If you’re prepping for a technical interview for software development, that is a different beast than the other interviews for the job (that will have more behavioral questions or digging into your experience). Assuming that’s the case, there are a lot of resources out there that will teach you how to prep for a technical interviews that will give you more detailed answers than AAM.

        Remember when applying that the tech stack is almost always a *wish list*, not any kind of requirement (and the number of years experience is somewhere between wishful thinking and delusional). Apply for jobs where you only meet half the requirements, or where you know a similar type of language. If they’re a Microsoft shop (C# and Visual Basic) and you know Java, go ahead and apply. As long as you can get past the HR screening, they’ll probably let you code in Java for the interview/exercises.

        Steer away from companies that require interviewing in a programming language you don’t know well or that demand you do exercises/skills tests before even submitting an application. It’s a waste of your time and energy.

  2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Seconding what Alison said.
    You are you – you literally can’t recreate yourself for every opportunity, ergo you can’t – and shouldn’t – recreate your resume from scratch either.

    If you knew that job A is more about llama grooming, and job B specializes in alpaca breeding, then it’s just a matter of swapping out a couple of bullet points.

    1. ferrina*

      My tip- create a master resume that has every bullet point you will possibly need. This will be way too long to actually use (mine is 5 1/2 pages, with my most recent role taking up about 1 1/3 pages). To customize, delete bullets/jobs until your resume is reasonable length. Only keep the bullets that are the most relevant to that particular job listing.

      It’s usually easier to delete than to write from scratch, so this helps it go faster and can take less mental energy.

      1. iglwif*

        This! I have had two types of jobs in my career, and I would be happy to work again in either of them, so I have one great big CV with everything in it (all my jobs with all their bullet points, all my publications, all my volunteer work, all my guest posts on industry blogs, etc.), then one that emphasizes each type of job, and from one of these three I can tailor a resume to any specific job fairly quickly.

        As a bonus, the great big CV of everything is nice to contemplate when I am feeling unqualified and discouraged, because it documents that actually I have done a lot of stuff.

      2. bamcheeks*

        Yes, this is what I do to. And I change the language to match the job description— client rather than customer; one out of three of organisation, prioritisation or time-management skills; “communication skills” for “excellent written communication skills” and so on. I don’t change the substance of each example or achievement, just mirror the language so that if the person reading it is scanning for “time management” or “client-focussed” or “stakeholder mamagement” they find those words.

      3. Freya*

        This! I include a bunch of different phrasings that I’ve come up with over the years that say the same thing, but are pitched at different broad groups of people with different levels of tolerance for complicated wordiness. The most clever phrasing in the world would do nothing for me if I was pitching to someone like my husband, who is both dyslexic and a tradie with a working class background, so prefers the bald facts stated plainly. The same beautiful phrasing would be a plus to my dad, who likes wordplay and would be amused.

        This does mean that my master resume is ten pages long and takes longer to get culled to the two pages I actually send out, but culling it helps me review the different ways I’ve come up with to talk about the same thing I’ve done, which then helps me in the interview.

    2. Beth*

      Very much this. OP, if your job hunt really requires you to redo your material from scratch each time, your search is probably way too broad!

      I had that problem in my last job hunt. I was trying to switch fields, and I felt like 1) there were a lot of roles and industries where my skills would transfer well and I’d be happy enough, and 2) since I was trying to switch fields, I was going to be fighting an uphill battle given my lack of direct experience in the field, so I should apply for every potential job that seemed doable in my area. Those two thoughts had me casting a really wide net, and I did need to rewrite a lot of my materials often. But that approach didn’t work. I was spending an unsustainable amount of time redrafting my cover letter and resume, and I wasn’t getting called in for interviews.

      What did work was picking one target role/industry, seriously focusing my materials (to the point where I felt like I was overdoing it), and committing to applying only to roles in that scope. I told myself I could change to a new target role/industry in a month if I wasn’t getting bites–but I didn’t need to. My application time dropped significantly, because 1) my resume needed basically no tweaks and my cover letter only needed a couple sentences tailored to be really specific to the company, and 2) I was putting in fewer applications. But I ended up getting more interviews than before, because my rate of interview invitations per application went up by so much. I was better prepared for those interviews, too, because I was already so focused on that role/industry that I knew what I wanted to highlight without needing to do a lot of additional research.

    3. Original Poster*

      I guess I haven’t interviewed in such a long time and the job postings range from ‘yeah I could probably do that’ to ‘it took me 30 minutes just to read it and I’m not sure I’ll ever complete the skill level of internet genius’. Maybe I’m just mis-reading these postings but they are a fever dream of every possible thing someone is hoping for in another human being. It’s intimidating and honestly, in many cases, off-putting.

      1. Beth*

        A job posting that sounds like they’re looking for a unicorn who can do everything at genius level is maybe a sign that this isn’t a posting that’s worth your time! That would make me think that the hiring manager hasn’t really narrowed down what they need for the role–and getting hired for a role where the manager hasn’t really defined what success looks like is a bad setup for you.

        1. Relentlessly Socratic*

          I just saw a posting for a part-time director role, that looked like the work of 3 people. I was interested in the role briefly, then got tired looking at the responsibilities and couldn’t imagine doing the job in < 70 hrs/wk.

            1. Zephy*

              A director-level position, for under 45k USD? Director of what, customers to the restrooms???

      2. MigraineMonth*

        If you’re in tech, you’re not alone in finding many of the job postings ridiculous. I’m not just talking about “entry level requires 5 years experience”, either. I remember one that combined five distinct specialties (database administrator, mobile app developer, on-call SRE, application architect, email administrator, IIRC) and paid less than 70k. I’m a unicorn in the field, but I don’t also have wings and a scorpion tail!

        One thing that always makes me laugh is this tweet about a job that required 4 years experience in a 1.5 year-old technology:

        1. Kathy*

          I’ve heard rumors that companies intentionally post job listings that it’s impossible to be qualified for (e.g. 3 years experience in a tool that came out last year) in order to manufacture evidence that they need more H1-B visas because there aren’t enough qualified US citizens, but I’m not sure if they’re true

  3. Nina from Corporate Accounts Payable*

    Agree with Alison’s advice to avoid reinventing the wheel for every application.

    I’m dipping my toe into the job search and not gonna lie – I breathe a sigh of relief when the online application doesn’t require a cover letter. Time saved to not have to tweak the cover letter which I find takes more time to revise for applications vs. the resume.

    Hang in there – I’ve applied for ~10 jobs so far. Two thanks, but no thanks responses and otherwise radio silence. Considering the competition these days, I’m figuring it will take a year for something to emerge that meets my criteria.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I swear it seems to get even harder as I move up, because I see fewer jobs that meet my requirements now that I have more to lose. And I’m no longer willing to move like I was. There probably are also literally fewer roles at every higher level (one manager for 10 employees, after all) which I’m going to try not to think about.

      1. Testing*

        Yup, and when you are applying for roles with more responsibility, employers are also used to seeing more experience within their own narrow sector. So although you may have a lot of experience from different fields than could be very useful for the job, they are only trained to want 10+ years of experience from their exact sector.

      2. Anonym*

        Same. My next step will hopefully be to a director role, and the pickings are slim, especially once I exclude fully in person roles. Good luck to you, me, OP and everyone out there looking for a good fit!

      3. Beth*

        The further I get in my career, the more I see my peers getting jobs via a friend/friend-of-a-friend/word-of-mouth/etc. I think a lot of mid- and upper-level jobs in my industry don’t even get posted to the big sites.

        It’s hard to count on that when you need a job ASAP and aren’t willing to move, though. If you have the leeway to be casually open to opportunities while reasonably happily employed, then you can wait for the right opening. If you’re open to moving wherever you need to be, the odds of someone in your network referring you to a suitable opening are higher. But if you got laid off, can’t afford a pay reduction, and don’t want to move? That can be really tough.

        1. Nina from Corporate Accounts Payable*

          Sounds like we’re all in the same boat. Agreed that at a certain level, jobs are more often found through connections – that’s how I found my current role.

          I’m also looking for director-level roles and to make matters worse I am also seeking remote positions as I am currently remote and there are few to no positions that would meet my criteria available where I live. Most I’ve applied to have the director title, but it doesn’t look like there would be a pay bump (thank you salary transparency laws :) ). As it stands now, I probably wouldn’t consider making a move without a decent pay bump – I’m just applying as a test to see if I’ll even get a call back.

          I’m taking Alison’s advice from a few weeks ago to apply then put it out of my mind – not building it up and imagining myself in that job. Even if it looks good on paper, the boss could be a jerk and / or the environment could be toxic.

          Today I spoke with a headhunter in my industry – he said what I am looking for exists, but increasingly less common with return to office mandates and competition is fierce. That’s what I expected to hear and I ended the call with a greater appreciation of my current job. I’m seeing what else is out there because the parent company that acquired my employer a few years ago is a red-tape bureaucratic nightmare and I am not sure about growth opportunities in terms of pay and title in the next few years. In the meantime, I have a wonderful boss and the management above him is supportive along with a fantastic team that I manage. I’m looking while I’m reasonably content (there are certainly bad days and weeks at my job). Years ago I was in a position where I was totally miserable and had to make a quick exit to a job that wasn’t the right fit. I don’t want to be in that position again in case poo hits the fan and I become miserable – I’m expecting the search to take a year.

          Good luck to everyone!

      4. bamcheeks*

        This is sort of true for me, but it also means that I’m writing genuine applications for 5-6 jobs that I really understand and know I could do well. I found it much harder earlier on when I didn’t really have an idea of what any of these jobs were and I was just flinging random applications out into the ether and hoping something stuck somewhere.

      5. sofar*

        Yes! It’s much harder finding “mid-senior” level jobs than it was to find more entry-level jobs. Closer to entry level, there’s the assumption that you’ll learn “on the job.” Higher than that, companies are trying to replace someone who “grew into” a 50-hat job over 7 years at the company. And are trying to find the unicorn who has direct experience with all those things, rather than hire two people.

        I see these lines of thinking at my current company, too, where we spend MONTHS trying to find a unicorn who checks all the boxes and who, in theory, “shouldn’t need much onboarding” because our ELT is so anxious about “the transition.” And then, we have the team left hanging, reporting into an interim someone who ignores them, when we could have hired, trained and gotten in the groove with someone who checked, like, half our boxes and has a willingness to learn.

        1. Original Poster*

          That’s all I’m hoping for. I have a lot of experience in my specific area built over time but it was my willingness to learn that got me there. I’m just hoping there’s some reasonable people on the other end of the internet drop box.

      6. Filosofickle*

        Which makes it even weirder that there’s so much emphasis (in my world) on moving up. Where are we all supposed to go?! Mathematically that doesn’t work. In my first career I was a graphic designer and it was rare to see anyone over 40 — a few grow up to become art / creative directors or principles, and everyone else just vanished. I guess they found self-employment, or quit the business.

    2. Happy meal with extra happy*

      When I decided to start job searching, I was also in a fortunate position where I could be reasonably picky and focus on a somewhat specific role/industry, even though there were many more jobs I was qualified for (I’m an attorney). Overall, I applied to about a couple dozen jobs over about two and a half years (majority of the time was post-March 2020, so that slowed down things), but I was able to land my dream job.

    3. TheBunny*

      I rarely if ever send cover letters. I don’t actually (and this is me personally and in my industry) find that they improve my response rates to openings.

      I get online and apply to things that interest me. I do put the work into changing phrasing in my resume to make sure it matches the ad, but I find the results of that are better than the letter.

      Again this is my lived experience but it’s meant I don’t really do cover letters.

      1. JustaTech*

        I think it’s one of those things that’s not just industry specific but organization specific. Like, in my general field there’s a major employer that doesn’t have anywhere for you to attach a cover letter (and no one I know who works there applied with one), but then there’s another major employer that wants not just a cover letter and resume but, if you make it through the phone screen, wants a diversity statement (short).
        Then there’s another employer that has a system where you upload one cover letter at a time, so if you’re applying for more than one position, you have to make the letter work for both (which is also weird).

  4. mango chiffon*

    A thank you note is not necessarily required, and even if you do write one, you can just make a template with one or two specifics from the interview. It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. It really sounds like LW is agonizing over details the interviewers are not even going to pay that much attention to.

    1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

      See, this is where I disagree- a thank you/follow up letter should be the thing you actually make sure to do and to spend the most time on. By the this point, you should have the most info to create a letter by scratch- you’ve seen what the job description is; talked to people about the job; and should have a good understanding of how your specific skills fit with what they’re looking for. This is the time to synthesize all that and show them that you’re the right person by showing you know what they need and how you can do that. Everything else before then you can use templates for, cutting and pasting basic info from the job description and company/industry as needed.

      1. EMP*

        I think it depends on who it’s going to. I just finished up a job search and in almost every case, all of my contact was through a recruiter. I would send a basically form thank you asking them to pass my thanks on to the team but since I wasn’t able to contact interviewers directly it seemed silly to put a ton of effort into them. I’m 99% sure no one was forwarding thank you notes to the interview team.

      2. I should really pick a name*

        This is the time to synthesize all that and show them that you’re the right person by showing you know what they need and how you can do that

        Shouldn’t that happen in the interview process, not the follow-up letter?

        1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

          I’ve taken the follow up to be more a summary of the conversation and each other’s goals/needs. Also a chance to clarify anything that might have been confused. Interviews, in my opinion, can go all over the place- it’s not always a linear conversation, especially if you talk with multiple people. This is a nice way to go, “From the conversation we had, here’s what I think you’re looking for and how I fit in.”

        2. Carmen*

          Yes. I’ve never sent a thank you note and got every job I’ve ever applied to, except one. It’s definitely the interview.

      3. EngGirl*

        That’s really going to depend on the hiring manager though. I think about 5% of people I interviewed ever sent a thank you note and it didn’t phase me at all when someone didn’t. I fact in a couple of instances it hurt them because the note made it seem like we’d had two different interviews, and that they’d misunderstood the company/job.

        1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

          But, as a hiring manager, isn’t that a good thing? You now know the candidate didn’t understand the job and/or had different expectations, so you weeded that person out before offering them the job and having it backfire.

        2. Orv*

          I’ve also gotten some thank-you letters that were overly familiar to the point where it felt creepy.

      4. The Other Virginia*

        And that is great for you, a Resident of Catholicville, U.S.A. But what about people from more diverse backgrounds or different socio-economic circumstances who may have never even heard of writing a post-interview thank you notes but may otherwise be strongly qualified and experienced? If you’ve written a good cover letter and resume and interviewd strongly, then you should have already “shown them that you’re the right person by showing you know what they need and how you can do that”. If an employer truly needs to know that you understand what the job entails then ask every candidate to send you a written summary and reiterate their enthusiasm after the interview. BTW, I don’t think that’s a great idea either but at least you are clearly communicating your expectations to ALL candidates and not gatekeeping based on some possibly outdated or culturally irrelevant task.

        1. Boss Scaggs*

          What if those same people have also never heard of cover letters or resumes? How is it determined what’s outdated/culturally irrelevant and what isn’t?

          1. Dogwoodblossom*

            If you want a cover letter/resume the job listing should say so, and usually does. If an applicant has never heard of a resume, they can find out what that is and then put one together. Hopefully they find Ask A Manager while doing that research.

            Sending a thankyou note after an interview isn’t “common knowledge” and as shown by all the people saying “Don’t worry about a thank you note, it’s a waste of time” it’s not a super common practice either. Ergo, if you want one, say so.

              1. Lenora Rose*

                My experience is the reverse. I literally wasn’t told I might be wise to send a thank you note after the interview until I was almost 40 – and I’m a white middle class person whose parents went to university and into professional careers (one white collar, one medical). Meanwhile, one of my earliest jobs not only asked a cover letter, (a concept I was familiar with, though until then, I was mostly applying to roles where they didn’t matter), they asked it be handwritten, not typed.

        2. amoeba*

          I mean, they didn’t advise hiring managers to reject candidates who didn’t write good thank you notes though. In which case, I agree, you should absolutely not! (You’ll probably never hire a European, because for us those are just not a thing, and I didn’t know they existed before I learned about them on AAM…)
          They gave advice to job seekers, and there a personalised thank you note is something that can help you, so probably a good thing to do.

      5. Apples and oranges*

        I typically already know following an interview if I’m likely to hire that person or not. A thank you note does next to nothing.

        The only exceptions would be if it adds something substantial to the candidacy that didn’t come up in the interview (e.g. candidate has a relevant skillset we didn’t know about or something) and then it might maybe help as a deciding factor between two equally good candidates.

      6. Beth*

        I think this is true for some situations. If you’re applying for a role that requires strong people/communication skills, then it’s definitely true–an engaged, personalized thank you note is a chance to materially show that you have that hard-to-quantify skill. It’s also true if you have a genuine follow-up from the interview–if you want to clarify to an answer, add info that slipped your mind in the moment, or ask a question that occurred to you after you got off the call, a thank you note is a great place for that.

        If you’re applying to a role that doesn’t require much people skills and covered everything you wanted in the interview, on the other hand, then a template is fine. (It may even be fine to not send one at all–though I think it’s better to take the 10 seconds to send a copy/paste note than to risk this being the hiring manager’s pet peeve.)

      7. Higgs Bison*

        If I’m spending the most time on the thank you letter they’re not getting it for more than a week. For me it’s a basic one or none at all (usually the second as by the time I get around to writing it I tend to either have a rejection or offer/request for references).

        1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

          I personalize the follow up the most of anything I send, but I maybe only spend 30 to 45 minutes on it. I take notes during the interview, so those and the job description should inform most of what I write, plus my own skills. I’m not advocating spending lots of time on the follow up, just personalizing it more than anything else.

      8. JustaTech*

        Just please send it by email.
        I once got a thank you note from a candidate that arrived after we’d hired her.
        It was a very nice card and I kept it for a long time, but it was still a bit odd to have it arrive so late.

    2. ferrina*

      I agree with this. Have a generic template. Maybe write one unique sentence, but don’t agonize over it.
      I’ve heard of people who make decisions based on whether or not a Thank You note was sent; I’ve never heard of anyone favoring a candidate because of the contents of the Thank You note.

      1. Jessica*

        I think you’ve got it exactly backward, though in fairness so do lots of other people. The thank-you note (which is something of a misnomer, maybe followup note would be better) is supposed to be working for you. It shouldn’t just be an “are you aware of this cultural tradition and conscientious enough to follow it” checkbox.

        If you’re sending generic ones, okay, you’re checking the box for whoever is misguided enough to see it that way, but you’re also missing opportunities.

  5. Orv*

    I keep a standard resume and tweak it slightly for each job’s requirements. I write a fresh cover letter for each one but that doesn’t take that long. But then again, I haven’t had an interview in a long time so maybe I’m slacking off too much and OP has a point.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Oh, I have a template resume that I adapt and frankly, I’ve started doing that for cover letters too. Don’t bother to research what the company does as much until you get the interview.

      I have been job hunting as a full time job the last few months and I’d spend several hours looking for listings, then filling out the applications. That was probably around 2-2.5 days of my work week, the other half being interviews.

      1. ferrina*

        I use a version of this for my cover letter. I have a standard intro and conclusion paragraph, then 6-8 different versions of body paragraphs that each cover a different anecdote or soft skill. For each cover letter I pick the 2-3 paragraphs most relevant for the job posting. That way I get a customized letter and only need to spend 20-30 minutes for tweaking the flow between paragraphs. It worked really well for my last job search.

      2. The Prettiest Curse*

        Just replying to say that I’m glad you’re still around and also to wish you the best of luck in your job hunt.

    2. Lea*

      I had to apply for a job recently and had to massively update my resume to fit the job I was applying for because they literally look to make sure everything is on the resume itself, so depending on the job it might be necessary.

      But a cover letter? Eh just a breezy ‘would love this job’ish couple sentences is all I wrote

  6. Sloanicota*

    I have certainly felt like this, OP, but I’ve also come to realize that the voice of my most cynical and negative thoughts isn’t actually some Unvarnished Truth that everyone else is just shying away from admitting; instead it’s more likely to be the voice of burnout and depression. Maybe you can take a break or give yourself permission to apply to one job a week if that feels better to you right now. If not, there’s two modes of job searching; the Cast Bait Widely version, where you’re getting 5-10 applications in every week, but you’re not being super discriminating and not spending a ton of customization on each one, or the boutique version, which is a lot more networking and research and you might only send 1 or 2 very customized applications in a month. The second, IMO, requires the luxury of time unless you have a huge network. It sounds like you’re trying to use the advice of strategy #2 on a wide job search, which is in fact just a recipe for burnout and exhaustion?

    1. anonma*

      “I’ve also come to realize that the voice of my most cynical and negative thoughts isn’t actually some Unvarnished Truth that everyone else is just shying away from admitting; instead it’s more likely to be the voice of burnout and depression.”

      I’m not OP, but I needed this reminder today.

      OP, your letter reminds me of my internal monologue when I was job hunting while unemployed a decade ago. And the emotions you’re feeling are valid–job hunting is stressful, and can be dehumanizing, you get told no a lot, you have limited insight into individual employers’ decision processes, and you can’t know when you’ll land a new job (this uncertainty was always the hardest part for me).

      Spending several hours on each application before you even get an interview is probably not the optimal response, and I say this as someone who spends at least an hour on each cover letter, because in my field the cover letter really matters. Job hunting is a marathon. If you exhaust yourself over every application, you will burn out.

    2. Original Poster*

      I am in the burnt out lane. I’m on the tail end of a master’s program and I’m just trying to muster what’s left to make a move. The challenge is that I’m moving into something half-new and I’m not seeing a lot of room for pretty good but not perfect. I also have not been getting enough good advice like I’m getting today so thank you.

      1. ThatOtherClare*

        This might not apply to you, but don’t be afraid of the old false-start career. I spent two years after university working an unpleasant but well paying job in an industry I loathed, then jumped very easily ‘backwards’ into a graduate job in my preferred industry and career path. The first job was barely related, but it kept the bills paid for two years and meant that when I applied for the graduate jobs in my preferred industry I was seen as ‘desirable’ and ‘experienced’. When asked why I’d been working in my false-start role I answered honestly: “Everyone wants to do this job, so there weren’t many positions”. The interviewers nodded sagely in agreement, impressed by my initiative and secretly flattered that I liked their field better. For the price of two years off my career I had my choice of all the available graduate roles. In fact, I was promoted before my contract even ended due to my ‘maturity’ (haha), so in the end I’ve really lost out on less than the full two years.

  7. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

    This kind of breaks my heart because I know OP’s misconceptions about what a cover letter should include are really, really common.
    We get bad advice from Boomer parents who kept the same lousy job for 40 years and let it degrade their mental health. We saw TV examples of how interviews work, written by people who never went through a typical job interview, designed to shock and entertain. We saw political and business leaders get handed jobs they had no qualifications for and get bailed out when they nosedived. And then we sat down with the manager of Cracker Barrel or Target and were asked how passionate we are about customer service.
    Of course most of us have the wrong idea about job interviews.
    I used to think I had to apply for every job available, I had to accept the first job offer I got, and then I had to… somehow… become the CEO, even though I didn’t want that.
    OP, spend more time on this website, and don’t be afraid to challenge your existing ideas about the work world. Good luck.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I also bet this is an area where TikTok and the like is offering weird hacks and tricks – OP if that’s where you’re getting your sense of a job search, I’d back way off that. Things only go viral if they’re weird or different than the norm, and that’s not the approach you need in something like a job search.

      1. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

        Not only are there bad TT “hacks,” but because TikTok is all about layers of reference, now there are tons of channels all about how stupid the concept of a job interview is, and the evidence is entirely criticism of the “hacks.”

      2. ABC*

        I was thinking the same thing. This has “social media-fueled catastrophizing” written all over it.

      3. It's Marie - Not Maria*

        Tik Tok is a minefield of bad to horrible job hunting advice, with a very few useful pieces of information sprinkled sparingly. Most of the stuff you see on Tik Tok is not the norm; it’s designed to get followers and more interactions.

    2. Amy*

      This just doesn’t read like Boomer advice to me. This feels like modern Linked Lunatics stuff.

    3. Original Poster*

      Some of it is the auto-feedback from free online resume builder services and more from all the Google how-to-write resume articles but the rest is pressure from the actual job postings where they ask for it directly. I understand finding ways to make yourself stand out but it definitely sets expectations so high that it feels doomed to fail. Honestly it feels like how dating apps get more in the way of personal connection as opposed to facilitating it.

      1. Beth*

        Most of the job advice out there is from people who want to sell you something–career coaches looking to convince you to hire them, career-hunting sites like LinkedIn or Indeed or Glassdoor trying to prove they have value so they can maintain a user base, blogs and resume builder sites convincing you to click so they can show you ads, etc. Some of it is genuinely good advice, but a lot is either too broad to be helpful or just plain wrong!

        The best advice I’ve gotten for job hunting has come from friends:

        1) Work friends/trusted colleagues who are at my level or one step ahead of me in their career – they’ve done the search I’m currently doing recently, they know my field, they know what worked for them and what really didn’t work, they know whether the pain points I’m experiencing are actually a me problem or if the industry is just like this right now.

        2) Work friends/trusted colleagues who are far enough ahead of me to be hiring people at my level – as hiring managers in my field, they know what the hiring pool looks like, they know what stands out, if I’m lucky they have a friend or two who’s actually hiring and can point me their way.

        3) Any friends who are currently actively job hunting. They might not be in my field, so they may not know my industry’s norms…but they can commiserate over how much job hunting sucks, they probably have some tips for staying sane through the process, and they may be down to trade resume/cover letter proofreadings.

      2. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

        hey, OP! Original Poster! Thank you for your reply.
        You said you feel like the job ads themselves are sometimes asking for too much, and that kind of surprises me because it doesn’t match what I see in my field. We often have to give presentations or mock lessons during a second interview, but it sounds like the company is asking you, in the ad, to talk about your vision for changing the company? That seems like such a red flag.

      3. Margaret Scratcher*

        OP, any chance that you’re a woman? I don’t remember the exact statistic, but it’s something like, men will typically apply for a job if they meet maybe 60% of the qualifications, whereas most women won’t apply unless they meet close to 100%. Which is why women are more likely to be underemployed and/or overqualified for their jobs.

        No reasonable employer is going to expect that you can do 100% of the job description on your first day, especially if their list of qualifications is 50 items long. They list everything their dream candidate would have and hope to get maybe 70-80% of it, with a candidate who has the potential to be trained up on the other 20-30%.

        If you’re looking at job descriptions and feeling like your resume/cover letter needs to show you can do every single piece of it, that may be why you’re feeling overwhelmed and like you’re set up to fail.

    4. Carmen*

      Don’t blame Boomers. Catastrophizing is not a boomer era thing. This OP needs to take a deep breath and listen to Alison’s advice. Job hunting is stressful but OP is amplifying by ten.

      Also there’s nothing wrong with staying at a job long term if it pays a decent salary, has good benefits and is liked or at least tolerable.

      There’s a lot of judgment in your post. I hope you have a better day.

      1. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

        I mentioned the generation once, from personal experience. My parents are Baby Boomers and gave me outdated and unrealistic job hunting advice. Plus, I’m having an awesome day and your weird suggestion that I’m not is, uh… characteristic of a certain group of people known for weaponizing cheerfulness.

    5. Tea Monk*

      Or we had to job hunt during the Great Recession. a generation experienced that way before Tiktok was invented

      1. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

        nah, terrible job advice was rampant in the 90s too. My dad’s boss told me in 1995 that I should offer to work for less than minimum wage for my first job.

  8. MangoFreak*

    Yeah, don’t change your resume at all generally. If you’re applying to jobs in very different fields, maybe you have two or three versions saved, but the resume should be updated and ready to go at this point.

    Once you have one or two good cover letters written, you should be changing the company name and maybe a sentence or two for each job. The custom letter advice that made sense a few years ago just does not anymore. STOP pouring this much effort into an application process that’s totally without transparency.

    Oh man that time I had a great interview at a respected non-profit, didn’t get a second round, got the feedback that it was just a large applicant pool and I did nothing wrong…only to learn later from a friend in the biz that the person leaving that role had hand-picked her successor, and I’d never remotely had a chance. The whole hiring process had been for show. You’ll never again catch me putting in time or stress before an interview process.

    1. ThatGirl*

      I write like one fresh paragraph for each cover letter – a quick overview of why the company and the role interests me. The rest of it is basically the same. And I’m a writer, so I can crank it out pretty quickly.

      My resume, I might shuffle some bullets around, change a few minor words or points, but yeah, there is NO need to start anew with every application.

      1. Mango Freak*

        Yeah I usually change a sentence in the first paragraph and a sentence in the last paragraph. But when I’m applying to multiple jobs in a row, they tend to interest me for overlapping reasons. I doubt LW is applying to 30-40 WILDLY UNRELATED jobs that each appeal to a completely different aspect of their personality, experience, and skillset.

      2. Orv*

        Yup. The cover letter is also a good place to explain any discrepancies between my resume and what they want; e.g. “your posting says you want experience with Company X’s management software; while my experience is with Company Y’s software, they work essentially the same.”

    2. kalli*

      I hate to tell you this but changing the company name and a couple of sentences is a custom cover letter.

  9. L-squared*

    I just went through the job search process toward the end of last year. You are making this sound far more difficult than it is.

    Yes, you do often have to do a lot of applications before getting an interview. I will say though, I got plenty of interviews with a single resume, and never had to tweak it. I did change up my cover letter a bit, but since i was looking at all the same sector and types of jobs, it wasn’t changing much.

    And then for the interview, you just kind of do general interview prep. There is very little that you need to change from one interview to another. You can’t be ready for every question, so not sense in preparing for “thousands” as you call it.

    The only way I could see it being this much is if you are very unfocused on the types of jobs you are applying for. At that point, maybe you should narrow your search

    1. MirandaTempest*

      This is very field-dependent, and to me this sounds dismissive. That’s based on ny experience, and the experiences I see coworkers and friends having with job applications. Certain fields are incredibly tough right now. In certain parts of tech, advertising, and media I see news stories about new layoffs weekly. Often new jobs want you to move to expensive cities but won’t pay you enough to live there, even if remote work is possible. Many jobs do seem to want an applicant who has 100% of the requirements, even things that could be easily learned, because with so many applicants, why not? It’s great that it’s easy for you, but it just isn’t for everyone. I feel compassion for the OP. I’m sure they’re stressed, fearful, and frustrated, and I understand why.

      1. L-squared*

        Of course its field dependent. However, I also basically agreed with Alison that OP doesn’t need to do all that she is mentioning. Yes, I don’t doubt that to be a VP of finance is going to be a different process than an entry level marketing person. But chances are, either of those people aren’t having to do this litany of things OP is mentioning.

        Work smarter, not harder.

      2. thanks i'd rather have plants*

        I’m in a field well-known to be highly competitive, with difficult application processes (humanities/social science higher education) and the OP’s description of the job application process still sounds like too much to me.

        Applying for jobs in my field requires a lot more work than some fields here –– I write 2-page cover letters for every job; and I have a portfolio, which I mix-and-match materials from depending on what the job requires.

        But I’d reassure OP that what they’re envisioning STILL doesn’t align with the work that I do. I don’t have to create a vision for the university, only connect how my work fits in with the work the department is already doing; I have templates for my cover letters and build off those; there are maybe a dozen possible questions in a first-round interview to prepare for, not thousands.

    2. Original Poster*

      Based on the comments it certainly sounds like I’m over-thinking it. Thank god. But I have been applying without even a single response so I’m also desperately pawing at anything that might get my resume passed the unflinching eye of AI and maybe a second round of human intervention.

      I can’t say with any level of precision but for just the single job title I’m searching on, the tech stack varies so widely and with such deep domain expertise (I’m also not entry level) that unless they’re willing to hire me on pizzaz alone, I can’t not know a fairly extensive length of details about any topic. Certainly I’ll only be asked 5 of the 1,000’s but I’ll never know which ones.

      1. Le le lemon*

        If it helps, OP, it’s also unlikely your fellow interviewees will know the answer to 1000 questions either.
        Job searching is rough, both to the soul and how much it can demoralise you. Ride that wave on a surfboard; don’t drown in the water.
        You seem detailed, a deep thinker, and very self aware – awesome qualities! Just don’t get too bogged down. Stay bouyant!

  10. DivergentStitches*

    I feel like the OP is using hyperbole, but it DOES feel like what she wrote is what’s expected these days.

    I have a disability, so that makes it extra hard, and I applied for a position with a company that works with people with disabilities. Their website specifically states “Frequently cited statistics show that people from underrepresented groups apply to jobs only if they meet 100% of the qualifications. TAC encourages you to break that statistic and apply. No one ever meets 100% of the qualifications. We look forward to your application.”

    They’ve ghosted me. Haven’t even acknowledged my application. My cover letter talked about my disability and how I’ve used it in my career to improve and volunteered with others with disabilities etc.

    Other employers who say they specifically help people with my disability find jobs, want me to uproot my entire life to move somewhere for a job because working remotely isn’t available.

    So it feels defeating, to say the least.

    1. L-squared*

      I don’t mean this to be insulting, but just because they work with disabilities and you have one, doesn’t mean you were a good candidate. They may want more applicants, but that doesn’t mean every one of those will be viable for them. I’m black. Doesn’t mean I’m qualified for any organization focused on working with black people.

      It doesn’t even sound like they ghosted you, just that they didn’t offer you an interview. You may just have unrealistic expectations.

      1. DivergentStitches*

        No insult taken :) I went on a bit of a tangent because that particular one has been bugging me. My point was that employers make a point to put things like that on their Careers page, then you purposely apply thinking that they’re going to actually pay attention, and they don’t.

        “Ghosting” to me is not responding at all to an application, even to say “thanks but no thanks.” Not being interviewed is a choice they make, based on the applicants they receive, etc. But IMO if they specifically encourage specific applicants to apply, they should at the very very minimal least be saying “thank you but we chose someone else.”

        1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          I’ve NEVER had a “thanks but no thanks” if I didn’t make it at least to a phone screen, and often not if I had the phone screen and didn’t make the next round. I think you have unrealistic expectations based on the encouraging wording of the ad.

          1. amoeba*

            I find that so, so weird and extremely insulting, honestly. I mean, we’re in the times of online ATS everywhere, so there’s literally *zero* effort required to send out a form e-mail to all applicants once the position is filled/closed in the system. It’s so, so easy to automate that not doing it just seems like… I don’t know, some kind of horribly power move? Like, in the 90s, where you’d actually have to send people a letter/give them a call, it would be somehow understandable to forget, but in these times, there’s no need to think of anything! Just trigger the automatic e-mail, ffs!

            Sorry for the rant, I’m just honestly horrified whenever I read that that’s still a common thing. Luckily, in my field it’s not (although you can definitely wait for 3 months for the auto-rejection), but I believe there’s exactly one company I know that doesn’t do that, and it’s definitely considered very uncommon. (Coincidentally, it’s also the one where the HR is in the US, even for positions in Europe… hm.)

        2. Seashell*

          I think it might have been better in the 90’s when we just called it “not hearing back.” Ghosting sounds deliberately mean, which I don’t think it necessarily is. They just don’t want an extra chore, and they’re going to assume that people who don’t hear further from them will intuit that they didn’t get the job.

        3. L-squared*

          I think if you expect a “thanks but no thanks” email from every application, you definitely need to recalibrate your expectations. That doesn’t really happen in my experience. Not that it never does, but I’d say less than 10% of companies will do that if they don’t even do a phone screen with you.

          I think you are looking at the fact that they want a bigger and more diverse pool to assume that they are going to get back to everyone. That is just very much not what most companies do these days. The best you can hope for usually is a company that uses a talent management system that has something to automate it if they decide not to move forward with you. But those often have their own issues, and I don’t know if its worth the trade off.

    2. korangeen*

      Agreed, the OP’s letter seems to me hyperbolic but generally accurate, so I’m kinda confused why Alison and many commenters are treating it as outlandish. I assumed “develop ample portfolio projects that demonstrate my skill for that particular role” meant figuring out which work samples best match that role, not creating new projects from scratch. And of course “prepare for the thousands of possible unique questions” doesn’t literally mean thousands, and “research a company and it’s entire legacy” doesn’t literally mean every detail of its history. But it’s still a lot of work, and often you really are expected to research a company fairly in-depth to explain your take on the position! I’m often spending hours every time I prepare for an interview, and sometimes even on the application itself. At my last interview, they were asking me what I thought about their news coverage, how I would go about relaunching their podcast, what strategies I would want to implement for their multimedia coverage, etc., none of which I was prepared to answer, despite spending a long time preparing for the interview. They hadn’t even given me any info yet about the job beyond the initial job posting!

      And yeah, I often see an “apply even if you don’t meet 100% of the qualifications” type of disclaimer on job postings, but I have yet to encounter a hiring manager being seriously interested in me when I didn’t meet 100% of the qualifications, ha.

      Currently I’m up to job application #179 over the course of 4.5 years of looking. I’ve done 52 interviews across 35 different positions, but so far haven’t gotten a full-time job offer. I know I’m an outlier with those stats, and I’m sure my neurodivergence hasn’t been helping things, but it’s kinda frustrating seeing people express that getting a job really isn’t that difficult.

      1. StressedButOkay*

        I don’t think people are expressing that a job isn’t difficult to get – the market is really intense depending on your field and in the age of online applications, it’s hard to feel like it’s working. What they’re saying is that all this extra work that OP feels like they have to do – tweak the resume for every job, research the company to the ground, come up with ideas and prepare for Very Specific job questions instead of mostly run of the mill with the occasional specific one – isn’t something most people do.

        It’s like preparing to go for some mountain climbing but feeling you have to train for Everest.

        1. Kyrielle*

          And – and I think this is key – in most cases all that extra work *won’t help you*. It’s partially a question of who else is applying and what their background is and what yours is, and you can’t control the former. That turns it in to a partial numbers game. You need to put in *some* effort even in a numbers game, but if you go to epic lengths for each application, you are wasting a lot of effort. You need ‘enough’ effort – it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

          Now, if you are applying to a job that has you really excited and you deeply hope THIS is the one, yes, feel free to put a little more effort in. (A cover letter explaining that you are excited and why is a good idea *in that case*, as long as it’s not “because they pay amazingly” or the like.)

          If you apply, make a couple notes about the company in a file so that if they call you for an interview, you can do more research. (“X does Y and Z, the job ad was blah-blah-blah, and their website is Q” along with anything you’ve been told about them already is *plenty* until and unless you get called for an interview. Then you can research a little more so you know who they are when you walk/connect into the interview. And yeah, not to the “its entire legacy” level but I assume that was hyperbole.)

      2. Chirpy*

        Yeah, I’ve never figured out how to research the company and their mission “well”, because a lot of them have websites full of super bland corporatespeak that sometimes barely even tell you what they do.

      3. Kris*

        I came here to say this! I was reading the comments like “wow, am I the only person who feels LW’s pain?” I definitely felt like LW was exaggerrating to make a point, and to communicate their frustration more plainly. Like when LW mentioned anticipating and preparing for every single possible one of thousands of possible interview questions, I don’t think they meant that literally! Just that it can be frustrating trying to prepare for possible questions, and that’s only part of the process. It IS a lot of work and in a tough market it can feel like “ugh, am I doing all this just for another no-response rejection?” Alison’s breakdown was helpful though!

        1. Nah*

          Adding my 2 cents to the being absolutely baffled by the majority of responses here. lots of dismissive “getting a job isn’t that difficult, just go out there and get one!”-type energy from these comments. disappointing :\

          1. Grith*

            It can be difficult, I don’t think many people are denying that.

            It’s not *as* difficult as the OP is framing it, because they’re doing far more for every application than they need to.

      4. Lacey*

        Well, it might depends on the type of work, but… I have a general portfolio I keep up-to-date and I just put the web address on my resume.
        Maintaining it can be a bit of a pain, but I’m not curating it to each and every job.

        Some people feel they do types of work that are different enough (or extensive enough!) that they have different portfolios for different types, so you might link to only one of those for a specific job, but there shouldn’t be a bunch of curating that needs to happen.

      5. Snoozing not schmoozing*

        Well, we’re frequently told to take the LWs at their word. If they’re using a lot of hyperbole, perhaps they need to include a disclaimer.

        1. Salsa Verde*

          Completely agree – we are always told to take LWs at their word. I do understand that this included hyperbole, and as someone who uses this kind of hyperbole, I also recognized that the LW is getting themselves really spun up about this, to the point that it’s not helping them at all. I know because this is what I do to myself!! I don’t see any of the commenters or Alison saying a job is easy to get, I see them saying that the LW doesn’t need to make it this hard on themselves. Like, the LW ends by saying they are exhausted by the outpouring of emotion and vision, and the response is, don’t do that, you shouldn’t be pouring so much emotion into a job search, because that is detrimental to you, and won’t really help you get a job. That is the advice about distancing yourself emotionally, and then Alison supplemented it by trying to recalibrate expectations.

      6. chraberry*

        I can 100% relate, I was very surprised that the majority of responses felt dismissive. When I read this it was less “what am I doing wrong in the job search?” and more of “I need to vent to people about how exhausting this process is.” Which it is and I don’t understand why people are expecting the job hunt to be easy for everyone? I don’t mean to say that is the intention, but it’s reading with a sub-tone of ableism when everyone is saying that it actually isn’t hard when they forget to filter out the use of hyperbole. Even just applying for one job recently had my ADHD and anxiety at peak operation levels, not even mentioning the job hunt when I was fresh out of grad school.

        I know this likely isn’t the place, but it would’ve been nice to give the practical advice that was given paired with how to distance yourself emotionally from the job hunt. That really seems to be what OP was asking.

        1. Chirpy*

          This, exactly. The LW’s post reads exactly like what is going on in my mind, with no exaggeration. This is really what it feels like because I have massive job anxiety (possibly ADHD?) and absolutely no one gets why job hunting is so hard for me.

          LW, I don’t have any great advice, but you aren’t alone.

  11. TCO*

    I wonder what field OP is in that expects them to “profess my love for the people I met and joy of future experience and passion and about a thousand other feelings.” That sounds… more emotional than many workplaces. Heck, I work in nonprofits where we do genuinely look for some shared commitment to the mission and this level of love and passion in an interview thank-you note would still be over the top.

    If this is a field where that level of emotion is truly expected, maybe it’s not the right field for OP and they might want to look into adjacent fields that they find less exhausting?

    1. A Significant Tree*

      I can relate to the impression that some companies give (FAANG, for example) in their postings and interview prep material that you must be super passionate about their (totally for profit) mission, memorize their corporate values and mission statement (and expect to be quizzed), know where they’ve been and where they are going… I was literally asked during an interview if Mark Z walked in the door with $5M to hand to me to do “anything” what would it be?

      And it is exhausting! Particularly since smaller companies are taking the wrong lessons from this sort of interview process and expecting it for their own interviews. You definitely get the sense you won’t be a ‘culture fit’ if you can’t perform intense passion for the tech or product or environment.

      1. Too Many Tabs Open*

        It would be so hard for me not to respond to that question with “Retire”.

    2. Chirpy*

      A lot of retail weirdly expects that. You should hear our daily messages from corporate at my job, WE’RE SUPER ENTHUSIASTIC, NEIGHBORS!

      I remind you I have worked at this company for 10 years and still don’t make a living wage, but sure, I just need to “take more pride in my work instead of a raise, money isn’t everything” – actual quote from the district manager….

    3. Kris*

      I actually think the LW might have meant that as a jokey exaggeration… Projecting enthusiasm during a work search can feel a little exhausting, and it can also feel a bit insincere, since really, unless you are quite fortunate to be interviewing for a really good role that you’re genuinely psyched for, you’re probably having to pretend the same enthusiasm for every company/ role you interview for. In my long career I’ve def had job search moments where that felt a little forced! Like “It’s great to be back here in *checks notes* …SPRINGFIELD!” type vibes.

    4. Lacey*

      Oh I do find a number of companies want to hear you say how much you love them, their product, their customers, etc.

      Though, most of the jobs I’ve gotten – and all of the ones that have been good – didn’t expect that.

  12. The Analyst*

    In my most recent search, I found that my accomplishment bullets were fine for most jobs I was applying for. I mostly tweaked the profile section, which I found to be beneficial for the tech jobs I was applying to – moving key tech to the top with years experience in each and a bit about how the job’s particular industry related to industries I’d worked around in the past got the interviewers calling. I did almost no company research until the company called me to interview – why waste time – and did a quick scan of the JD for key technologies and duties to ensure I was a good fit before adding it to the list to apply. My cover letter has been pared down to 3-4 sentences for tech jobs; it matters a lot less than the stack and accomplishments, I find. You should be able to apply to ~5-10 jobs/hour.

  13. Stuart Foote*

    Am I only person who has never tailored their resume for a job or bothered with cover letters? I just seems like more work than it is worth, especially since as far as I can tell both HR managers and hiring managers just glance at the last job and number of years in the industry before deciding whether to interview or not. It just seems like the possible marginal gain in interviews isn’t worth the significant extra time involved.

    1. Sloanicota*

      My sense is that in some highly in-demand fields, you may just post a general resume to a job site and get lots of interest, so the idea of customizing or even having cover letters doesn’t make a lot of sense, while in other fields, or especially if you’re doing a very wide job search, they may be expecting more specificity about why you’re particularly excited about this role/company. Which hey, from their perspective, makes sense. As a job seeker, I want a job, but if you use a dating parallel, I wouldn’t want a second date with someone who’s like “I just want a girlfriend generally. I didn’t really read your profile that carefully but I’m probably the kind of person you’re looking for, and I just really need a girlfriend right now.”

    2. Keyboard Cowboy*

      It seems like cover letters are super field-specific. I have NEVER written one – I’m a software developer.

      1. Orv*

        It seems to vary a lot. We’ve heard from hiring managers who say they won’t accept applications without one. When I’ve been on hiring committees I’ve set the cover letters aside and not even read them until the second round, because I figured they were more likely to have prejudicial information in them.

      2. Sudsy Malone*

        It absolutely is field-specific. It makes total sense that many industries or roles (like yours) don’t require them. And on the flipside, I have to roll my eyes when I see comments that cover letters are ALWAYS pointless and would NEVER be useful. My job role is writing-focused! I guarantee my cover letter mattered as much as my resume in getting my current job, because it was essentially a work sample. The cover letter is certainly overused — and there are also jobs where being able to write a strong one does really make a difference.

    3. Salsa Your Face*

      In my last job search I occasionally customized my resume or wrote a special cover letter if the job seemed really worth it, but I also just blanket applied to a ton of stuff that looked like a good fit for my background. The job I ended up accepting (which I’ve been loving) was one I’d applied to using LinkedIn’s easy apply function.

    4. Le Sigh*

      I suspect, as is often the case, it’s industry dependent. In my industry, you’d at least expect someone to tailor a resume toward the type of job (eg, highlight your marketing and comms experience if that’s the job you’re going for) rather than something that fully details every job you’ve had for 10 yrs no matter how relevant. Cover letters, again, I think are dependent — I work in a writing heavy industry and I read cover letters pretty closely. And if they’re required, not including one at all is a great way to get skipped.

    5. Happy meal with extra happy*

      I really liked the opportunity to have a cover letter for my last round of job searching. I was pivoting to a new-ish role in my field, and it gave me another opportunity to highlight why my current/prior jobs actually gave me great experience for the new role and why my current job was more similar to the new role than it seemed based solely on expectations.

    6. Generic Name*

      My most recent job search, I didn’t change a thing about my resume, and I’d say I submitted a cover letter maybe half the time (depending if I was feeling lazy and just wanted to be done with an application or if I felt like spending more time). I can see that if someone is looking to change fields, or has more of a “generalist” background that could translate to more than 1 or 2 different types of jobs it would make sense to tweak your resume and craft a customized cover letter. For this most recent job search, I’ve been in my field for a long time, and I had a very good idea of what I wanted to do, and my application materials reflected that.

      1. Parakeet*

        Yes, my background covers a few different fields, so I’ve always (including for tech jobs) tweaked my resume and at least changed a few sentences on a template cover letter. And prefer the chance to do it. How else, when not yet even at phone interview stage, is someone supposed to show how any deviation from the normative background is transferable, if not with a cover letter? But the people I know who have worked in the same field for their whole careers tend to be a little more negative about cover letters.

    7. BellyButton*

      I never tailored my resume because the jobs I would apply for would all be about the same. I am not applying for widely different positions or levels, so what I have on my resume shows my years of experience, my continual increasing responsibilities and levels, as well as my accomplishments. I have never need to tailor my resume.

      I have a cover letter that on I only need to modify the job title and company name for.

    8. Ruby Soho*

      I used to have 2 resumes about 10 years ago, because I had a business background and a science background and was open to a job in either. But now, the important points all fit in 1 resume that I could easily tweak if needed. I guess it’s become more refined? And I don’t know if I’ve ever done a cover letter in the 22 years since I finished undergrad. I haven’t even written a thank you note in who knows how long.
      I agree with you that hiring mgrs look at the most recent job title first, then time in the industry. But I’m sure that could vary depending on the field – in my case it’s project mgmt in pharma, so industry experience and education is really important because I need to understand the science.

      1. Le Sigh*

        I think you’re right about industry dependent. In my writing heavy field, I first scan for experience to make sure someone meets the minimum qualifications — education is helpful but as long as they have enough experience, I don’t need a degree. I then read the cover letter to get a sense of their writing style and if they seem to understand the job (I calibrate my expectations based on how senior the job is). I learn a lot from cover letters — this person didn’t clearly read anything in the job description and is selling me on skills not relevant to the job, or maybe they have a less typical job background so they can showcase why they’re a good fit for the job even if it doesn’t seem like it at first glance, or maybe their resume looks straightforward but the cover letter highlights something interesting about their experience. It’s not my only barometer but it’s a very useful one.

    9. fhqwhgads*

      I don’t tailor my resume, but every job I’ve applied for specifically requested a cover letter, so I did them.

  14. Employee of the Bearimy*

    I’m in nonprofit senior management (and also job-searching), and the OP’s description sounds very familiar to me. There’s some dramatic license here, but honestly not a ton in my experience. I was asked in one interview how my approach to serving [at-risk group] in [city the org served] would differ from my approach to serving the same group in a similar-sized city (with similar demographics) 25 miles away. I do use more or less the same resume and a cover letter template that I modify, but I do a lot of research on each organization, and I often wonder if my unwillingness to do more personalization is holding me back.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I’m wondering why you are flummoxed by that question. They probably were asking to see if you were aware that the other city has similar demographics and that you wouldn’t have to change much, if anything. They are interviewing your for service role, not a research role, so I wouldn’t think that researching this extensively beforehand would be required.

      A lot of interview questions are about how aware you are in general and how you can apply that information. They are also trying to figure out if you know when and where you need to do some research on the job (in a case like this).

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Yes, this, though I disagree that they’d be looking for an answer about not much needing to change.

        In a senior nonprofit role, I’d assume they’d want to see an answer that shows how you’re thinking about how the org works within a community – partnering with other organizations, how people use the transportation network to access services, whether the geography of where the client population is spread out versus concentrated, whether the school district would be a helpful partner, whether there are other organizations doing similar work, or whatever.

        I doubt they expect all candidates to immediate jump to “well in City X we’d want to reach out to the community foundation and work with Org Y that also serves this population”, but I wouldn’t think a senior leader would have too much trouble coming up with some ideas of how you’d approach customizing services in a different city.

      2. Employee of the Bearimy*

        Based on the way the question was worded, I’m pretty sure the answer they wanted would have me review my extensive experience serving their community, as opposed to the community I was working in at the time. But I didn’t have that experience, and they knew it – my resume made it clear, plus we had already talked about how one important success indicator for me would be building new relationships in the community. It suggested they weren’t paying attention at all to me and wanted a completely different candidate, which felt to me like they were wasting my time by calling me in (this was a 2nd interview, to boot).

    2. Sloanicota*

      I do think some of the requirement for passion can be A Thing in nonprofits, and they may sometimes assume this carries over into every role in the org such that they start looking for applicants whose passion since childhood is Updating Salesforce or whatever :P

    3. TCO*

      It sounds like that level of “customization” to that organization and role came up in the interview, though. OP is under the impression that they need to spend hours and hours even preparing each application before getting to the interview stage, and that just isn’t true.

    4. AthenaC*

      Yes – I read the OP’s letter and I thought to myself that this sounded about par for the course for manager-level or director-level positions. Which – yes, those are usually well-compensated and highly-coveted positions … but it does seem like you basically have to do your own job onboarding before going into the interview.

      So it’s possible Alison is right, but it would depend on what field / level OP is job-searching for.

      1. Nah*

        Heck, this sounds like the applications the local chain restaurants wanted from us a decade back in high school, and then they still wouldn’t call you back!

  15. Peanut Hamper*

    I am wondering where you came up with this list of expectations. This is not nearly realistic, but it does sound like the bad advice that comes out of college advising offices and also from TikTok and LinkedIn “influencers” who just need to go away.

    Whoever gave you this advice gave you some really bad advice. Take everything they say with about a thousand grains of salt going forward.

    1. MirandaTempest*

      I think some of it may come from this site and other job search sites. Often when you look at the successful cover letters and such there’s a lot of specificity, and sometimes things that directly tie the writer to the company, or show they have extensive knowledge of the company. Most of the successful examples just aren’t easy for a lot of people to write. (Signed, someone who worked in a writing center and helps friends with cover letters and resumes. Often, even the people who write reasonably well just have a hard time with this sort of writing.)

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        I don’t think it’s coming from this website. I’ve been reading it for years and have never gotten this impression.

        I think OP may be reading too much into some of these things, if that’s the case. Alison makes a point of saying “don’t copy this letter; use it as a starting point for your own thinking”. Depending on the job and how self-reflective you have been about the things you like about your current job and the things you hate about your current job, you shouldn’t have to expend as much labor as LW is saying.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          Eh, the thank-you note/follow-up note could have (partially) come from this website. There was a post in 2020, “here’s an example of a great interview thank-you note,” that had a thank-you note was several paragraphs long and included “I would be thrilled to have the chance to come in and meet with you and the team.”

          I can see how someone could read that example and think thank-you notes should contain “curated notes about my experience and profess my love for the people I met and joy of future experience.”

          Of course, context matters a lot and that poster included so much detail about her experience because she fumbled a few questions during the interview. And “I would be thrilled” is a matter of personal voice. If it doesn’t feel natural for this letter-writer (or anyone else) to write that phrase, it’s ok to skip.

      2. A Girl Named Fred*

        Seconding. I’m a little baffled by the folks suggesting TikTok is one source where these myths are coming from – I’m not on it, so maybe it’s true, but I think it’d be far easier to see “Write a cover letter that’s tailored to the job you’re applying for” on a site like AAM and accidentally extrapolate, “All of my cover letters must be personalized and unique, or I will never get a good job.”

        And you’re definitely right about this just being hard for some people. I think I’m a decent writer, but when I have to write a cover letter that’s actively selling myself and my strengths my brain does its best to shut down and not let me. So it can be harder for me than some might think it “should” be.

        1. Anonym*

          I think there’s some garbling in the discourse where “stuff that might get you marginal improvements” becomes “stuff you must absolutely always do if you want any hope of employment”.

          Just a theory, but I think click metrics and job hunting anxiety could both drive that message transformation.

        2. Motherofapickle*

          I agree. As someone with no set “career”, I absolutely have to rewrite a good chunk of every cover letter because Circ Manager of a library is different from Data Entry Clerk is different from Admin.

          I am reading a lot of the responses as from people who have fairly set roles in a specific(ish) industry and therefore do not have put forth as much effort to apply for a job.

          When I am in the market, I have to change my resume and cover letter every. single. application. And I refuse to use TikTok. All of my job searching advice in the past two years has come from this site.

  16. Nay*

    I thought they were going to point out how you upload a resume and then are expected to enter your education and work history into a bunch of separate boxes, but they didn’t even mention that!

  17. tiny*

    I guess probably it’s not the best idea to use hyperbole when asking for a specific answer, but I agree with the folks saying that once you filter out the poetic license, this doesn’t sound too far off my experience.

    1. A Girl Named Fred*

      Agreed. How many times have we seen a “job searching commiseration” thread in the comments of the Friday posts? And how many of those comments could be boiled down to less hyperbolic versions of all of these things?

      Sure, it’s maybe not AS hard as what OP is describing exactly, but I think we’re doing them a disservice if we don’t at least acknowledge that job searching does suck right now in a lot of fields, and when you’re trapped in the mire of it for a while it’s very easy to slip into this sort of desperation.

    2. Original Poster*

      I was definitely in a mood when I wrote it. I’m trying to not fall into the ‘I just want a job and I don’t care what it is’ place and trying to put more of a best foot forward but the list of things just never ends.

      I’m glad to hear I’m just over doing it but I also would like a single response from a company before I feel like I can just coast a little.

      1. Pizza Rat*

        Unfortunately, the only way out is through. You chose a safe place to vent, though, and many of us have been where you were. Good luck!

  18. Wheresthatbluesky*

    I get this. My partner has been applying for jobs for 9 months. Doing all the right things—using their network, updating their resume based on what people in various types of companies want (agencies want some different from big tech, etc), talking to recruiters, widening their search… they’ve gotten I think 3 or 4 interviews. And more people keep getting laid off in various companies in their field. And, it seems like there’s always some very specific want from the companies (different ones every time) that they don’t have and can’t get without on the job training. (And the only reason they’re searching is bc after 5-6 years of working from home, the company wants everyone in an office in an expensive city, even though no one else from the team will be at that office.) For people in a lot of fields it’s just incredibly difficult and exhausting out there.

  19. Elsewise*

    So, it’s entirely possible that the LW is in a very senior position, or it’s industry-specific, or just hyperbole, but one thing I have to wonder is- if they’re actually doing all of these things, could it potentially hurt their chances? Sharing your vision for the company, for example, feels like a very high-risk low-reward strategy. Best case scenario the hiring manager puts you in the “to interview” pile, but depending on what your vision is and how well or poorly it aligns with the company’s actual vision, it could really backfire on you. Same with the individually-tailored thank you notes- I’ve never been on a hiring panel and been offended not to receive one, but there’s a lot of ways too much outreach to too many people could go wrong. And as someone with OCD and severe anxiety, I absolutely know that overpreparing can throw you off in an interview. I wonder if LW might actually have more success if they do less.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I agree that the level of work OP describes sounds like what I would expect from candidates for very senior level jobs – in my field, nonprofits, this would be interviewing for Executive Director level roles (Is it naive to assume that then at least in theory when a candidate finally lands such a role, they should be set for a long time at a high rate of pay? In my field, probably).

    2. Allonge*

      If nothing else, not having this level of frustration about job searching will help – it’s unlikely that it does not come across one way or the other in the various material OP submits.

    3. Generic Name*

      I’m really hoping that was hyperbole. Hiring managers expecting that type of information is only appropriate at the executive level, and it would have been really weird if I (a low level manager) was expected to provide a vision for my company (that has been around over 100 years and has a mature visioning and branding strategy) during the interview process.

    4. Sassy SAAS*

      I was thinking similar things! I don’t want to armchair diagnose, but it sounds a lot like how I think about issues when I’m in an anxiety spiral. Small steps become massive hurdles, and each single task becomes 10 tasks.

      And seeing as I’m trying to convince myself to fix up my resume and start job hunting… this letter feels like something I would have written on a Sunday while staring at job listings. I work in software and the idea that I need to vet out a new software at a new company to see if it would even be something I would want to work with… the idea of that alone is anxiety-inducing enough to not start the job hunt.

      All of that to say, Alison’s advice is spot on, but especially these two. If you have these, you’ll be able to start applying faster!
      -one master resume you can cut down (plus the master resume maintains all your dates of when you worked)
      -two, maybe three versions of a cover letter that only requires you to change a little bit

      GOOD LUCK!

  20. Miss Chanandler Bong*

    What I did job hunting to keep my sanity was alternating days. One day, I would do nothing but save job posts. Then the next day, I’d review the saves and apply to ones that after a second review, I was certain I actually would be interested in. This helped better focus my time.

    FWIW, job hunting last year was so much worse than when I did it the prior two times. It’s just brutal out there.

    1. Ruby Soho*

      That’s what I did, too. Save jobs for a few days, then knock out a bunch of applications for the ones that still sound interesting.

    2. Procedure Publisher*

      This sounds like a good idea. However, I’ve seen some job postings that are posted only for 24 hours, so this idea wouldn’t work for those.

  21. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    Wow, your description of research and creating a vision for the company sounds like what someone would need to apply for a job as CEO or near that level.
    Since people at that rarified level normally only apply very selectively, so just a few applications to prep, I’m assuming that’s not you.

    Unless you’re applying to a wide variety of jobs, the same resume should work for each application and then just tailor your cover letter to the ad.

    Once you get an interview, then you need to research a few basic facts about the org, e.g. their purpose, philosophy, size, locations.
    However, even then you shouldn’t need to provide a vision of anything, other than how you’d like to see your own role developing.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I did wonder if OP had read some blogs or articles aimed at higher-level roles and was trying to apply them inappropriately. In my opinion getting that very first job is tough because you have so little to recommend you – which is why internships and stuff can help although all the criticisms of them are valid – but once you’ve had at least one other job in a field, it shouldn’t be this high a bar until you become very senior. Unless you know you’re in a hyper-competitive field or a very small one, in which case, it might be good to try to think laterally and see if there are more opportunities elsewhere you could fit.

      1. Abogado Avocado*

        I second this particular thread. LW’s concerns seem geared to very high-level jobs, for which, yes, there are job listings, but it is much more common to use recruiters to bring qualified candidates to the table. For the rest of us, the qualifications we need are for the particular job and the vision we need is about carrying out the job and not for the entire company (because, really, it would be very unusual to have an employee many levels down in the org chart to establish a vision for the company. Participating in visioning and goal-setting, yes. But on their own, no.).

        Therefore, LW, focus on communicating how the skills and experience you already have will make you an ace in the job on offer. Tell in your cover letter. Show in your portfolio. That’s the secret.

    2. MsM*

      And if OP is in fact at that level, they may want to consider trying to work with some headhunters in the field to help narrow the search parameters a little.

  22. Former Retail Lifer*

    While the OP is doing a lot of extra work, job hunting sure does feel this complicated. When I thought I was going to lose my job, I was applying to hundreds of jobs and it felt like this every time (even if I was doing a less intense version).

    You can see on LinkedIn how many other people have applied to a job, and when it’s 200+ people, how else can you possibly hope to get noticed if you HAVEN’T done something similar with your application/resume/cover letter?

    1. I should really pick a name*

      when it’s 200+ people, how else can you possibly hope to get noticed if you HAVEN’T done something similar with your application/resume/cover letter

      Sometimes it can be easier than you think.
      I’ve helped my boss winnow down large numbers of applications, and a surprising percentage are terrible.
      Just having a decent application is sometimes enough to stand out.

      1. Chairman of the Bored*

        This has been my experience as well.

        From what I’ve observed as a hiring manager, about 60% of applications are just adequate and 30% are outright ass.

        Therefore, having a good application automatically puts somebody in the top 10% of potential candidates.

    2. EMP*

      We opened a position this morning and per the hiring manager, got over a hundred resumes within a few hours, “most wildly off base”. The sheer numbers don’t tell you anything about the actual amount of competition for a job these days!

      1. Former Retail Lifer*

        The sheer number of responses I got, and the number my currently job-hunting friends are getting, definitely does. Even with a carefully customized resume and good cover letter, it’s taking 50+ applications to get even a phone screening, with only a slim chance of moving beyond that.

      2. NotARealManager*

        A lot of resumes I read don’t even match the job and/or level (think people with Masters degrees in a STEM field and 10+ years of work experience applying for an entry level production line position). Many folks are just trying to fulfill their unemployment job search quota and apply to anything that kind of sounds like their field without actually reading the posting.

    3. Helewise*

      Don’t allow yourself to get discouraged by the numbers! For the last position I posted, we had 120 applicants. At least 60% weren’t even marginally qualified. We had probably 20 that made it through the first pass of resumes just looking at general qualifications and a dozen that the hiring team independently agreed were qualified enough to call for a phone screen. I suspect this varies wildly by role, but there seemed to be a LOT of people who were hitting “submit resume” without even looking at the job.

    4. bamcheeks*

      LinkedIn tells you that everyone who has clicked through to look at the advert has “applied”. It barely even tracks cookies: it’ll count the same person clicking through on two different devices as two applications. Ignore those numbers!

      1. amoeba*

        Yeah, that’s true. However, in my field, there are definitely still hundreds of candidates applying for each position. One particular one recently, a friend who knew the hiring manager was told they had received *over 2000 applications*. Now, sure, a lot of those are easily weeded out, but that still leaves a ton of really qualified candidates who never get an interview. Another job I heard from also had hundreds of applications and did first round (in-depth, technical, 45 mins) interviews with 20 (!) candidates. Like, I’m sure they didn’t do that because they had too much time on their hands but because they had so many good people that they weren’t actually able to cut in down further!
        It’s crazy out there right now.

  23. Just Thinkin' Here*

    I can see where OP comes from. There has been other letters, mainly from managers, complaining that applicants didn’t tailor their cover letters to the company or didn’t memorize the ins and outs of all the company’s products and industry before an interview. These expectations are high – maybe only reasonable for more senior individual contributors and management track. For most folks, a resume alone should be enough to determine if someone is worth interviewing. The interview is about soft skills – interpersonal and work style.

  24. Volunteer Enforcer*

    OP, trust me I found my recent job search (accepted an offer last week) hard but I didn’t put in anywhere near as much effort.

  25. Propeller*

    I can strongly relate to this letter, and I feel that many of these comments are being dismissive of the letter writer’s struggles with their job search!

    Many people are suggesting to simply do less when it comes to preparing job applications, which may be fine for those who are looking for a job while still employed at their current one with no immediate plans to leave. But for those of us who actually need a new job ASAP, it’s tough out there right now! It seems that you have to match your resume and cover letter EXACTLY to the job description to even get invited to the phone screen stage. The whole thing truly is a time suck. It’s not just updating your resume and cover letter, it’s everything else that truly takes up time and effort: monitoring various job boards to find the open jobs in the first place, creating accounts/logins on the various websites to be able to submit an application, filling out all of the fields with the same info that’s already on your resume, and hoping/praying that the hiring manager doesn’t already have a specific candidate in mind.

    Whoever in the comments said that they can apply to 5-10 jobs per hour, please let me know what industry that is because I’m spending more like 5 hours per job (in a tech-adjacent field, mostly government/nonprofit jobs).

  26. Boss Scaggs*

    If it helps, I’ve found my last two jobs through LinkedIn “Easy Apply” which is about as quick as easy as you can get!

    1. Orv*

      That’s actually really interesting to hear. I always assumed places would just chuck “easy apply” resumes in the bin because they were too low-effort and not customized enough. I’ve been searching out companies’ actual websites and applying direct through them instead of through LinkedIn, but maybe I’m just making extra work for myself.

      1. Chairman of the Bored*

        When I am looking through job candidate applications I don’t care how much “effort” they put in.

        The only things I care about are:
        1) Does this person have the skills/experience to do the job well?
        2) Is the application formatted and phrased in such a way that I can easily evaluate (1)?

        If somebody can communicate these things to me via a boilerplate one-click application via Linkedin that’s great. It’s actually better for me, because all the Linkedin “easy apply” applications show up with consistent formatting that makes it fast easy to compare candidates directly.

      2. Generic Name*

        Companies hire people who can do the work they need done. They don’t care who “works hardest”. They just care about the output (which in most places isn’t measured by hours worked).

    2. amoeba*

      In my field, that button’s almost never activated, and if it is, then it’s probably a somewhat fishy company or really desperate…

  27. Sparrow*

    Two recommendations for what I’ve done, as someone who also gets overwhelmed by job hunting:

    1) My current job has three main components: fundraising, event planning, and communications. I’ve been applying to jobs in all three of those areas. Rather than tailor a resume to each job, I just made four versions of my resume: a fundraising resume, an event planning resume, a communications resume, and a resume tailored to all three (I’m applying mostly to jobs in nonprofits, so the areas tend to have a lot of overlap). With about 80% of the jobs I apply to, I can submit one of those basically unaltered. Other times, I might make small edits—e.g. if a job is a mix of fundraising and event planning, I’ll Frankenstein together both of those resumes into one; if a job I’m applying to requires experience with something that I *do* have experience with but that isn’t usually on my resume, I’ll add a bullet point or two to make it clear I have experience with that. When I do need to edit it, it takes less than 10 minutes. I’ve done pretty much the same thing with my cover letter, though I do always make sure to include at least a few original sentences in each one.

    2) I have a two-step method for interview prep that breaks questions into two categories: basic questions and behavioral questions. The basic questions are pretty standard and easy to prepare for—”tell me about yourself”, “why are you interested in this position”, “why are you looking to leave your current job”, etc. I write down and prepare for maybe 10 of these to cover my bases.

    For behavioral questions, I actually don’t prepare for specific questions at all—I make a little chart where I put each bullet point from the job description into one column, then fill out the cell next to each one with previous experience I have that demonstrates I can do that requirement. It can definitely be hard to predict exactly what behavioral questions you’ll be asked… but ultimately, regardless of how they’re worded, just about all of them are going to be trying to judge how well you can do the duties of the job. Thus, I’ve had good luck preparing for them by simply thinking through specific examples of things in my career that prove I can meet all of the requirements.

    This won’t necessarily cover 100% of the questions I might get asked, but IME it generally covers about 90% of them—and I find the remaining 10% surprisingly easy to answer! Preparing for the questions like this makes me think over my job history and noteworthy events that have happened throughout it, so all of those are near the front of my mind and it’s pretty easy to grab one for an a behavioral question I hadn’t specifically prepared for.

    Good luck!

    1. MsM*

      That’s pretty much my strategy, too: I have a master resume with every bullet point that might be useful. Then I use that to create a few variations that work for broad categories of jobs, and move or swap bullets around depending on what the job listing suggests are the most important things they’re looking for. Same with cover letters: I have a standard opening format, a paragraph that talks about my past experience based on which resume variation I’m using, an optional paragraph that highlights softer skills or things that might not be obvious from my resume if I think they’ll be helpful to mention, something brief about why this company/role interests me in particular, and then a basic closing.

  28. iglwif*

    You know what, Alison’s advice is obviously correct and helpful, but also? I feel where OP is coming from.

    I am job-hunting for the first time in many decades (I’ve been lucky till now, but my luck ran out and I was laid off in Feb), and it is no fun.

    I am not, in fact, spending a whole day on each application, but it feels like I am.

    I am not writing every cover letter from scratch, but they still feel like they take forever.

    The company that laid me off signed me up with an outplacement services agency, and their advice on my resume makes me feel like I last job-hunted in the Late Neolithic. (Their guidance is all tailored to getting your application past one of those automated systems, which I think is of dubious utility considering the type and size of organizations I’m applying to, but I’m trying it out to see what happens. I will not, however, be feeding my resume into ChatGPT as a way of tailoring it to job postings. 1000% nope.)

    I have sent out half a dozen applications in the past 3 weeks and so far have zero responses of any kind to show for it. And I’ve been on the hiring end often enough and read enough AAM to know that that’s how it goes! But it still doesn’t feel great.

    1. Orv*

      The resume is going to be read by an AI so I guess it does make some sense to have an AI write it. ;)

      1. iglwif*

        That seems to be the premise this agency is starting from, yeah. And for big companies I know it’s probably accurate! But those are mostly not where I’m applying, so it feels weird to optimize for that.

    2. Space Needlepoint*

      Especially with the cover letters. Even if a big part of what you do involves writing, it can be excruciating coming up with the right unique words and phrases that will make a cover letter stand out to whoever reads them.

      It’s not just a question of changing out the job title or company name. You need to write a cover letter that shows you’ve read and the job description and tease the reader with just enough that they’ll read your resume.

    3. AnotherLibrarian*

      There is nothing I can think of which is as demoralizing as job hunting. It’s just awful. So, I hope you get some bites soon. It’s a pretty miserable experience.

      1. iglwif*

        Thank you <3

        I haven't been in this spot since I was a fresh university grad, and it doesn't feel great.

  29. spcepickle*

    To everyone who is job hunting out there – My advice: Apply to government jobs!
    I just hired for someone who manages managers and I got 5 applicants – total. This was a $123k/ year job with great benefits (and a pretty great manager ;) )

    Government jobs can be a little harder to find because they don’t often show up well in the big sites (indeed or handshake), the postings are often convoluted, and it can be hard to break in at the upper levels. But everyone I know in all types of government (state, county, federal) is desperate to hire and prompting people crazy quick. You might get ghosted a few times (it is a huge bureaucracy) but I think it is 100% worth it to keep trying.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yes, this. My borough (where a dear friend is in HR) has got a bunch of openings. There’s great benefits. The jobs are unionized and pay well for our area. They are always hiring.

      1. MsSolo (UK)*

        In the UK tech jobs in government are wide open. Government can’t compete on pay compared with the private sector, so they really struggle to get qualified applicants, but if you want an amazing pension and a near-zero risk of being laid off, hie thee hence to the Civil Service.

    2. Billy Preston*

      yes yes yes! They don’t always pay as much as corporate, but they are much more stable and always looking for qualified applicants.

    3. handfulofbees*

      oh man I wish. New York state is hiring like crazy, and from what I understand, the amount of applications is like vultures on a carcass. I follow several civil service boards and the amount of people trying to break in is high. I’m getting exhausted tossing things at the state and getting nowhere.

  30. Goldie*

    Have you been networking? I think that is the most efficient way to find a job.
    Recently someone I met at a community presentation asked for a meeting. I realized she was a good fit for a position that was closing in 3 days. She applied. I’m not on the hiring committee, but she was selected. I literally had no influence over the project. But I saw she was who the committee was looking for.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      Networking doesn’t work for everyone, it depends upon who you know and how they are connected.

      I would suggest to see if their local community college has anything helpful, like career counseling or networking groups

  31. Anon21*

    I certainly empathize. I can’t tell if the LW is currently employed and looking for a job in their spare time, but I was in that position a few years ago while dealing with serious burnout and lockdown derangement, and it all made finding a new job feel like climbing a mountain. Hope that Alison’s advice hits and that you can try to pare back your efforts to keep up the pace of applications you feel good about. In the end, it’s a numbers game.

  32. BellyButton*

    For cover letters I have my basic one and since the jobs I am applying for are all very similar the only small tweaks I have to make are the name of the position and company and maybe rearrange some of my key accomplishments to highlight something from the job posting. But for the most part it is just the name of the position and the company. When I was laid off in May 22, I was applying to 15-30 jobs a day, it was brutal and so exhausting, but it was what it took.

    I did not do any serious research on the company until I was invited to an interview with the hiring manager. For the initial screening, I just made sure to have the job description available to look at and the website of the company up to make sure I understood what they did.

    If I was invited to an interview with the hiring manager I would do a bit more to see if I could find anything about their culture and looked at the glassdoor reviews. If it goes beyond that I expect that during the interview with the hiring manager I would have gained some insight into their culture and be able to ask relevant and meaningful questions.

    Good luck!

  33. Perihelion*

    Sounds just like a friend of mine who won’t listen when I try to explain to her that she doesn’t have to redo everything from scratch for every application. Job searching is a lot of work but it doesn’t have to be *that* much work. Find a job posting that might suit you, make small adjustments to materials as needed to fit it, apply, move on.

  34. PropJoe*

    The tribulations of job hunting frankly remind me of the tribulations of online dating. Lots of evenings & weekends spent doomscrolling looking for ads that are even somewhat palatable.

    I’m glad I haven’t had to deal with either for two/twelve years, respectively.

    As a mildly antisocial person, I conceptualize both as things which come easily to normal people but not to me.

    I’m also aware that I probably fit the diagnostic criteria for clinical depression, which probably colors my opinion of the processes a bit.

    1. Jaybeetee*

      Yeah, I’ve had that feeling too. I struggled hard with job-hunting early in my career, but have luckily landed at a point where job moves/opportunities are rare, but I “know the steps to the dance” when they do come up. I’ve applied to like three jobs in the last 6-7 years, two of which led to offers.

      Dating apps are a similar kind of draining in terms of trying to maintain a certain level of extroversion and enthusiasm over a prolonged period in the face of discouraging results. That one I haven’t figured out!

  35. Ducky06*

    I think the feedback is good- keeping the applications as simple as possible, but the tone is overall out of touch. The playing field is horrible out there in most fields. 30-40 applications to get one interview is not easy or simple regardless of whether you’re customizing a few lines on a resume. And there are plenty of fields where a unique portfolio sample is required to apply, especially in academia. I’ve gone through those searches. Once I had to make an entirely new 2-page fact sheet with full illustrations. I spent hours on a vacation doing it. I got the jpb though. It’s ridiculously competitive out there and job seekers deserve empathy. In addition to the fact that many postings these days are fake or placeholders.

    1. k*

      Seconded. OP’s experience job-hunting doesn’t sound that different from mine a couple of years ago. Some companies in very competitive industries do in fact want you to research their legacies & prove you’re more passionate about the job than the next candidate. I’ve had to do projects that took a couple of hours–and were supposed to.

    2. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

      Thank you for this. I went through a year of intensive job hunting not that long ago and it is just brutal. Employers are demanding more and more of candidates beyond cover letters and resumes–video auditions (takes the inter right out of interview), essay questions, cognitive tests, personality assessments, and applicant tracking systems that can’t parse a resume so you have to re-enter everything.

      When you get to the interview stage, it’s never one-and-done either. My personal record is five interviews, though I’ve heard tell of up to eight. Some companies also demand free work that they assign so you can’t use samples you have in your portfolio. When I read the letter I didn’t think OP was stretching things all that far, especially when it comes to telling an organization how special they are.

    3. bamcheeks*

      If you find a job ad on somewhere like Indeed or Reed, or a low-value recruitment website — somewhere that scrapes job adverts automatically, and doesn’t necessarily remove them when the job is filled or the advert taken down — take a chunk of the text of the advert and put it back into Google in quotation marks. If there’s an advert on a more trustworthy site which scrutinises or charges people to advertise, or on the employer’s site itself, it’ll find it. This’ll increase the rate of real jobs to junk jobs, and potentially expand the base of companies or specialist job boards that you know about.

  36. The Wizard Rincewind*

    A lot of this sounds like the venting of a frustrated job seeker and, as another frustrated job seeker, I just want to extend my sympathies to OP. It is rough out there.

  37. Frustration Nation*

    I feel you, OP. I just bailed on an application this morning when it requested a job history for the past 7 years including periods of unemployment. I am working on transitioning from nonfiction TV writing/producing to a more stable, corporate position, so I’m chasing a few different fields. As a TV worker, I’ve had a large number of jobs in the past 7 years as well as a number of periods of unemployment, because my short term jobs ended, which I shouldn’t have to explain. Even if I were to fill in just the past couple years of jobs, that would be around 5-6 separate jobs, with subsequent unemployment periods. Does this make me look like a job hopper? I don’t know. I am a writer, so I write up a solid cover letter for each application. I tweak my resume for each, pulling words from the listing to describe my skill set. But I draw the line at rehashing my resume, which I just uploaded, for the past 7 years. If your application is this hostile to nontraditional career paths, I can only assume your workplace is as well. As a gig worker, I’ve basically been job hunting for 20+ years, and it gets harder and uglier every year. It is brutal right now. Haven’t even gotten a nibble.

  38. Mimmy*

    Oh I definitely feel the OP on this. I agree that it’s best to not overcomplicate the job search, but there is pressure to stand out, especially for jobs with potentially large applicant pools.

    I don’t tweak my resume too much–like others, I usually may just move a couple of bullets around or change a couple of words. The cover letter, on the other hand, is what makes me sweat. Alison has written a few posts about tailoring the letter to make it unique. I’m probably misinterpreting it though–based on this post, a fresh cover letter for each posting is not necessary.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      No one expects a totally original cover letter each time (at least, I don’t), but you want one that actually addresses the job. I hire in a very competitive field (GLAM) and I get a lot of cover letters that are well-written, but appear to be well-written for an entirely different job than the one I have.

    2. Janne*

      My idea about cover letters is that you do tailor them but it doesn’t mean writing a whole new letter. I changed jobs this February and applied to a lot of jobs to get there, but I had a template cover letter with about this structure:

      Dear (name),
      1. Paragraph of why I’m enthusiastic about the job (only change details like job title/description)
      2. One or two paragraphs of why I’m suitable with examples (I have a stash of examples and select them based on the job description)
      3. Paragraph that says I hope to hear back, would love an interview (mostly unchanged)
      Best regards,
      My name

      That saved me LOTS of time.
      Also, I applied to jobs in two languages and it helped a lot to have a template letter in both languages instead of having to translate things all the time.

  39. ivy*

    I have two resumes that I switch between depending on the type of job I’m applying for. If I really want the job, I might go in and shift the jobs around or ensure the details of the resume align with the job description, but usually it’s a one and done upload.
    I also keep a very basic cover letter template that has my skills and experience already in it so it only takes a few minutes to tweak it and add information about the specific job/company.
    I also have several vague/complex situations on hand from past jobs that I have thought through. So anytime I’m asked a “tell me a time”/”what would you do” question, I just talk about the applicable aspect of the same situation.

    OP, don’t feel bad about overthinking it. The weight of everything you’re “supposed” to do is so, so stressful and it really does take a lot of time. But I would just try to release yourself from needing to be perfect – most places are only taking a cursory look at your app and resume, and how you present yourself and how your experience CAN match what they’re looking for is more important than having the perfect answer. I hope you find something soon!

    1. RVA Cat*

      All of this, plus I think businesses are hyping up stories about this to keep employees from leaving. Expect to hear a lot scaremongering now that they can’t use non-competes to lord over us.

  40. spillz*

    Former job searcher here (currently employed) in an industry that’s recently had a lot of layoffs and isn’t so easy to get a job in right now. You sound like you’re trying to make a new professional persona for every job. But there’s only one you! Your story genuinely needs to be authentic. Instead, you should be tightening up your personal pitch and materials and figuring out the niche that’s going to value you most, which will save you time and land you a job where you can do good work. Also, frankly, the self-confidence will serve you well throughout the hiring process and beyond.

    I got about one interview for every 20 applications, but 30-40 is a reasonable baseline.

    I know Allison says to use cover letters but I’ve never seen the correlation between cover letters and interviews and eventually stopped. I actually think they’re, on net, a bad idea since hiring managers will spend 30 seconds looking at your materials anyway. I’d rather they spend those 30 seconds on my resume.

    I’d usually spend 10-20 minutes modifying my resume to fit the job description, if that. That’s really it before I applied. Otherwise, most of my time was spent finding the jobs to apply for.

    The best time investment was in making sure I had a great resume and a solid, tight story about what I’d accomplished in the past and hoped to accomplish in the future. In that sense, I’ve found professional meetups and informational interviews to be useful ways to learn how to talk about yourself before actually getting into the interview.

  41. AnotherLibrarian*

    There is a ton advice out there about what you “should” do. But as someone who hires, here’s what I expect:

    1. A cover letter that actually applies to the job and is decently written. If you wax on in your cover letter about your customer service skills and I’m hiring a backend position that doesn’t interact with customers, I’m going to assume you don’t understand the job and be unlikely to move you forward. Also, please get the name of my organization correct. If you’re applying to similar jobs, I expect that 80% of this letter is boilerplate. That’s fine, just make sure your boilerplate applies to the job.

    2. A resume that addresses the requirements of the job, is neatly laid out, and can be understood.

    And that’s it. That’s all I want.

    1. Another Hiring Manager*

      I can’t tell you how many cover letters I’ve read that just cut & paste the name of the company and the job title. Sometimes in a different font! I’m not asking for novels, but I do want to know that the applicant read and understood the job description and the resume will apply.

  42. Deep Anon*

    OP, I feel you and the exhaustion of your letter. Am smelling a layoff coming and need to get my job search back in gear too and the overwhelm of it all is just so defeating. (Even if a layoff doesn’t come, the constant threat of one is more than I want to deal with at this job.)

    To make it worse, after leaving academia, I sort of fell into one job (and got very good at it!) then got recruited for my current one, so I’m at a loss for where to even start. LinkedIn, I guess, but I’ve never gotten an interview from a LinkedIn lead.

    I’m finding Alison’s reply and the comments very heartening and hope you are too.

  43. Daria grace*

    It might be worth considering if you’ve had bad past job hunting experiences where unreasonable demands were made and you’re letting shape your approach that would still need to process. While sometimes recruiters make unusual demands, the kind of detail you’re talking about is something that would usually only be relevant for CEO at major corporation or similar roles.

    Worth keeping in mind that being overprepared can be damaging too. You risk coming off as desperate or uncomfortably intense and of developing an understanding of the company and role from your own research that doesn’t match reality

  44. Unemployed MLIS*

    I chose a very unstable field (humanities based) and I am unemployed every year or so. It’s exhausting. What is different about this job search is the over hiring in 2020, AI reading resumes and the hiring climate is rough. Read the book the Algorithm by hilke schellman. I think the media OP is ingesting is telling her she has to do all these extra things, when OP doesn’t. I like to apply to jobs three times a week and search for jobs twice a week. This is by far the worst job search I have faced. OP it’s going to be okay, you got this. Don’t burn out. Take naps.

  45. Snoozing not schmoozing*

    If your cover letter and resume reflect what you wrote to AAM, it’s probably scaring recruiters and hiring managers away. Scale those back to the suggested levels and see if you get more bites.

  46. Young Business*

    I feel for you, OP! From my perspective, it sounds like you’ve faced a long job search which is very jading (I’ve definitely been there).

    I maintain a spreadsheet to track my job searching and in looking at it I applied to around 70 jobs in 2022 while burning out in a very toxic workplace.

    The only way I hit that number was to make the process scalable and develop various resumes that were tailored to core competencies/functions in my field. And I do a very quick glance at the organization (look at recent Glassdoor reviews, news articles) to know if I should steer clear or pursue. I usually do a deeper due diligence after the phone screen/going into the interview with the hiring manager.

    It’s definitely not worth pouring time into the research at the front end of the process for many reasons. Companies carefully curate their career pages, etc. so you wouldn’t be able to detect much truth from them if there is toxicity at play. Your best bet is to go into interviews armed with questions and ready to scrutinize the heck out of things.

  47. Professor Potatochip*

    This sounds like you’re in academia! This kind of absolutely bonkers application work is actually pretty normal for academic (professorial) positions. I definitely had initial applications that were more than 100 pages of documents, including demands that I create all new syllabi for courses and write a variety of vision statements.

    So if you’re on the academic job market — I commiserate! And I think it’s worth finding a cohort of folks (or even just one good friend) in the same boat as you or just a year ahead in the jobs cycle, so you can share job materials and templates to make the application process less onerous. Humanities Commons and other similar networking sites have repositories of uploaded job materials you can use as templates, too.

    If you’re not in academia, you’re probably overthinking it, and Allison’s advice is correct.

  48. bananas foster*

    I’m a woman in tech, so clearly my experience isn’t everyone’s, but I find Alison’s advice on this (and her questions in the guide) to be a completely different planet than tech interviews.

    I’ve applied for about 40 jobs in the last year. I’m an old (ie experienced) technical person, so I find that I have to rewrite the resume cover letter for each different category of job. If the analogy is teapots, then yes, I have a different resume for designing teapot lids vs picking the teapot color vs the utility and troubleshooting of teapots in the wild. I can’t use the same resume for each job. At first it would take me about 10-15 hours to redo each cover letter, highlighting the skills from each project that showed what I wanted them now. Now that I’ve practiced so much, I can do it faster, but it really does take awhile to reformat your skills from each job to highly A or B or C.

    Also, just having survived an interview today, that I spent 4 days straight studying for (that was necessary, and I should have studied other things too) – yes, sometimes that’s part of the job interview.

    1. GythaOgden*

      Agreed with that last point. The better jobs that involve more responsibility and pay are going to be worth putting the effort into. The UK public sector applications routinely ask for short essays of 500-1500 words as to why you think you’d be a good fit, even for jobs as a receptionist. The CQC (health inspectorate) asked for an essay about how someone had dealt with DEIJ as a part of their job for an admin position. It’s about demonstrating you can do the job, and I’m surprised that people wouldn’t want to show an employer that if given the opportunity.

  49. kiki*

    I do generally agree with Alison’s advice that there are ways to streamline LW’s application process to make this more manageable, but I want to validate LW’s underlying concern that the hiring market is super tough right now for a lot of industries. Getting hired right now is a lot tougher than it has been in the past. To be competitive for roles, you do have to put in more work on the front end than you would need to in the past.

    It can also feel hard when you’re denied for roles you know you’re perfectly well qualified for– there’s always the question of, “would I have gotten it if I had done more with my resume, cover letter, interview prep, etc, etc?” And there is no way of ever getting that answer.

  50. NZReb*

    OP, one thing that struck me was your “short stories about my vision for the company” bit. Are you sure you’re applying for senior enough roles to be developing a vision for the company? I hire for mid-level roles, and I’d actually be a bit put off by a cover letter that contained the applicant’s vision for the company, unless it was really generic, like improving the customer experience with company’s products. I don’t need – or want – someone who’ll come in with their own vision, I want them to support the team’s existing vision.

  51. Dina*

    I do write a fresh cover letter for every job I apply for – but I work in communications, so I see it as another chance to showcase my writing skills. Probably less relevant for other jobs :)

  52. Hydrangea*

    I feel this is pretty on the mark. I’ve been job hunting on and off for about a year. I have a decent job so I’ll go for weeks without looking, but when I do apply, interviewers often let me know they are swarmed with competitive candidates. My last interviewer got on the video called, sighed loudly, and said, “Sorry, I am so tired of these. We’ve just done so many.” Then they’ll suggest me doing a free projects that “will only take an hour” but usually takes much longer.

    I’ve also encountered a lot of cultspeak (repeating phrases like “We need to ASTONISH our customers!” over and over) and being quizzed on my knowledge of the company and the industry news. I’ve been told, “I don’t want someone who just looked at our website. I’m only going to hire someone who researched our leaders, our history, our clients.”

    And usually, it’s all to get ghosted and see the same job posted a few months later. Most of my friends have had the same experience. And if we share our frustration, we’re told we need to try harder, tailor our resumes and cover letters better, volunteer to do more free projects. It’s exhausting. One of my friends did not believe me until he got laid off… he’s been shocked at what the market is like right now.

  53. Lionheart26*

    Me-a-few-years-ago could have written this letter. I have a really varied job history, was interested in branching out to new roles that each needed different skills and experiences, and like you, was convinced that bespoke application materials was the only solution. I was wrong! I ended up cutting my CV down to one page: it’s just the highlights reel, and I submit it for every job. I DO still write custom cover letters; they’re all the more important now because they’re filling in all the detail my CV misses. But I have a master cover letter with a paragraph for every achievement so I can cut and paste.

    I think what helped me make the shift was having to do lots of hiring and realising just how little my perfect applications mattered in the sea of CVs.

  54. EU*

    I agree, I’m in the same position, I haven’t applied to anything for the past 3-4 months because it’s very difficult. I also don’t reply to anything that asks for a video presentation, personality test, and so on…

  55. Whatever*

    I’ve been job hunting now for 2 years. There haven’t been a huge number of jobs in my area in that time- I’ve only applied for around 150 jobs. Got six interviews – well, two of them were through a random agency instead of applications , but eh.

    Finally last month I got a 3 month temp contract that pays sh*t (it pays what I was earning 13 years ago, so is worth about half in actual buying power). I hope my contract will get extended because my husband is out of work too and it’s basically what we’re living on.

    I’ve tried everything. I’ve had my cv rewritten 4 times. I’ve tried the bespoke approach, and the scattergun numbers approach – and I just can’t anymore. I’m done. I’m not even scared of the future now, I just want this nightmare to end.

    I’m not interested in any replies – I rarely come here these days since I stopped bothering to job hunt. I just wanted to add my voice to those who are saying this is unbearable and unfixable.

  56. Functioning on fumes*

    Not a huge amount of advice but plenty of commiseration from me, OP. I’m in HE libraries in the UK, and autistic, so my experience is limited to this, but within this field the roles can vary so widely (and emphasise different elements) that each cover letter might not be written from scratch, but they at least have to be modified each time. WRT the last few jobs I’ve gone for, the application form has been different every time, and half the time they are these horribly-formatted things which break whenever you try to copy-paste information, so you end up spending just as much time whether you write things out, or copy it and then fix the formatting.

    I’m lucky enough that I’m happy in my current job, but I would say that every job application I put in (including the headache that was the application for this one) amounts to minimum four hours of work, not including things like background research (eg if I’m moving to another city, what the commute is like, whether I can find somewhere affordable to live etc). Maybe some people can get by with a scattergun approach and a less-tailored application, but I’ve not found that to be the case.

  57. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    I just completed a job hunt that spanned over a year. The position itself was over 6 months from interview to start date.

    All I can contribute is advising patience. The labor market in the USA is a jungle right now.

  58. Lucia Pacciola*

    What gets to me is that job hunting isn’t very much work at all. Here in the Information Age, it’s a few hours’ effort, every few days at most. I spend most of my time between jobs feeling guilty that I can’t seem to make job hunting a full time occupation.

    1. Salty Caramel*

      What gets to me is that job hunting isn’t very much work at all.

      Seeing this utterly bewilders me. I recently calculated I applied for approximately 1700 jobs over 34 weeks during my last stretch of unemployment. It most certainly was work. It’s work to decipher job descriptions and read between the lines and decide to act on them. It’s work to customize a cover letter to a particular company and job. It’s work entering the information that’s clearly on your resume into an ATS that doesn’t populate properly. It’s work taking personality and cognitive assessments when you apply some places.

  59. Motherofapickle*

    I feel you, LW.

    I am in the unique position (I guess compared to many of the responders?) that I have no Career, but myriad skills that will fit nicely with many different kinds of jobs. On top of that, I CHOOSE to work and I know my worth, so filling out (read: correcting all of the autofill applications) and then writing a cover letter for whichever industry I am applying to is a major slog. And that’s just to get an interview for a job I might not take.

    It’s so much more mentally exhausting than it should be. Application Burnout is real, but doesn’t pay the bills.

  60. Jaybeetee*

    OP, I sympathize. I had very similar struggles in my 20s, when I was inexperienced and job-hunting through a Great Recession (that was prolonged in my region due to some extended hiring freezes – things started turning around for me circa 2016).

    Honestly, the job market itself informs so much of how this goes, the best advice I can offer up front is to try not to take it personally, in the sense that you’re not bad or a failure for struggling, and hiring standards tend to get ridiculous when markets get tight. I remember in some cases, the requirements for even entry-level jobs were absolutely absurd – and it was because hiring managers were getting so swamped they were basically looking for ways to cull the herd upfront to make it manageable.

    What worked for me, when things were rough, was minimal effort on each application and just scattershooting them out into the void. I’d put more effort into the interview stage, but the application materials? I’d tweak what I needed, but tried to rarely put substantial time into those. Hiring managers are people too, and frankly, when they’re getting swamped with applications, a lot of stuff is actually going unnoticed – even if they suggest you find ways to “stand out”. I eventually figured that getting my name out there as much as possible with *decent* application materials (as opposed to outstanding materials), was the better way to go. I did eventually get some feedback regarding my interview skills in particular that helped quite a bit.

    But the biggest change for me? Was the various hiring freezes lifting, and my region actually flipping into a hiring boom. Once you’ve lived through both, OP, you’ll see the difference. Sure, I’d gained applying and interviewing skills, I “knew the moves” by then, but things just suddenly became so much easier when the market became less “you need to be outstanding to even get looked at” and more “hey, we actually desperately need people and you seem smart and capable.”

    Moreover – once industries flip into those hiring booms, they suddenly get very forgiving about, say, resume gaps, jobs in other fields and industries, etc. I had actually given up on my target industry for a period, and basically worked what jobs I could find. Turns out, my diverse background turned into in asset when they were ready, as opposed to some hiring manager looking down their nose because I didn’t have ten years’ experience in Their Specific Thing. I suddenly started hearing things like, “You’re adaptable” and “Oh, you have background in X – we can use that.”

    With that – if tech is impossible right now, I might throw a curveball for advice, and suggest you not bother with it. Keep your skills current, but seek your fortunes elsewhere for now. Tech has been around for awhile, the bust will eventually turn into a boom again, and you’ll find all this ten times easier than it is right now. In the meantime, focus on survival. I promise it will get better.

  61. Late, Not Lazy*

    Very interesting to see here in the comments the wide divide between opinions — lots of “it’s not that hard, you’re exaggerating” vs “I feel your pain!!!”

    LW, I would like to venture that although you were using a smidge of hyperbole, you also were being fairly truthful. Job search advice often suggests a certain amount of customization, background research, and specific interview prep, without clarifying how much effort/time is appropriate. As other commenters have said, you should be able to reuse a lot of your resumes and cover letters, switching out a couple sentences or bullet points. Unless you are applying to vastly differing positions, the reasons you’re excited for the job and why you’d be great at it are basically the same.

    When writing your cover letter, you do not need to have genuine, specific enthusiasm for their organization. It can be formulaic. As long as you are applying to jobs that do match your skills and experiences, it will read as genuine. For example: “I’m an experienced llama groomer, with a background in alpacas and teapots. I would love to bring my skills and experiences to Company to help you [role/team/org goal that the position supports]!”

    Remember that your cover letter and resume are not an exhaustive persuasive piece on why they should hire you. Rather, they are marketing materials that highlight your best attributes (which just happen to align with what they’re looking for). If you spend the time to make your one resume and cover letter template really excellent, you will already be ahead of so many applicants.

    I too found it challenging at first to spend a reasonable, but effective, amount of time on each application. Sometimes I spent a lot of time and heard nothing, other times I barely tried and got an interview. I highly highly highly encourage you to check out Alison’s guide to getting a job. Literally so helpful, really took my materials and interview skills to the next level.

    And finally, once you get an interview (not just a phone screen with HR!) that’s when you can spend some more time going in depth into the company’s background.

    Good luck!

  62. Procedure Publisher*

    I feel the pain. This current job search reminds me of the first job search after college in 2012. This time around, I have people who can vouch for me and I had a former colleague pass my name on to a recruiter after they had secured a job. Talk to people you know. They might be able to point you in a new direction.

    Also, learn how to use AI to help make your materials stronger. I’ve been asking AI what I should focus on from the job description. Then I ask it if an accomplishment is a good fit for the job description. That helps me focus on getting the important stuff down.

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