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How to Accelerate Your Job Search

Two people having a coffee meeting

Finding a new job for most people can be an exercise in frustration, stress, and uncertainty.  Job seekers often feel lost and like they have no control as they keep spinning their wheels as each week goes by. 


It doesn’t have to be that way. 

You can have much more control and feel like you are making progress by changing how you look for a job.


There’s an old joke about a guy who drops his keys in a dark parking lot and then goes over by the streetlamp to look for them because he can see better under the light.  Most job seekers operate similarly.  They spend most of their time looking for jobs in the wrong places.  This makes it take longer to land a new job and increases frustration and anxiety.  It can also make you more likely to accept a subpar job offer if you are desperate enough. 


Whether you are unemployed with the whole day to job search or have just a few hours a week to work on finding a new role, spending your search time wisely each day and each week will accelerate the process of getting you that new job.


The biggest time-suck for job seekers is applying for job posts.  The best practice for each job post is to tailor your resume to highlight the skills and experiences the job is asking for and make sure there are enough keyword matches so that it might survive keyword filtration. 


Then most companies require you to fill out an application, which starts with creating an account if you haven’t applied before, filling in fields for your contact information (which is duplicated on your resume), uploading your resume, filling out additional questions, and sometimes including a cover letter, which you need to write first. 


From start to finish, you could spend four to five hours on one job post.  So maybe 2-3 applications in a day.  Many job seekers I work with tell me it takes over a hundred applications before they get called for an interview.  That could mean 400 hours (or up to ten 40-hour workweeks) of full-time job hunting just to get to your first interview…and that’s assuming there are even enough jobs posted that match your search parameters to apply to. 


That’s just for the first interview.  You might need ten first interviews to get a job offer.


Depending on the parameters of your search, the availability of jobs in your field, and the competition for those jobs, your funnel could look like this:


50-500 Applications --> 2-10 First Interviews --> 2-3 Second Interviews --> 1-2 Final Interviews --> 1 Job Offer


No wonder people are so frustrated with the search process.


Applying to job posts is kind of like scratching lottery tickets.  Somebody will get lucky but statistically, it’s not going to be you.   While job posts need to be part of your job search process, you should not devote all your time to such a low-result activity.  There is a better way to increase your odds: Networking.


Networking can help you uncover job openings that have not been posted, or at least get you to the top of the stack of applicants and into the interview process.  Networking can help opportunities that don’t exist yet, – but your availability can spark one to be created.  I few examples might be as a replacement for a pending retirement or getting added to a team that has more work than the existing team can handle.  Under the right circumstances, you can dramatically decrease your competition for roles, often skipping straight to the hiring manager for an interview.


You will find networking to be much more productive and yield much more promising results.  Whether it’s attending networking events like a trade luncheon or job seeker group, or one-on-one conversations, calls, or meetings you set up via tools like LinkedIn, you will find more success than just banging away on job boards all day. 


Here's how it works:  Let’s say in the first week of looking for a job you start reaching out to people in your network and schedule three meetings or calls with people in your first- or second-degree connections.  While they may or may not have any job opportunities, they might connect you to others who do.  At each meeting, you ask for other job leads or connections they recommend and get two leads each.  The following week, of those six leads, 4-5 might agree to connect with you and schedule a call.  On those calls, each person gives you 2-3 new leads, yielding 12 new connections to pursue.  By doing this every week and scheduling meetings on your own (using tools like LinkedIn) you will be getting 10-15 meetings a week. 


Depending on the quality of your new connections, for every 10-20 leads or new contacts, you can expect one to two job opportunities to surface.  Once you get the networking flywheel moving, you can hope to find 1-2 new job opportunities pop up each week, instead of every other month by just applying to jobs. 


20 Networking Connections --> 10 Meetings or Calls --> 1-2 Job Opportunity Leads --> 1 Interview Process


You can see the difference between the two pipelines.   Of the interview processes you enter via networking, you could see less competition and move faster through them.  If the timing is right, I have had qualified candidates go from interview to offer in a week under the right circumstances because their resume caught them at the right moment of need. Right person, right place, right timing - and they were the only person interviewed for a job.   


Do not get frustrated that “it’s not working” right away.  Networking can take time to help you land a job.  Not every person you reach out to will respond.  Not every networking meeting will net you hot leads.  Even if it takes 40 networking meetings to land an interview, on balance, the time spent will be much more productive than defaulting to job boards all day.   


You can also combine the two activities – once you apply for a sweet job you can hack your network to find a connection who can help get you an interview, and out of the resume black hole. 


Asian woman reclining on a couch with laptop


Many people, especially introverts, find networking exhausting.  I get it - they’d rather get no response or a canned email rejection than run the risk of a real person potentially blowing them off or telling them, “Sorry I cannot help you.”  But remember that for every networking meeting you have, dozens of positive outcomes can come from it – from a “my neighbor’s company is hiring” to “one of our managers is planning on retiring and you might be a good replacement.”  It's a number's game.  Every no is one step closer to yes.


Those are the outcomes you must go and find – they don’t often come to you.  Remember - the most successful job seekers generate their luck.


Thanks for reading.  I hope you found this helpful.  I’ve been working as a recruiter for over 20 years and have helped thousands of job seekers get through the wilderness and get gainfully employed in roles they love. 


Likewise, I help companies get the right people on their teams to achieve their goals. 


If you would like to learn more, let’s schedule some time to talk


Thanks for reading!


Ed Voelsing is a former US Navy Officer, Veteran advocate, and career executive recruiter working to match exceptional talent to the best organizations in the US.  He is the owner of The Rivet Group, a recruiting firm based in Charlotte, North Carolina. 


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