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Before You Apply, Ask Yourself These 4 Questions

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A job seeker recently shared that he had applied for nearly 1,500 jobs in the past 12 months and was very disappointed in the results.

Not only no job offers, but no interview invitations either. Like many job seekers, he viewed the abundant supply of job postings on the Internet as a short cut to new employment.

Most likely, the problem was the way he applied -- too many applications, done quickly and carelessly.

In this very competitive job market, job seekers need to stay focused and bring their "A game" to every opportunity they pursue. If you are in spray-and-pray job application mode, applying for every job you see, you are bringing your "C game" to each opportunity.

Disconnect from that apply-apply-apply instinct because a job search is not a numbers game.

Before You Apply for a Job

Conserve your "A game" energy and efforts for jobs that are a good fit for you. Carefully read the job description, and then, ask yourself these four questions:

1. Do I want this job?

Yes, a paycheck is VERY important! But, earning that paycheck will mean doing that job. So before you chase and, perhaps, land the wrong job, read the "duties" or "responsibilities" section of the job description very carefully.

Maybe you've done this work before, earlier in your career, and, sure, you could do it, but you don't really want to. Perhaps, the job sounds okay, but the location is a long, expensive commute.

Or, maybe as described, this is the perfect job for you, and you are excited by this opportunity.

The benefit -

When you apply for a job you really want, your enthusiasm will show in the quality of your application and interview.

2. Do I qualify for this job?

Examine the "requirements" or "qualifications" section in the job description. Even if you "know" that you could do the job described, applying may be a waste of your time if you don't meet most of the requirements -- like meeting three out of four or five of the requirements, or seven out of nine or 10.

In this competitive job market, employers have their choice of applicants. So, applying for a job without meeting most -- or all -- of the requirements/qualifications makes it doubtful that you will be considered for the job.

The benefit -

When you apply carefully for a job that is a good fit for you, you have a better chance of making it through the human or automated screening (or both) to be invited in for an interview.

3. Do I want to work for this employer?

Hopefully, this employer is already on your list of target employers. If not, do some checking to be sure that this is a good place to work. Put Google to work for you, and check GlassDoor.com to, hopefully, find reviews by employees.

(Read the 50 Google Searches to Avoid a Layoff or a Bad Employer.)

Maybe this employer has a terrible reputation as a place to work or been involved in a bad situation -- legal, financial, quality, etc. Or, maybe it's a great place to work, and everyone who works there loves it. You won't know until you check it out. Take my word for it -- you don't want to be the last person hired before the layoffs begin.

The benefit -

You will be better prepared to do an excellent job of applying, and your knowledge will demonstrate your interest in the employer in a job interview. Your research could also show you that while the job sounds great and you qualify for it, working for this employer would be a nightmare best avoided.

4. Do I know anyone who already works there?

If you have answered the top three questions with affirmatives, you can immediately start your application. But you will increase the probability of a job offer if you can also answer this question with a "yes"!

Check your network online (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.) and off-line (friends, family, colleagues, etc.) to see if you have a contact already working for the employer who could deliver your resume into the hands of the hiring manager and/or into the formal "employee referral program" process.

The benefit

When a contact on the inside (an existing employee) submits your resume and vouches for you, you have a much better chance of being considered. And, it is much better to "spend" that favor of a personal resume delivery on a job that is a good fit rather than wasting it on a long shot.

In addition...

Sometimes the job is a perfect fit, the application is done very carefully, and the job seeker has an "internal referral" by a current employee. But, still no response. The problem then could be what the employer found when they did an Internet search on the applicant's name. Read "What 80 percent of Employers Do Before Inviting You in for an Interview," and practice "defensive googling" so you know what they are finding.

Follow me on Google+ for more job search tips.

Susan P. Joyce is president of NETability, Inc. and the editor and chief technology writer for Job-Hunt.org and WorkCoachCafe.com. This piece first appeared on WorkCoachCafe.com.