When I last applied for a job, I sent out as many applications as I could. Granted, this wasn't a lot, maybe 50 applications in three weeks. I've heard of others sending out hundreds at a time.

But others suggest that you don't need to apply to more than three or four places at once.

What are the pros and cons of sending out lots of applications, assuming you take the time to write different cover letters and tune your résumé each time?

  • 2
    This doesn't answer to your question, so I won't post it as one, but it's worth baring in mind that Joel's post assumes that the supply and demand of jobs are roughly in balance. If unemployment is high, and jobs are scarce, then it absolutely makes sense to apply to many places. This doesn't mean that you should send bad applications, simply that on average, you're going to have more misses before you get a hit.
    – John N
    Commented Apr 11, 2012 at 13:29

3 Answers 3


Rather than a large number of scatter shot applications, I'd rather see you focus deeply on a small number and personalize each one, explaining why you'd like to work for their company and why you're a good match for their needs. A letter that shows that you took the time to research the company puts you heads and shoulders above someone who sends a generic cover letter.

Think quality not quantity.

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    This is the best advice, especially when you are unemployed because you certainly have the time to put the extra work into each application. Think aiming a harpoon at the prize fish vs randomly throwing a net in the water. Commented Apr 11, 2012 at 11:44
  • +1 I agree. Otherwise you are acting like recruiters that send thousands of inpersonal ones a day. Recruiters that focus much more on a few key candidates often have better results. They certainly respected more. Commented Jun 15, 2012 at 14:44
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    Just going to say, if you're unemployed as @maple_shaft says, you have enough time to send a lot out AND personalize each one.
    – acolyte
    Commented Jun 15, 2012 at 15:58

I've was once unemployed for several months. If you have free time on your hands like i did. I didn't ever limit the amount of applications i would apply for. I would even apply at positions i was underqualified for. You never really know.

I would track where you've applied in a spreadsheet or calendar if you could.

It couldn't be more embarrassing applying at the same advertisement more than once. It could be seen as unprofessional.

I would also suggest that you automate the process. Write the necessary details: industry specific cover letter, industry specific resume, and a follow up email template if you can.

Also, applying for jobs is a skill one must practice at. This ability is very valuable in itself.


For highly competitive jobs, it's expected that you'll customize your resume, cover letter, and initial contact to the employer to which you're applying. When acting as a hiring manager, you can smell a no-effort application attempt a mile away, and it's a waste of your time (the person applying, and the person reading the application).

On jobs that are more entry-level and "first job" types, like your first job as a waiter, food service, sales clerk, etc., this is less important, but will still show effort.

When a person is unemployed, I agree you should spend the time wisely. Casting your net wide is not as effective, however, as targeting places you want to work. If you don't have a specific place in mind, it's a much more effective use of your time to either go to job fairs (and make a personal, face-to-face impression with a potential employer), or register with a temp agency and get side jobs while still having plenty of time to apply to permanent positions.

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