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Hi Dr. Converse,

I'm getting ready to send out a bunch of applications (I'll be graduating this spring) and I want to make the best use of the opportunity to get the job I want.  I figured that I would send out as many applications as I could so maybe I could get multiple offers and could choose the best one.  Do you think that's the right strategy?  Thanks for your help.

Answer
Hi Rita,

The strategy you are describing has a name: it's called "firebombing" in the job-search and literary worlds.  Send out whatever you have to offer to as many people as you can find and hope for the best.  We used to call this the "mud-slinging" technique: throw a lot of mud at a wall and hope some of it sticks.  Whatever it's called, I think you understand the use of the imagery here.  Though it seems like a logical way to go about things, it has a number of drawbacks which I'll detail for you.

First, the strategy carries with it an inherent danger: the risk that you could easily give yourself away by making one or more silly mistakes.  I'll give you an real-life example.  A few years ago I was part of a committee reviewing applications at a university where we had a faculty opening.  One of the applications I looked at was addressed to no one in particular (a bad mistake in its own right) but it was intended for Michigan State University.  I was not employed by MSU; I taught at another institution entirely.  So, what was this person doing?  Exactly what you describe.  Making multiple copies of the same application materials and sending them to multiple schools.  Firebombing.  In this case, the person forgot to change the name of the school so sent it to us with an MSU address.  Not a good thing.  Of course, I read no further and immediately put that applicant in the reject pile.  I honestly had no interest in having a person on my faculty who was that careless.

Second, and more important (since I'll assume you would not make that kind of error) if you're applying via the firebomb route, you are not doing the most important thing you should do when applying for a job.  You are not taking the opportunity to address the VERY SPECIFIC needs of a particular employer by matching them with the skills that you have for meeting those needs.  The firebombing strategy makes a fatal assumption.  Namely, that every employer wants or needs the same things.  In fact, virtually every application package should be different since virtually every employer has different needs from every other employer.  When you address the specific needs of each employer you then need to describe how your qualifications and education have prepared you to meet those specific needs, one at a time.  This is done to a certain degree in the resume, but done in even more detail in the cover letter.  

If you do NOT consider how to best describe your suitability for each individual position, you will have a lot of company.  That's what most applicants do; they fail to adequately match their qualifications to the specific needs of the employer.  However, if you want to get an interview you must set yourself apart from all those other folks. Your strategy should not be to mail out a blizzard of paper, but to take the time and carefully consider the requirements of the positions that interest you the most.  Tell the employer how and why you are the best qualified for the job and how you are the best fit for the institution.  THAT is your primary goal as a job applicant.

It sounds like you need a change of strategy and to rethink how you are going about this process.  If you like, I'll be happy to take a look at your resume and cover letter for one of the jobs and give you a free analysis.  Send both as attachments on an email to the address below.  Also send a copy of the job announcement so I can assess how well you have blended your documents with what the employer wants.

Best wishes!

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Ralph D. Converse, Ph.D.

Expertise

I can answer questions about general job searches, resume construction, crafting an effective cover letter, and how to prepare for, and conduct, a winning interview. My speciality is the field of education, but I also have extensive background in business and administration. I know what works and what doesn't work and I can make your application package stand out from the rest ... because that is what you have to do.

Experience

I have interviewed for, and held, dozens of jobs in a career going back more than 42 years. I have taught at all educational levels including middle school, high school, community college, and university. In more than 42 years of experience on both sides of the job-search process, I have interviewed hundreds of applicants and have reviewed literally tens of thousands of job application packages. I am the author of 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them! I conduct workshops for job seekers in a variety of locations every year.

Publications
Music Educator's Journal, Teaching Music, Music and American Culture (forthcoming, 2013), Last Teacher Standing: The Job is Yours Now! and 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them!

Education/Credentials
B.A. New Mexico State University; M.Mus. Southern Illinois University; Ph.D. University of California and University of North Texas

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Thousands of individuals

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