If you’ve been job searching for a while without much luck, you might start to wonder if you’re doing something wrong. How many job applications should it really take to land an offer? And how do you know what you need to fix if it’s taking longer than it should?
There could be a few things holding you back from getting the job you want – like your resume or interview skills – or it could be nothing at all. Sometimes you do everything right, but a better candidate happens to apply.
Try not to take rejections too personally or to let one rejection put you in doubt!
But what if you’re seeing a bigger pattern? You’ve applied to 50 jobs and haven’t even come close to an offer. Maybe you’ve only heard back from one or two places and haven’t made it past the first interview.
In a hot job market like Stockholm, you should expect to have at least one job offer after 50 applications (or less). If that’s not you, then it’s important to look at each stage of your job search to see if you’re as successful as you should be or if something needs work. So, what’s a good success rate at each stage of the process? Let’s take a look!
Resume Screening – The Chance of Getting Called Back
What does it take to pass this stage? A well written resume of course! But that’s just one piece.
At the resume screening stage, you need to pass a minimum threshold of skills. This doesn’t mean you fit their description of an ideal candidate 100%. It means, they think you have a decent chance of doing the job well.
Roughly speaking, let’s say you fit about 75% of the job requirements without missing any key requirement (like the ability to speak Swedish).
Your odds are the worst at this stage since hundreds of people have likely applied to the job. This doesn’t mean your chances are 1 in 100 though. Some people apply to as many jobs as humanly possible regardless of their qualifications (do we have an algorithm for this yet?). The good news is that many of the people will be unqualified and automatically out of the running.
Your only real competition is the other people that are decently capable of doing the job. If you’re in this group, you stand a fairly good chance of being called in for a screening.
Of course this doesn’t mean you’ll get called back every time you’re qualified. The numbers can still work against you if there are a lot of highly qualified candidates that applied. That’s why your resume, and not just your experience, can really make or break your job hunt.
So what’s a good benchmark for success? This depends a lot on the market and how in demand your skills are, but roughly speaking, you should hear back from about 1 in every 10 applications.
That doesn’t mean you need to panic if you’ve applied to 10 jobs and haven’t heard back yet. You might not hear anything from the first 30 jobs and then hear back from 3 in a row. Take a look at your overall job hunt. If you’ve applied for a 100 jobs and have only heard back from 1, this area needs some work.
So, what should you do if you’re being blocked at the resume screening stage? Well it probably means one of two things. 1) You’re not applying to jobs that align with your skillset or 2) you’re not communicating your skills effectively in your application materials. It’s worth exploring both possibilities.
Initial (Phone) Screening – The Chance of Moving Forward
You’ve moved past the resume screening, which means they think you’re qualified. Now it’s time to double check. Recruiters don’t want to pass along a candidate that looks good on paper, but doesn’t present themselves well.
And in Sweden, speaking to a recruiter is almost garunteed at this stage. You’re unlikely to get any serious questions at this stage, since you’re probably talking to someone that’s fairly unfamilar with the role.
Their job is to make sure you meet the requirments and that you can communicate effectively. That you don’t present and obvious red flags. You won’t get any curveball questions or a deep skillset evaluation.
This stage is fairly easy to prepare for and to pass. In fact, you should aim to pass this stage 100% of the time. That doesn’t mean there aren’t legitimate reasons for stopping at this point. Sometimes it can become obvious it doesn’t make sense to continue – like if you thought the position focused mostly on marketing, but it turns out to be sales.
If you’ve gotten to this stage a few times and the reason you didn’t move forward isn’t apparant like in my example, then this is a big sign. You need to work on how you present yourself during an interview.
It’s possible you’re not preparing enough before. Even though this isn’t the “real deal” interview with the hiring manager, it’s still an important step and it’s still worth spending an hour or two preparing.
The other possibility is that you need to work on your communication. There are a lot of great guides online for how to interview well which are worth looking into. But your best bet is to practice interviewing with a friend that will give you some honest feedback. Someone whose professional judgement you trust.
Pro tip: If you find a practice partner that’s also job searching, you can practice both interviewing and being the interviewer. You can get a lot of insight seeing things from the other side.
Interviews – The Chance of Getting an Offer
The final or semi-final steps in the process. In Sweden you’ll typically have 1 to 3 interviews with the hiring manager, with their boss and possibly some future collegues.
This is the toughest phase – this is where you get asked the hard questions and where your skills and fit are really evaluated. On the flip side, your chances of landing the job are pretty good at this point.
Swedish companies use recruiters extensively as a way to decrease the amount of “real” interviews they need to do. For most roles, by the time you reach the interview stage you’re only up against a handful of other candidates.
It’s harder to give you a magic success-rate at this stage. Instead, I recommend looking at how far you got in the process. If you only ever get through to the first interview, then it’s time to work on those interview skills.
If you’re getting all the way to the final interview and it’s between you and one other person well… I wouldn’t read too much into it. At that point, the smallest thing can be the deciding factor and it’s not usually something you should worry about.
It’s always good to look at improving yourself, but sometimes all it takes is some resilience to continue as you are until something sticks.
Overall it should take about 30 to 50 job applications for an average job hunter to land an offer. This takes into account the current state of the Stockholm job market (which is booming) and assumes you only apply to qualified jobs.
If you’re past this point and haven’t had much luck, then it’s time to look into what’s wrong. Which you can do with the information above.
There is a lot of information available online to help you develop your application materials and interview skills. Unfortunately, not every piece of advice you read online is gold. It’s important to have a critical mind when getting advice from an unknown source.
I’m also planning to write more on this topic in the future, so hopefully you will find helpful guidance from here soon.