How many applications must you make before you get a job?

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Last week in the UK, the news reported on a case of a visually impaired man who finally found a job after making 2,000 applications.

Stephen Stubbs had reportedly considered himself unemployable and was delighted and astonished to discover this was not to be the case after all. “If I can do it, anyone can do it - just got to believe in yourself and it will happen,” he said.

However, does this apply if you’re seeking work in financial services?

Apparently not.

The rifle shot and the bread-on-water metaphors

If you want a new job in financial services, resume-spraying is insufficiently sophisticated.

Instead, says Philip Beddows, coach and mentor at the Silk Road Partnership, you should go for a dual strategy: the rifle shot and some well-aimed bread-on-water.

Under the rifle shot strategy, you select your target employer, get them fully in your sights using a combination of research and networking, and then fire your application straight at their heart with a personal recommendation, says Beddows.

Under the bread-on-water strategy, you chuck a handful of carefully-aimed resumes in the direction of some hungry-looking ducks.

You need to pursue both strategies at the same time, insists Beddows. The first is likely to get you a job, and the second introduces serendipity into your job search (and may therefore get you a job too).

In the current market, however, serendipity could require encouragement. “You could send 50 applications in equities and it wouldn’t make much difference,” says one equities headhunter. “There just aren’t any spaces. All you’ll do is exhaust your contact list.”

This headhunter advocates a carefully targeted bread-on-water approach, but advises attracting attention to yourself before throwing your bread. “If you send your resume without a telephone call first, you’ll get nowhere – it will just get lost,” he warns.

Practice self-discipline and resume restraint

If you must send your resume out "cold," Beddows advises that you limit the number you dispatch. “You need to ensure that you have time to follow up all your applications and reassess whether your strategy is working,” he advises.

Rob Yeung, coach and author of E is for Exceptional: The New Science of Success, agrees that less is more. “Each bank believes it is special and different, and you need to tailor your resume and cover letter to reflect that belief,” he says. “I would advise that you spend an hour or two on each application."

He adds, “For example, if one bank says it wants someone with management skills and an eye for detail, you need to adapt your resume and cover letter to ensure you reflect those qualities. It’s a game you need to play.”

Whatever you do, don’t send out hundreds of resumes to the same organization. A recruiter at a European investment bank relates how one candidate sent hundreds of resumes for multiple roles and irritated the bank’s recruiters with constant phone calls to see how his applications were doing. Ultimately, the bank became paranoid that the candidate was trying to set it up for a discrimination case and charged the individual in question with harassment.

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