Oct 23, 2019 5-minute read

How to Tell if My Job Search is Working

You’re running your own job search and you know you need to have patience, but how can you tell if your job search is working and will result in an offer you want?

The average job search takes 36 weeks and yields an 8% raise. 9 months is a long time if you’re serious about making a change, but if you’re reading this you probably aren’t average. Here’s how to gauge whether you’ll get results in about 90 days.

Is your resume good enough?

If you’ve Googled how to write a good resume, you’ve probably read about Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), the software that will rank your fit if you apply online. This isn’t hard to do if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to learn how it works.

The hard thing is writing a resume that resonates with hiring managers and recruiters for your ideal roles. Your resume needs to make them dream about the results you’ll help the company achieve (if they can get you). The best way to do this is to make sure you’ve communicated your top accomplishments powerfully.

If your resume works with ATS but won’t wow a hiring manager, you’ll struggle to land the job. 

Are you clear on what you’re targeting?

Hiring managers at quality companies want team members who will be passionate about their job, so recruiters aren’t going to send them luke-warm candidates to interview.

To communicate your passion for a role, you need a deep level of self awareness. Lacking this understanding of what’s fulfilling for you will make it really hard for you to get an offer, so you want to spend the time to figure this out.

Plus, you’d rather be deliberate about landing a job that will help you live your best life than just hoping you’ll fall into it. Once you figure this out, you’ll want to develop questions you can ask to assess whether a job and company fulfill those dream job requirements.

How are you entering the process?

It takes people 36 weeks to land a new job because they’re doing it wrong. They get tricked into thinking the way to land a job is to find it on a job board and apply online.

Story time: Bob and Amy are both highly qualified for a role at Qualcomm. Bob applies online and gets a screening call. Amy gets referred for the role by her former boss’ work acquaintance who works at Qualcomm in a completely different department, and she also gets a screening call. Bob’s odds of landing the job are about 250:1. Amy’s odds of landing the job are about 12:1.

Amy and Bob are equally qualified but Amy is 20x more likely to land the job because she got referred (data from The Lever Group).

That’s just how it works, folks. And the more responsibility in the role, the more companies rely on referrals. 85% of jobs are filled through networking, so it pays to get good at it.

If you’re not getting referred, the odds aren’t in your favor and most people will end up settling for a step down or a lateral move. Depending on the role and competition, you might need to get referred for 5 or more openings to land an offer (better than applying to 200+ jobs).

Speaking of settling, only 20% of available jobs are posted online and many of them aren’t actually open. Some companies are required to post jobs even if they’ve already offered it to a referred candidate or someone internal, but all those people who applied and got rejected are left wondering if they’re as qualified as they thought. Eventually, they start going for jobs they’re overqualified to do– that’s your competition for online applications!

How well can you tell your stories?

When your resume highlights top your accomplishments, a hiring manager will use it as a road map for asking questions that tee you up to tell the story behind it.

This is a huge opportunity for you, and you have to nail it to land the job. The results don’t speak for themselves – that’s not how this works – you need to be able to tell the engaging story behind the accomplishment.

If you can’t tell the story, they’ll probably go with someone else. 

What questions will you struggle with and are you prepared to tackle them?

Playing to your strengths only goes so far in a formal interview. If you bomb an important question badly enough it will completely ruin your chances.

Do you know what question(s) you’ll struggle with? Hint: it’s the one you desperately hope they don’t ask. I recommend you record yourself answering the tough questions.

Are you prepared to negotiate competitive compensation?

To be prepared, you to know at least these three things:

  1. Your market value
  2. The company’s pay range for the role you’re targeting
  3. How to handle the variations of “what salary are you targeting?” without undercutting yourself

That’s the bare minimum, assuming you’re already comfortable with negotiation.

So is your job search working?

If it is, congratulations! I hope one of our services or blog posts has made a difference for you. While the average job search takes 36 weeks, following the guidance above can easily get you there in ⅓ the time.

If it isn’t working and you’re willing to get unstuck, considering getting support from a professional writer and/or hiring a career coach.