Job searching is often an inherently passive experience if you’re focused on reviewing job postings that you find on job boards. Another way to approach it is to determine your strategy (ideal roles, industries, and companies) and go after them proactively to see if they have openings that may not be posted online (this is often the case!).
If you’re reactively seeing an open posting and deciding whether to apply, or receiving an invite to an interview and have to respond, it is much easier to say yes and go with it without much thought, versus when you’re actively asking yourself where you want to work and where you want to get your foot in the door, this takes much more intention and reflection. Because the typical job search method is a more passive experience, it requires more effort to remember to be thoughtful regarding whether it’s even worth your time to apply or reply.
Ask yourself these questions before you apply to an online job posting and/or receive a message about an open role:
- What is my interest in the role from 1–10?
- Given what you can read from the job posting so far, how well does this align with the style of work I enjoy doing and am natural at doing?
2. What is my interest in the industry from 1–10?
- Does this company’s product or service align with a mission that I care about or find interesting?
3. What is my alignment with the environment from 1–10?
- Given what you know so far about the company, does it align with the environment that you want to be in? (think: stage/size of organization, location, pace of work, hybrid/remote, culture/values)
4. Do I have any key concerns or hesitations that come to mind about this role/company?
5. Would I be excited to accept an offer and get started in this role?
6. Determine next steps, see below
After all this, determine your gut feeling and decision on whether to apply and/or respond to move further. It’s very possible you may not feel 100% confident in these answers, but if it feels worth exploring, you absolutely can put your hat in the ring. The point here is that you should be thoughtful and intentional with where you apply because any application or interview is also taking up your time that could be potentially better spent seeking out more fitting opportunities.
- If you have ratings that are at least a 7 on most categories, go for it.
- If you have any key concerns or ratings below a 7, I’d reconsider whether its worth applying or responding. If you’re in a time crunch and need a job ASAP, then that is likely the only time whereby you can understandably, intentionally decide to sacrifice job fulfillment.
- If it’s a conversation with a prospective hiring manager or recruiter, I’d encourage you to thank them for reaching out and try to concisely explain what roles you’re most interested in or thrive in. (if you’re not sure — check out the process of career exploration).
Saying no is not always easy but the more times you say no when you need to, you’ll open yourself up to that many more opportunities to say yes. Saying no creates space for yes. Remember that anytime you submit a job application it’s you saying “yes” and devoting your time towards that application. With limited time, use it wisely towards the applications that are most fitting or exciting to you, especially since you should also follow up after that interview by networking your way into the company as well.
About the Author: Rachel Serwetz’ early professional experience was at Goldman Sachs in Operations and at Bridgewater Associates in HR. From there, she was trained as a coach at NYU and became a certified coach through the International Coach Federation. After this, she worked in HR Research at Aon Hewitt and attained her Technology MBA at NYU Stern. Throughout her career, she has helped hundreds of professionals with career exploration and for the past 4+ years she has been building her company, WOKEN, which is an online career exploration platform to coach professionals through the process of clarifying their ideal job and career path. She is also an Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at Binghamton University and has served as a Career Coach through the Flatiron School/WeWork, Columbia University, and Project Activate.