I’ve stressed before that you should never ‘apply to apply’. It wastes your time. It wastes HR’s time. When it’s clear that you’re not a fit, sending in your CV is more likely to permanently shut doors. The company will see your application, not as a genuine indication of interest, but as a sign that you’re not at all picky when clicking ‘apply’.

However, it’s easy to take this too far in the other direction. That is, never sending applications. Let’s face it: unless you’re a rare sort, applying for jobs is fairly joyless. If you’re already working full-time, it can feel like a second job where all you receive in return is radio silence or rejection. It takes time, it takes effort and it takes energy to search for positions, research companies, draft unique cover letters and refresh your inbox, hoping you’ll see a positive response.

To make this worth your free time, you have to be discerning. Be careful, however, not to confuse this with just being a defeatist. Unless you’re trigger happy, chances are that you’re not applying for the jobs you should be.

There are already so many applications!

There are few things as discouraging as a website that displays the number of applications. Sometimes these stats give you a reason to hope, but often for prized roles, there’s plenty of other fish in the sea. It’s hard to imagine how you’ll get hired when you’re one more name added to a pile.

The number of applicants, however, should never be a turn-off. That number does not tell you the full picture. Certainly, there may be some stiff competition, but behind the scenes, we know that many applicants are serial appliers – those trigger-happy people who aren’t ever a fit for the role.

Then there’s the pool of applicants who are required to apply for a number of jobs by Centrelink or other similar organisations. While that isn’t to say that all of these applications aren’t serious, there are certainly people applying to jobs they’d like to work at without real experience to back their application up.

There will be other serious applicants, but a number does not mean it’s pointless to try. There’s more going on behind the scenes that recruiters see every day.

But I don’t tick all the boxes

On any job listing, there will be a laundry list describing the perfect employee. Sometimes you will hit all of these. Often you will not. What you may not realise, however, is that plenty of others don’t either. In fact, sometimes no one who applies does.

But Anna, you say. You just told me to avoid applying if I’m not a fit?

This is where it’s important to be discerning. If you tick 80% of the requirements in a job listing, apply! Requirements are not actually always requirements. While some are necessary, that list describes a dream employee. Companies are very aware that they’ll likely be on-boarding someone who looks different from the person they described.

For women, this is particularly pressing; most will only apply if they hit 100% of the requirements. Men, however, will apply if they tick 60%. Keep this in mind, next time you look at that high number of applicants and don’t let that laundry list scare you. That voice in your head doesn’t know what HR is actually thinking, and you owe it yourself to be as confident as all those men who have been afforded a certainty women often have to fight for.

But I’m exhausted

Work is exhausting. Kids are exhausting. Trying to figure out what to eat every meal is exhausting. We’ve all got plenty on our plates, and so it’s not shocking that 41% of men and 46% of women say they didn’t apply for a job because they didn’t think they met the qualifications and didn’t want to waste their time and energy.

If you are discerning about how many boxes you’re ticking, this is a legitimate response. But while time and energy are finite and important to value, they shouldn’t be used as an excuse. If you are hitting at least 80% of those qualifications and this is a job you want, take a real pause before you write off the opportunity.

Sure, a good application takes time. Your CV should be polished, your cover letter should be personalised, and you should research the company in-depth before an interview. However, this is a big-picture moment. If you’re looking to leave your current job, there’s probably a very good reason. Is it worth the majority of your time each week to stay there? For another year? Another five? When you add the hours up, an application starts to look like a drop in a bucket.

This not to dismiss the effort and energy it takes. It is, however, a bit of stern love. You may not get the job, but if you don’t apply, you will definitely be stuck in the same office.

Applying for jobs is scary. You have to put yourself in the line of rejection. There may be jobs you really want that you don’t get, and that’s difficult to swallow. However, the chances that you won’t get a position are probably much smaller than you’re imagining, so don’t cheat yourself out of a future you worked hard for.