Numbers Game

Looking for a job is tough, and there is a lot of advice out there on how to do it, so I figured I would enter the fray with advice of my own, which is to work with the numbers. 

Way back in the day, before I found my calling in HR and my resume was a scroll of papyrus, I worked in sales.  When I say sales, I mean SALES – as in 100% commission: they provide the desk and phone, you bring everything else sales.  I’m talking you make the sale, or you don’t eat sales.  It was grueling work, but I enjoyed it.  Other than the 100% commission part – that got a little dicey at times.  Nonetheless, I had a great manager and teacher – let’s call him Ernie.  Ernie had been successful in his career, but when I look at him I don’t think he was a particularly gifted salesperson.  Rather he was committed and focused, and he lived by one simple rule: it is just a numbers game, and as he put it, everyone has their number.  Mine was something like 18.  What that meant was that, on average, I had to make 18 calls to get an appointment.  I had to pick up the phone and talk to someone 18 times before they would agree to meet with me and let me hock my wares.  Of course, it wasn’t like the 18th call of the day was always the one that landed me an appointment, sometimes it would be the first. But for every one of those calls, I would end up making 35 more calls to get the second.  Sometimes I would land 2 appointments after 10 calls, then make 30 more calls without a single bite.  From there, the numbers changed, and for something like every 3 appointments, I averaged a sale.  So, in theory, if I wanted to land 3 sales in a week, I needed to make 162 calls a week (18 calls =1 appointment, 3 appointments = 1 sale; multiply that by 3…).  Doesn’t mean if I made 162 calls I would get 3 sales a week, but if I consistently did that, when I looked back at a span of months, it would almost always average out.  So how is this related to landing a job?

If you are like most people, when you decide to start looking for work – either because you have to or you want to, you start with the usual suspects – the job boards.  Also, if you are like most people, you look and find one that you are particularly interested in, you pull your resume together, type up a nice cover letter, go through the online applicant tracking system where it asks you all kinds of questions, and then you sit and wait. 

Hopefully, you hear back and you are on your way, but maybe you don’t.  If you are like a lot of people I talk to, you get frustrated and may even give up, but this isn’t how the game is played. Looking for a job is a numbers game – and everyone has a number.  Unless your number is 1, chances are you aren’t going to land the first gig you apply for.  In fact, chances are you aren’t going to land an interview at the first job you apply for.  There are plenty of variables and others competing for that same job.  Apply, interview, send your thank you note and cross your fingers.  If it doesn’t happen, no harm, no foul. Just keep looking and apply for the next job that looks like a good fit.  And the next.  And the next… until you hit that number.

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