Ask Dana: How to play the odds in your job search

Playing the Odds Game in Job Search


A few months ago, I applied for a full-time position that I was very qualified for with an organization that I previously worked for. A month later, someone within the organization told me that the hiring manager for the position was particularly slow at filling new positions — in one instance it took him almost eight months to choose a candidate.

Finally, someone on the organization’s HR team contacted me, saying that the hiring manager wanted to interview me. Details were to follow. However, I never received a follow-up call. So eventually, I left follow-up voice and e-mail messages with both the HR rep and the hiring manager, expressing my continued interest in the position — still no response.

This would be a great job with a great organization. Realistically, how long should I continue to pursue this opportunity? How else can I snag a face-to-face interview?

Advice from Dana:

Here’s the most important piece of advice that I have for all job seekers: You simply cannot rely on one, two, or even three job opportunities to actually land a position. I even dedicated an entire chapter in my book “Cut the Crap, Get a Job!” to the importance of playing the odds.

Your question outlines just one type of “crap” that happens on the company hiring side. Here are a few of the most common hiring roadblocks:

  • A slow-moving hiring manager, HR department, or other inefficient team.
  • The job is posted, but it’s really not open and you don’t know that.
  • You applied, but have no contact information. Your application is in the “black hole.”

Even if you’re “perfect for this position” or the job description “has your face on it,” you cannot get wedded to any one position. It’s not just that there are, on average, over 200 applicants per position — it’s that there are too many variables between a job posting and an actual hiring event.

Rules for playing the odds game

So, how do you play the odds? Try juggling at least 10 active job prospects at one time. That way, you will feel better about your search, your progress, and your opportunities. Plus, it will decrease the time between now and your start date.

Rule No. 1: Have a minimum of 10 “active” job possibilities in play

You need 10 active opportunities in motion at the same time. If one drops off, add one. You can find these openings online or through the company itself, just don’t count the make-believe job you designed in your head.

An “active” opportunity means you have done something to get the job. You may only be in pre-application research mode, but you’re still being active. Feel like you have too many balls in the air? In a recent Business Journals Career Mojo article, we gave out a free Cut the Crap Job Tracking Tool [], which will teach you how to track all of your job search activities.

Rule No. 2: Make each job opportunity count—or cross it off the list

My father taught me “If you cheat, you are cheating yourself.” So don’t cheat on how you count your 10 active opportunities. Each of your active openings must meet at least one of the following requirements:

  • You are doing research and preparing your customized application to submit.
  • You applied, and fewer than 15 work days have passed without hearing something back.
  • You had a phone or face-to-face interview, and fewer than 15 work days have passed since you heard from the company.
  • You heard something back from the company, acknowledging receipt of your application, and you are within the 15-work-day window for initiating the next step.

The good news: Every time you cross one off your list (meaning, it’s no longer viable), you get to shop for a new job and add a new opportunity to the group.


Sign Up to Receive Free Offers and Insights

Thank you for subscribing!


Sign Up to Receive Free Offers and Insights

Thank you for subscribing!