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Aug 27

Avoiding the Serial Applicant Syndrome

Posted on August 27, 2012 at 7:37 PM by Clay Curtin

by Lori Sassoon

Step 1: Don’t apply for the job.
Step 2: Repeat, as needed.

Sometimes your job search can feel like a numbers game - the more applications you send in, the better the odds that you’ll land that dream position, right?  Well, what may have worked when you were in high school, looking for a summer job at the mall, is not necessarily the best strategy for advancing your professional career in local government.

If you are what I call a Serial Applicant, you may actually be working against yourself and potentially sabotaging your end game in the process. Some reasons:

1.  It is difficult to spend enough time crafting a meaningful cover letter, customizing your resume, and writing thoughtful answers to supplemental questionnaires if you are applying for every open position you see.  Use your time to apply for those positions that truly seem like the best fit with your experience, career goals, and personal life. For example, if the position requires relocating and you know you really wouldn’t move, don’t apply. It’s a waste of your time and the time of the recruiting agency.

2.  It’s a small, small world in local government. Within a certain region, you can bet that everyone knows everyone and the pool of qualified talent is surprisingly small. This means that someone sitting on your interview panel in City A today may be reviewing your resume for City B next month. This isn’t necessarily a problem, as long as you are consistent in stating your qualifications and career goals. But if the jobs are completely different, or you represent yourself in a totally different way, you may not be taken seriously.

3.  Those “Dear John” rejection letters can have a real impact on your confidence level. When you apply for positions for which your education and skills don’t fit well, you will inevitably be rejected more frequently. All this can play with your psyche when you do get that interview for the perfect job, making you less confident when you should feel at your best.  In turn, lack of confidence absolutely comes across in your body language and demeanor. Nothing kills an interview like a low-energy, slightly defeatist “vibe”.

Rather than being a Serial Applicant, focus your search energy on those positions for which you are best qualified, at the organizations in which you’d love to work.  This more strategic approach will yield better results in the end.

Industry Expert Lori Sassoon has served in various executive roles in several southern California cities. She is currently the Deputy City Manager for Administrative Services in the city of Rancho Cucamonga, California.  She is a contributor to's Blog and Industry Feed.

Tag(s): job, career, application