avatarMichal Malewicz


Mary, an aspiring UX/UI designer, faced a lack of responses after sending out 5000 job applications, prompting an analysis of potential issues with her approach, from technical problems like email delivery and ATS compatibility to the relevance and quality of her portfolio and application materials.


Mary, enthusiastic about embarking on a UX/UI design career, diligently applied to 5000 job offers but received no replies. Despite her passion for design and research, she did not reassess her strategy after the initial lack of response. The article suggests that Mary may have encountered issues such as undelivered emails, a blacklisted email address, an ATS-incompatible resume, an expired portfolio website, low-quality or irrelevant portfolio content, and possibly even a lack of contact information on her resume. It emphasizes the importance of treating one's job search as a user experience problem, iterating and improving the application process, and minimizing friction for recruiters. The article also criticizes the use of generic bootcamp projects and stresses the need for personalized, high-quality work that stands out.


  • The article implies that persistence without reflection and adaptation is not effective, drawing a line between perseverance and insanity.
  • It suggests that Mary's approach to job applications lacked a proper structure and failed to leverage user-centered design principles on herself as a user facing a problem.
  • The article criticizes the use of design tools like Figma for creating resumes, as they may not be compatible with Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).
  • It points out that Mary may have overlooked basic technical checks, such as verifying if her emails were sent or if her email was blacklisted.
  • The article emphasizes the importance of a high-quality portfolio that is clear, accessible, and free of errors, with relevant content that matches the needs of potential employers.
  • It advises against using generic bootcamp projects, advocating for unique and engaging presentations of one's work to stand out to recruiters.
  • The article underscores the necessity of making the application process as smooth as possible for recruiters by removing any obstacles or points of friction.
  • It encourages continuous testing and optimization of all application materials, including the portfolio, resume, and email communication.
  • The article concludes by inviting readers to consider other potential mistakes Mary might have made and offers resources for further learning in design and marketing.

Mary applied to 5000 job offers.

Nobody replied.

Hello, Mary!

Meet Mary! She’s an “Aspiring UX/UI designer looking to make users lives better through human centered research and design.

She also loves Figma, cats and long walks at the beach.

She followed a popular online bootcamp, created a portfolio with a dog-walking app and decided that it is time! Time for what, you ask?

Why of course it’s time to finally show everyone what she’s made of. It’s time to become a UX designer and make users live better through human centered … ok I think you get it.

She made a nice resume in Figma (with cool gradients!) and exported it into a PDF.

It’s showtime!

Aspiring UX/UI designer looking to make users lives better through human centered research and design. Sounds good?

Mary starts sending emails

With the portfolio uploaded a month ago, beautiful resume on hand she’s now ready to tackle the job market. Did I say tackle? Nah! She’s going to shake it in its foundations!

Day 1

She sent 50 applications. Nobody replied.

Day 7

She sent another 300 applications. Nobody replied.

Day 30

5000 total applications sent. Replies: 0

This looks bad, but let’s ask Mary what she thinks happened here.

Well, the industry is tough, the economy is having problems, that must be why!

Well… That is an easy way out by blaming everything but ourselves.

Insanity or Perseverance?

There is a thin line between insanity and perseverance.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

But if nobody replied after the first 50, then the best course of action is NOT to send another 4950 but instead try and figure out WHY.

Some say that 50 may not be enough with the current competition. Fair enough. Then let’s try 200. But without correcting course you’re just spending the most valuable currency you have: your time.

And there is no result.

All that talk about research

Mary likes to emphasize how she uses design and research to make the lives of the users better. The right approach here would be to treat yourself as a user facing a problem.

The problem is of course trying to get an interview invite or even a reply.

For this process to work it needs to have a proper structure. That means you can’t think too far ahead and start checking off elements from the very start.

Were the emails even sent?

This is the first thing to check! Maybe for some reason they’re stuck in the outbox and are just waiting to go out?

We often assume that by clicking send we’re pushing our message to the rest of the world but it’s not always the case.

Better safe than sorry!

Email blacklisted?

There’s also a chance her email is blacklisted and automatically goes to spam for almost every recipient.

Gmail is famously known for rarely being blacklisted, so if you’re on another email provider you may want to consider switching.

Or, alternatively, you can search for ways to see whether you’re blacklisted or not — there are multiple websites out there that can check that for you.

Definitely something worth doing before you start sending a lot of emails.

Resume in Figma PDF? Really?

The majority of companies use ATS or Applicant Tracking Systems. What it means is that a bot is first scanning your resume and filtering just the candidates that are required.

If you did your resume in a design tool like Figma it will likely be completely incompatible with bots, meaning they will reject that resume every time no matter what’s inside.

Portfolio website expired?

There’s also a chance your portfolio server doesn’t work, or the domain has expired. If a recruiter gets a 404 error when trying to view your portfolio they won’t take the time to email you to tell you about it.

It’s all on you. Be sure!

Low quality portfolio

There are many things that can go wrong with a portfolio and I covered some of them in the past.

What you need to focus on is clarity, quick access to the case studies and projects, fast loading times and NO TYPOS!

Seriously, spell check everything twice!

Irrelevant work

There’s also a chance you applied to mostly companies with web projects and your portfolio is full of mobile apps.

When a recruiter sees a portfolio, they compare what’s in there to what the company actually needs. If there is no match, well… then there’s no match. And probably no reply too.

You can use tools like HotJar (and similar) to see how people use your portfolio website. Maybe nobody even reads your case studies at all and they click off in the first 5 seconds? In that case you know what to fix!

Generic bootcamp projects

I talked about standing out multiple times. The problem with popular UX courses and bootcamps is that they give you generic templatized approaches to presenting your work.

Short answer: everything looks the same.

When a recruiter sees the 50th set of personas looking exactly the same — often with the same clipart illustration. Boring! Yawn! Next!

No contact information?

Maybe you forgot to include your email in the resume? Remember that every little part of your journey towards a job needs to be about both meeting the expectations AND removing any possible friction.

Recruiters won’t have the time to look for your email again, or to reach out to you to clarify something at an early filtering stage.

Minimize Friction

Once you believe your work is high enough quality, you need to come up with a plan of action. Your main goal should be to minimize friction as much as possible.

Anything that makes the recruiter do more or put in more effort you can assume will be a deal breaker. They don’t know how awesome you are yet, so it’s all about making sure they find out.

Constantly test and optimise your portfolio, resume, case studies and even the way you write the emails.

Make it engaging and make it into a design process in itself.

Tell me what else could Mary have done wrong for this to happen?

I teach 140K people design and marketing and I’m having fun doing it! Follow me for unique, human-made materials. You can also watch me on YouTube.

Disclaimer: Some images used were AI generated. Nothing else was. We believe in quality of our articles and respect our readers. No GPT here.

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