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Mar 28, 2023

TikTok, it seems, is starting to infiltrate the world of HR – and not in a good way. And now it’s created another buzzword: ‘rage applying’

In any sensible world, the stuffy, corporate world of HR and the inane world of TikTok ought never to mix.

But right now, these two worlds are not just mixing; they’re colliding.

First we had ‘quiet quitting’ – the practice of turning up and doing the bare minimum – popularized by TikToker, @zkchillin, last summer.

His irreverent video about ‘not outright quitting your job, but quitting the idea of going above and beyond,’ quickly garnered 3.5 million views and almost 500,000 likes.

Since then, the hashtag #quietquitting has been viewed more than 159 million times, and has spawned more column inches than many people think it ought to have.

But while most now dismiss this particular phrase as just a new one for the long-known existing problems of disengagement or presenteeism, there is a new – and some say more pernicious – TikTok trend now emerging.

This one’s called ‘rage applying’.

Shotgunning rèsumès

It is what the name suggests – applying (in anger) to as many firms as possible – or as Forbes recently dubbed it, “aggressively shotgunning your rèsumè.”

But HRDs argued Forbes, should be worried by this seemingly new and impulsive behavior.

For not only are these overlooked under-appreciated employees firing off their resumes to firms they typically have no intention of joining (they are simply applying in spite, to waste a company’s time); but many of these applications are actually turning in to real offers from skills-short businesses thinking they’ve suddenly found ‘the one’ (when really they haven’t).

Even those who might actually want the job they’ve rage-applied to aren’t always doing it for the good of their careers.

They’ll often use the offer as a bargaining chip, to achieve their main intention of being offered more to stay in their existing role. Rage applying is fast becoming the quickest form of pay rise bribery.

So is there anything in this trend; can it be stopped; and how do HRDs know if they’re being target by real or ‘rage’ job seekers?

To answer these and other questions, TLNT exclusively spoke to Jenn Lim, author of ‘Going Beyond Happiness’ to find out:


Q: We’ve had quiet quitting, quiet firing, so what’s ‘rage applying’ all about?

Rage applying happens when employees are frustrated, feel undervalued, and not heard. As a reaction to their challenges, people are applying elsewhere to get their needs met.


Q: What do you think is that cause of it? What are people reacting to?

A: To me these trends are the symptoms of a workplace that just isn’t working for some people anymore. The pandemic uncovered pay disparities, a lack of flexibility and appreciation, and a desire to re-prioritize what’s most important and how we spend the precious hours of our day.

At some point, we’ve probably all been guilty of rage applying, whether it is a response to negative feedback, frustration over a lack of opportunity, or a retort to ineffective leadership. For employees who feel a bubbling up over frustrations — maybe because they don’t feel seen and heard, or they’ve lost sense of control and progress — the resentment builds and eventually boils over.

Control and progress are necessary for us to feel authentically happy and whole. When those aren’t attainable in our current situations, we seek them elsewhere.


Q: How does rage applying differ from people just speculatively sending out lots of CVs/applications for jobs?

A: The difference is the intention and thought behind the applying. Typically job seekers apply to jobs because they need one, such as those who have been laid off recently or are looking to elevate their careers. In other words, the catalyst is losing their current role or desire to grow in a new role.

Rage applying however, is more about feelings of frustration, being fed up with the status quo, but also maintaining the current job while actively planning your next move with a hint of retaliation.

Strategically applying for jobs; talking to folks in the field; researching, and tailoring your resume is a thoughtful, intentional process. Rage applying is firing off resumes to whoever might, say, pay more.


Q: Is the ‘rage’ bit here important – i.e., people are vindictively sending out lots of applications?

A: The truth is most people are still reeling from the last three years of massive change and haven’t fully reconciled and recovered from it.

When we don’t process events, we stay in primal states like fight/flight/freeze. When employees rage apply, it’s in this state that they feel wronged or slighted by their current employer.

But when our actions come from a place of rage, they’re not thought out or done with long-term gains or, most likely, with values in mind.


Q: How does an HRD spot that they’re receiving a ‘rage’ application vs. someone who genuinely wants that job?

Asking the right questions in the interview process and gauging people’s responses are the best ways to determine whether the applicant is genuinely interested in the position.

HR should dig deeper into the “why?” to see if the applicant feels a connection to the organization’s purpose. Put another way, are there growth opportunities for both employer/employee and has the applicant done the research to understand how he/she can step into the role and help level up the team and company in concrete ways?


Q: What are the dangers of rage applying (for employers and employees)

A: If the employee is not evaluating what’s missing in their current role and answering how their purpose aligns with the organization, then they’re just trading one problem job for another.

Consider the Great Regret many job seekers felt after participating in the Great Resignation. When we just chase a paycheck or title, we’ll only experience extrinsic happiness, which is short-lived and not sustainable.

Extrinsic happiness doesn’t hold up because it hinges on external factors that are mostly out of our control. Intrinsic happiness comes from independent growth and resiliency and is something deeper and more meaningful. This type of happiness is embedded in values, purpose, and intentional actions.

For the employer, the risk is losing talent because they aren’t giving a voice to their teams or hiring people who aren’t going to stick around for the long term.

To combat these risks, HR needs to start having honest, transparent conversations about what the employee really wants. They need to listen with an empathic ear and give them a space with psychological safety to openly discuss their feelings and concerns, allowing for a more human connection.


Q: Can employers call their bluff, or do they have to assume that every applicant is a genuine one?

A: Rage applying isn’t always about wanting more money but a desire to be treated and respected as a human and doing meaningful work. Asking the right questions that go beyond making more money (as shared above) will give an indication of whether there’s genuine interest or not.


Q: How much time could businesses’ waste’? Is this the intention of those rage applying – to cause as much time wasting as possible?

A: I’d re-frame this question in that businesses can be better at taking a fresh look at their hiring and recruiting methods so that they’re current with the times.

It’s not a waste if they’re more in tune with what both the business and applicants are looking for, so they’ll be rewarded with better hires no matter what the next trend might be.


Q: How long might rage applying last for? Is it just a passing trend?

A It will last as long as people feel they’re not being cared for, feel under-appreciated, and lack a sense of psychological safety in their workplaces. As we’ve already said, these aren’t necessarily “new” trends. These are old systemic problems being named in today’s context, with a louder bullhorn than the past.


Q: What can companies do to avoid getting caught up in it?

By answering both the ‘what’s in it for ME’ question (for the employee) and the ‘what’s in it for ALL?’ question (for the employer). Both sides of the hiring line can then prioritize what’s most important to them.