How Long Do You Realistically Have to Apply for a Job You Found Online?

It’s a universal law: Anything that goes on the Internet stays on the Internet. This law is a tedious part of online life, like those embarrassing pictures your mom inexplicably refuses to take off Facebook, but tedious can quickly escalate to stressful when dealing with online job postings.

job application timeline

While a posting’s date will tell you how long it’s been up, it provides no indication of whether or not the employer is still actively looking. Worse, many postings don’t even provide a date, leaving you to guess. Some recruiters will take down a posting once the position has been filled—blessed are these few—but even then, it will be active well into the interviewing phase, at which point your chances of snagging the job are incredibly slim.

So, how long do you realistically have to apply for a job you found online? Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer—recruiters will have different priorities depending on the positions and their timelines. With that said, we have some guidelines to help you improve your chances of applying in time.

Settling On an Expiration Date

According to a 2015 report authored by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, 44 percent of jobs in the U.S. are filled within 30 days. After that initial month, there is a 57 percent chance an unfilled position will remain open for three months or more. The report notes that times vary depending on the position (senior posts take longer to fill) and also by location (Eastern and Mid-Western states show longer timelines than Western ones).

Erring on the side of caution, you may think you have a month to apply, but remember that 44 percent of positions are filled in that time. This means it took 30 days for the recruiters to collect and review resumes, hold a round or two of interviews, make an offer, and have it accepted. Your window to apply is actually much narrower.

How narrow? You can safely assume you aren’t the first person to see any online posting. Thanks to RSS feeds, job alerts, and newsletters, any post will be viewed hundreds of times within minutes of publication and likely applied to within the hour. We’re being generous here; thanks to features like single-click applications, a recruiter will likely have the first applications within minutes.

That’s a large crowd to stand out in, but all is not lost. Many of these applications won’t get by the applicant-tracking system, which will weed them out for not having the proper qualifications. And while recruiter’s timelines vary, you can be sure they’ll wait a couple of days to ensure they have a strong shortlist.

Given these factors, a good rule is to apply within a week of the post date. Any longer and chances are the recruiter will have moved beyond the application-gathering phase.

Tips For Realistically Applying Online

There will be variables that impact the apply-within-a-week rule, and you may still have a shot after the cutoff. Here are some helpful hacks to improve your odds:

Check the company’s website. See if the company has the job posted on its website. This will help you determine if the role is still open or if the posting is languishing on the job board. The website will also give you contacts and useful information about the company.

Call if in doubt. You can ask point blank whether or not the position remains open and what stage of the hiring process they are in.

Network. Most people find work through someone they know, so when you call, take the time to network. Talk with the recruiter about the job, your interest, and your qualifications. If you’re a good fit, the recruiter may extent the window of opportunity for you.

Use keywords in your resume. As we mentioned, many resumes won’t get past the applicant-tracking system because they’re a poor fit or don’t use keywords. Be sure to tailor your resume to the keywords on the job description to make sure it gets into a recruiter’s hands.

Know some posts are dead ends. Sometimes, recruiters put job postings online to test interest or to meet public posting requirements before hiring someone they’ve already selected in-company. In both cases, you won’t receive a callback regardless of your qualifications.

Above all, don’t get discouraged or stop applying. Even a promising candidate may have to send a hundred applications for a handful of callbacks. But if you follow the tips above, realistically approach your online job search, and keep at it, you’ll eventually start hearing back.

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