When Rage Applying Strikes: How to Identify Unserious Candidates

As the job market remains highly competitive, we have seen a surge in “rage applying.” This is when candidates apply to multiple jobs, often without considering whether they are truly interested in the role. Rage applying goes hand-in-hand with quiet quitting. Often, employees want to entertain the thoughts and feelings of leaving their job, but they aren’t necessarily serious about leaving yet. Meanwhile, other employees engaging in this trend are actually trying to find a better role. As a recruiter, it can be hard to identify who are the real applicants in a sea full of quiet quitters, but understanding rage applying and identifying red flags will certainly help.

Why is ‘rage applying’ a thing?

Rage applying occurs for a number of reasons, but the foundational reason is that employees are stressed and frustrated in their current role. They hate their job, and their misery at work may be starting to affect life outside of work (if that even exists for them). So, in an attempt to take back the power and reclaim their future, they rage apply. Rage applying affirms the thoughts that they could be anywhere they want to be, and they don’t have to stay and put up with a toxic work environment.

Other reasons people rage apply may be that they are just ready to make a career move but haven’t really put any planning into where they want to go next. This usually occurs when people feel unappreciated, underpaid, or are looking for better benefits. At the end of the day, all employees want better working conditions, even if that means applying for a job they don’t really want.

How can employers decipher if a candidate is genuine?

So, with so many candidates rage applying, how can an employer tell when someone is not serious about the role? Here are a few things to look out for:

Generic Applications

A generic job application is the first red flag any employer should look out for. Job searchers who are seriously seeking a new position will take the time to tailor their resumes. However, if a candidate is a mass applying to many jobs during a rage, they likely won’t take the time to tailor much of anything. They may even rush through the application and miss important instructions or details.

Unenthusiastic Demeanor

Say the candidate makes it past the ATS system and ends up on a phone or video call with you. In this instance, pay attention to the candidate’s reaction. A normal reaction is the candidate’s excitement or engagement in the conversation. What’s not normal is if the candidate seems to rush you off the phone or if he/she seems uninterested. In this case, they probably didn’t apply to your position with the intention of getting your attention.


Inconsistency can show up in two different ways:

The first is if a candidate responds slowly to emails or phone calls. They may even stop following up after interviews or other communications. In this case, they may not really be serious about the role, or they may be waiting on news from another company.

The second way is if you get insight into the other roles or companies the candidate applied to. Sometimes during an interview or screening call, you can ask, “what other companies or roles have you applied to?” If the candidates’ answers seem unrelated, especially to the role you are hiring for, then they may have just gone on a rage-applying spree.

Lack of Research

Nerves can get the best of all of us. Nevertheless, if your candidate seems unfocused and scattered, they may not be prepared to meet with you. Noticing whether a candidate is prepared and has done company (and/or industry) research is an age-old tactic for deciphering whether the candidate is fully invested in the application process or not.

As an employer, you must identify candidates who are truly interested in the role and committed to the company, but it’s not easy. By looking for these signs, you can avoid getting caught up in the aftermath of someone’s rage applying.


  1. When Rage Applying Strikes: How to Identify Unserious Candidates
    MARCH 6, 2023

    Hello! I read your article. I’m definitely not at all in a rage but the other characteristics describe how I’m able to apply for positions. I have two degrees in electrical engineering, worked for ten years in engineering, and then surprised myself by opting to devote myself fully to raising my own children despite being groomed at work to be a working mom. Now 20 years later after that choice, and now with one child a disabled teenager remaining in the family nest, I’ve been looking for employment. I’ve applied for some engineering jobs I thought I could do over and over I am passed over and in a couple instances the job ad was revised with “NEW GRADUATE ONLY” added to it. I tried applying for sales engineer type jobs and was over and over told I was not competitive. I only apply to jobs I’m seriously interested in though. I’m learning more about today’s work world…. I’m investigating new types of work. I talk to different employers at job fairs to see what sort of workers they want, what their jobs are like (where, hours, start and stop times, over time expectations….) and compensation. I’m trying to see where I might fit in with my own personal and family situation into new fangled work world. I have not been tailoring my resume for every job application as I’m not sure if HR staff will look favorably on me because of my odd resume including the 20 year employment gap. Recently for an interview I was looking for old technical managers I’d worked for over 20 years ago to fulfill that employer’s requirement for three, employer references … If I apply for a job its with sincere interest. My qualifications for that position may not be ideal so I don’t bother tailoring the resume. I acknowledge I’m a misfit right now. I seek WFH or local employment, work where I can fulfil my responsibility to be the primary caregiver of my remaining child at home, and earn income to reduce our family’s debt burden and if I can zero out the debt burden I may return to school for another fabulous degree or go part time. We’ll see. I’m playing this one by ear. 🙂 LOL Mary

    • Christa Reed Reply

      Coming back to work with a 20-year gap is really hard, but it’s not impossible. It’s important to tailor your resume the best you can. Try not to focus too much on your past life, and focus on what skills, volunteer work, hobbies, and traits you can brag about. Also, never discount the idea of changing careers/industries. After 20 years, the world is your oyster.

  2. Sterling Tallman Reply

    We have taken a set of criteria that were unfair for ruling out applicants (due to factors such as race, creed, religion, sex, gender, political affiliation, etc.) and are slowly replacing them with equally unfair and equally biased reasons for ruling out applicants on non-disqualifying factors related to other features. As someone quipped in the 1990’s, “yesterday we discriminated against homosexuals. Tomorrow, we will discriminate against homophobes.” We are still constantly re-creating reasons to be biased against other humans, with neither the benefit of the doubt nor anti-discrimination laws equal to the task of looking and listening to our fellow human beings in a fair manner. And still, every day, I see people hiring and promoting people who look and sound exactly like them. This is just one more set of reasons to justify themselves and feeling satisfied they “found out the rage applicants.”

    • Christa Reed Reply

      This is an interesting take. I believe the “warning signs” we’ve listed in this article are some of the least biased ways to tell if a candidate is serious, especially because these aren’t the only criteria employers can use.

      How do you think an employer can tell if a candidate seriously wants the job or not?

  3. Kate Thomson Reply

    I feel the section on “Generic Applications” makes some unfair assumptions. I’ve heard as many as 75% of applications are never seen by human eyes because they are filtered out for not including the right keywords an employer is looking for. But you’re saying employers should discard applications if they seem to generic because that shows the candidate “isn’t serious”.

    So a candidate spends 5 minutes applying, happens to have the right keywords, resume is discarded for being too generic. Another candidate spends 2 hours crafting an application, putting together a portfolio specifically tailored to that company, and their resume is never even seen by the potential employer because they didn’t happen to use the right key words.

    As a candidate I feel like no matter what I do, whether I spend 5 minutes or two hours on an application has little to do with whether I will be contacted by an employer because I don’t know what specific keywords they’re looking for. So why spend two hours working on an application that no one will ever see?

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