The Hot Potato Method of Applying to a Job Opening

The Hot Potato Job Responding Approach employed by most candidates in answering job advertisementts

I touched on this idea the other day in a blog article when I mentioned the idea that you should have a plan for how to attack or blitz a job opening. Let’s explore this idea a little further.

Most candidates treat responding to job advertisements like they are a hot potato – touch and get rid of it. Some of the girls on my HS basketball team play basketball in this same manner. OMG – somebody threw me the ball – I better get rid of it quickly. I’ll treat the basketball like it’s a hot potato.

Why does this happen – even after I suggest ever so politely to the young ladies on my basketball team that we are NOT playing hot potato basketball. It happens due to a lack of knowledge in what to do with the basketball, fear of screwing up, fear of being embarrassed, just plain “freaking-out” over the pressure of having to do something.

Why do so many candidates play hot potato with their responses to job openings? They respond frequently with a standard resume and a standard cover letter and that is the extent of their effort in applying for a job – let’s call this method “Hot Potato Job Responding”. The overall process of responding to a job opening takes perhaps 3 seconds – much like tossing the proverbial hot potato.

You’ll never get a job using the Hot Potato method unless random luck intervenes in the process. It’s passive! You sit by the phone praying it will ring. Your investment of 3 seconds yields nothing!

STOP playing “Hot Potato Job Responding!”

It’s depressing, dysfunctional, and reeks of desperation.

Start creating a campaign around every job response: custom cover letters, custom resumes that address the job requirements, targeting the hiring manager, connecting through social media, beating the bushes in your network for referrals and introductions. Imagine yourself as a linebacker rushing the quarter on a blitz. The same strategy should apply for every job opening.

Don’t be the one who waits helplessly like a victim for the phone to ring. Make the phone ring by shifting your approach to answering ads from “”Hot Potato Job Responding” to the football “blitzing” approach.

Brad and I explore the various methods of responding to ads in our Home Study Job Search Kit. We also have a wealth of FREE Content on our website in the form of templates, audio programs, and examples.

Are you doing everything you can to conduct an effective job search? Have you taken our self-assessment scorecard to determine if you are conducting a job search that will reduce the time in half it takes to find a great opportunity?

Barry Deutsch

Don’t forget to participate in our LinkedIn Job Search Group and join the discussion on how to get a call back for an interview after you respond to a job advertisement.

About the Author

Barry Deutsch is a founding Partner of IMPACT Hiring Solutions, co-author of "You're NOT the Person I Hired", and "This is NOT the Position I Accepted". Barry is an award-winning international speaker, retained executive recruiter, and expert on hiring and retaining top talent, and executive job search.


  • By ed esclovon, November 17, 2009 @ 6:15 pm

    As a job seeker, I subscribe to the customized approach of a job posting. I work hard to make sure that my cover letter and resume are applicable to the individual position I am applying for. However, it is tempting to respond to a job posting using your so-called “hot potato method.” The reason — in my experience so far in my search, approximately 90% of companies that I have submitted my customized cover letter and resume fail to respond to me at all, even when I use all my resources including my networks. Granted, in the current economy there too many candidates applying for available positions and companies really don’t have the luxury of reading the sheer volume of resumes received.

  • By mrkenturner, November 19, 2009 @ 6:41 pm

    After reading this post, I agree whole-heartedly with what Barry is saying in this post. I’m aggressively pursuing a job in this market and making a conscientious effort to tailor my resume to the position I’m seeking. No you should not “hot potato” or shotgun your resume out, but more than that, an individual needs to be qualified for the position they’re seeking. The litmus test every candidate should ask themselves is how closely related do their skills match the position applied for? Are those skills relevant? Are they timely-up to date within the last few years as (things change)? Is the individual flexible? Constantly updates skillsets/knowledge? Lastly, what is the state of the individual’s attitude? Again, I believe the article above is relevant with the exception of trying to push their product on us in this down economy.

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