Orville Pierson’s Blog

How Long Will My Job Search Take?

In the 30 years I’ve been doing career consulting, this question is probably the one I’ve been asked the most.

There is a popular rule of thumb that a job search takes one month for every $10,000 in compensation. While there is some evidence that a higher comp search might take a bit longer – or at least require a bit more effort – than a lower comp search, I never subscribed to that one month per $10K idea. Is it going to take someone at $200K twenty months to find a job? I certainly hope not.

Try coming at it like this. How long will it take to put a cubic yard of sand in your pickup truck? Throw three shovelfuls a minute and it will take twice as long as it would if you threw six a minute. But why not start up the backhoe and save yourself a heart attack?

The intensity of the effort of the job seeker is the single most important factor in how long a search takes. And right behind that is how efficient and well planned the search efforts are.

You’d think that would be obvious, but I’ve talked to a lot of otherwise very smart people who seem to miss it. People sometimes like to say it’s about the difficulties of the job market. “It’s a tough job market,” they say, “No one’s hiring.”

But that’s kind of like saying that it’s the sand’s fault that the truck isn’t loaded yet. “That daggone sand is too heavy!  And it just sits there!”

Sometimes I have conversations with job seekers who have been “looking” for months and haven’t had any interviews. What’s behind it is nearly always the same: insufficient efforts.

I remember a time when I asked one such person to precisely enumerate his efforts. It turned out that in two months, he’d sent twenty resumes to advertised jobs, emailed three dozen resumes to employers who hadn’t advertised, posted his resume on six job boards and made two dozen phone calls.

In other words, his average weekly activity amounted to sending eight e-mails and making three phone calls. While I’d never expect a job hunter to exert the same level of effort, an executive recruiter might make 100 phone calls in one day. With the right resume, I’d expect one invitation to interview for every 40 ads, so 20 is only half way to the first interview.

And you’d have to ask whether spamming potential employers is the most productive effort one could make.

How long will your search take? If your compensation is under $100K and your search is of average difficulty, then my favorite rule of thumb is that it will take as long as it takes you to have conversations with 25 appropriate hiring managers. Talk to one a week and it will take 25 weeks. Two per week is a 12 1/2 week search. For those between $100 and $400 in base comp, the rule of thumb is 35 hiring manager contacts. This is based on research done by Lee Hecht Harrison.

These aren’t all interviews. They’re mostly informal conversations that make the hiring manager aware of your ability and availability – usually before there is an announced opening.

How long will your search take?

That’s all about how hard you’re working on it, isn’t it?  And how smart you are about being effective in that work. Millions of people have learned how to do effective job hunting. You can too.

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