Why Applying Online Won’t Land You Your Dream Job (& What to Do Instead)

Jul 08, 2023

The average job online receives 100+ applicants, only 4-6 will get an interview. 

That means you only have a 4-6% chance of securing an interview.

And that's if all applications were considered equal.

You're also likely to come up against people with more direct experience.

So, your chances of securing a job offer as a Retail career changer is less than 1%.

This might feel like a depressing statistic but I'm sharing this to explain why you've been unsuccessful in applying online thus far. 

It’s the reason why most, if not all, of your applicants are rejected.

But you are not alone, applying online and not hearing anything back is the rule, not the exception.

We currently live in the most competitive job market history has ever seen.

But it’s not the volume of candidates preventing people from landing jobs.

It’s their approach.

75% of people use online applications as their primary job method for job searching.

Yet only 20% of jobs were advertised online, while 80% of roles were either filled by a referral or word of mouth (basically they were never advised online).

If you’re applying online for a job, you are competing against 75% of the population for 20% of the available openings.

So, you know where I’m heading with this right?

If you want to land your dream job, you need to land a referral. 

Now you might think…

“How do I get a referral when I don’t know a single person at my dream company?”

Well, the good news is, there is a proven process you can follow to build relationships with people who can get you hired. 


Step 1: Find the Right Person

You need to find the person that’s going to influence the hiring decision. The only person that can do that is the hiring manager or someone very close to them. 

Let’s say you want to be a Senior Talent & Leadership Manager at Macmillan Cancer Support (a not-for-profit organisation in the UK).

I just found this on a job search website. We’re going to find the hiring manager for this role. 

Pro Tip : Recruiters can be likened to the human equivalent of an online job application. Their inboxes are flooded with hundreds of emails each day, making it exceptionally challenging to make a lasting impression. Moreover, their role typically extends only as far as referring candidates for initial interviews, as they lack authority in the final hiring decision. Given these circumstances, focus on hiring managers, not recruiters. 


Step 2: Where to Find Them

If your dream job has listed a hiring manager in the advert, then you can look them up straight away on LinkedIn.

And if they haven’t you can still find them on LinkedIn.

In the search bar, I want you to plug in your dream job title and filter via “people”.

I then want you to apply the following filters;

  • Current company – [the company with the vacancy]
  • Location – [if the vacancy is location specific] 

So going back to my example wanting to become a Senior Talent & Leadership Manager at Macmillan Cancer Support. 

I’ve decided to go with the following filters...

I’ve searched for the word “talent” in people working at Macmillan Cancer Support. It’s important to remember that you are looking for someone who can influence the hiring process. With that in mind, I usually use a title that is one level up from the position that I’m looking for. This will take a bit of research and scrolling through the results.

In my example, I would imagine the Senior Talent & Leadership Manager is a senior role so likely managed by a head of role. It would appear that the Head of HR Business Partnering and Talent Acquisition would be the hiring manager for this role. 


Step 3: What to Say to Them 

Although it may feel uncomfortable, this step is crucial to your job search. Don't worry, I've got you covered with an easy-to-use script that you can use to reach out to people. No excuses, just do it!

You must try and uncover a personalised angle when you reach out to people for the first time. It could be that you have both worked in retail, or you are connected with someone you both know. Perhaps they made a career change from a completely different industry, or they posted something on LinkedIn that you found interesting. Just find a loose angle as it increases the chances of them replying to you. 

For example, if you were going to email that contact we discovered earlier. 

I noticed Alex used to work for Marks & Spencer which is another retailer in the UK. Result! 

Here's the message I could write to Alex… 


Hi Alex,

I noticed your successful career transition from Retail to not-for-profit, and I recently applied for the Senior Talent & Leadership Manager vacancy at Macmillan Cancer Support. I'm reaching out to see if you could provide any insights into the role please? 

Your experience in a similar field would be incredibly valuable, and I greatly appreciate any assistance you can offer. If you're too busy to help personally, I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to connect with anyone who can provide further insight into the role. 

Thank you for considering my application. I look forward to hearing back from you soon. 

Best regards,

Tom Harris


There you have it, personal outreach that will not only give you insight into your dream job but will also help the hiring manager put a face to the name.

And let me tell you this, just being 1 of 100 applicants where the hiring manager can put a face to a name can potentially increase your chances of receiving an interview tenfold.

It will undoubtedly help you stand out from the crowd. 



1. Use the techniques above to find people who could influence the hiring decision at the company where you aspire to work. 

2. Send one email today and one email every weekday after that to a new person on your list.

3. Once you have reached out to 10 individuals, return to step 1 and repeat the process. 

By following these steps, you will begin the process of establishing a brand-new network outside of Retail.

Turning a stranger into an advocate who is willing to vouch for you throughout the hiring process doesn’t happen with a single email, but you’ve taken the initial step. 

But that’s all for this week. 

Happy network building!


Whenever you're ready, there are 2 ways I can help you:

1. I'd recommend starting with an affordable course:

Career Idea Generator: Unlock Exciting Career Ideas Outside of Retail

The Proven Framework for Generating 30+ Career Ideas Outside of Retail Without Sacrificing Your Salary (Even if You Have Absolutely No Experience in Other Industries)

The Job Offer Blueprint: How to Secure Interviews for Your Dream Career Outside of Retail.

The Job Offer Blueprint Is a Multi-Step System for Generating a Pipeline of Interviews for Careers in Exciting Industries - Even if You’ve Only Worked in Retail

2. If you need more hands-on 1:2:1 support.

Join the Retail Escape Academy. The Retail Escape Academy Is a Proven, All-In-One System for Landing a Job You Love Without Connections, Without Traditional “Experience,” and Without Using Job Search Websites. Includes both "Career Idea Generator" and "Job Offer Blueprint" courses. In addition: Self-Marketing Mastery, Nailing Your Interviews + Loads of Hands-On Support. 

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