Don’t Buy the Hiring Lottery

Let’s stop pretending that the hiring process is a lottery.

By: David Heinemeier Hansson

It’s never easy looking for a job. Trotting through shitty, vague, unrealistic openings that are frequently been written by people thrice removed from those you’ll eventually be working with. Then hoping to hear back from the black hole that is the application process at many companies. Ugh. No wonder many applicants end up jaded, if stuck in that process for too long.

But sitting on the other side of the process can certainly also make you jaded. Reading through hundreds of applications from people who aren’t even trying. Trying to understand the role or trying to express why they’d be a good hire.

I think part of the problem is the idea that “if you don’t apply, you can’t get it!”, which sorta sounds like a “if you don’t play, you can’t win” slogan for a lottery. That’s a perfectly reasonable conclusion from someone who has gone through one too many black-hole application processes, but it’s also wrong.

Sure, you can’t hit if you don’t swing, but it doesn’t matter how many times I swing, I’m not going to hit a homerun against a Yankees pitcher. Not one in a hundred, not one in a thousand. Yes, step one of being in the game is showing up. But unless step two is being somewhat qualified for that game, you’re still going to lose.

This doesn’t invalidate the idea that there are perfectly qualified candidates who hold themselves back from applying due to imposter syndrome or anxiety or other reasons stemming from a lack of confidence. Boosting that confidence amongst the qualified with encouragement is ace. Let’s keep doing that.

But let’s stop pretending that the hiring process is a lottery. That sending out the most resumes is how you win it. That you should apply to positions no matter how remote of a stretch it is, because, hey, they gotta hire someone, and that might as well be you!

Applying for a job is hard. Every time you don’t hear back, you can lose a tiny little something of yourself. You thus might try just that little bit less next time. So if you keep applying for unlikely-to-get jobs, you might eventually water yourself down, and dilute your application, until it’s a very thin cup of tea indeed.

Don’t do that. Apply when you have a real shot. Stretch a little, but not too much. Save yourself and your ego from the lottery trap.

Originally published

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