You should have the criteria that you use to evaluate a job already figured out and it should already be in your spreadsheet. Look through each lead on your spreadsheet and cross off the ones that fail your “must-have” criteria, then rank them based on your “nice-to-have” criteria. You should be able to easily come up with a weighting system that lets you sort the jobs in order of preference. Simpler is better, so no need to go overboard.
Next, make a column for the percentage likelihood of getting the job with a reasonable effort. Multiply this with the value of the job based on the previous step, sort by this new “expected value”, and you should have an indication of which jobs are most worth your time.
If the job happens to be with one of the many companies like Revature that offer to train you for free before contracting you out, read this Hire Beware blog post to learn more about these less-than-ideal opportunities. Part of the reason for qualifying the leads is to make sure you don’t get sucked into a process and waste a bunch of time applying to jobs that you wouldn’t actually take anyway. That’s surprisingly easy. You’ll still be able to send out “practice” applications, but at least now you know which companies are worth sending those out to.
Some other criteria to think about in the “nice-to-have” column: