Jobs, Internships…How Many Should I Apply For?

By: David Ross

One of the most frequent questions I encounter as a career advisor focuses on numbers – in fact, some people think the job or internship search is all a numbers game. Specifically, inquiring minds want to know how many positions they should apply for to ensure their desired outcome. Here’s my answer in a nutshell:

Don’t dwell on the number of positions you apply for – keep applying for positions until you have accepted an offer.

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is a tendency for applicants to be either too focused or too broad in their search. Each year, I hear stories of individuals who apply for a handful of positions and wait to hear back from them before proceeding further. I encourage everyone to think of your search as an ongoing process – even if you’ve landed an interview for a position of interest or have moved forward in the interview process with an organization, it’s very important to keep searching and applying for positions while awaiting the outcome. You don’t want to find yourself scrambling to find an opportunity later on by being too selective initially. People who utilize a wait-and-see approach also miss out on great opportunities that are posted and filled while waiting to hear back about other applications.

In contrast, I’ve also heard stories of people applying for every single opening they find under the assumption that they will make decisions later based on replies they receive from employers. While conducting a broad search is great, be careful not to apply for positions you really aren’t interested in or would never consider. Hearing back from employers that are interested in you may feel good – but ultimately, no one wins if an employer wants to consider you for a job that you know for a fact you would not take.

Be strategic and thoughtful in your search and continue on until you’ve officially accepted a position. Don’t get caught up in the numbers and keep your focus on your career goals and your future.

Author: David

David Ross is a Senior Associate Director of Career Services for Wharton undergraduates and occasional blogger for "Penn & Beyond."