How long before you land a new job?

Wes Bucey

Prophet of Profit
If you are out of work and looking for a new job, it's easy to get discouraged when days drag into weeks and weeks drag into months. Money gets tight and folks often do one of two things -

  1. they get desperate and take anything that's offered, even when they know it's not a good fit
  2. they get so depressed, they just give up and stop looking
There is a third option, but somehow, many folks find it difficult to accept the idea they have been pursuing a new position using the wrong tools and techniques and are reluctant to re-examine their job hunt methodology.

First, a fact of job hunting:
It is almost a cliche, but there are fewer job openings at big salary levels than at low salary levels, so the time to successfully land a high-paying job takes a disproportionately longer time. There are several reasons, but the primary one is the caliber of the competition is much higher and the candidate who can't stand out amid the clutter of other candidates is doomed to be an also-ran. The folks making decisions on high-paying jobs recognize they can't afford to make mistakes, so they take much more time to investigate and decide upon a single candidate.

How long is too long?
Every case is different, of course, but some general rules of thumb might be:

  1. If you sent out 20 resumes and haven't received either an acknowledgment, a denial, or an interview within 60 days of each submission, you probably need to re-examine ALL your tools (cover letter, resume, choice of targets.)
  2. If you are getting acknowledgments, but neither denials nor interviews, you need to follow up because "gatekeepers" may have the responsibility of acknowledging applications, but not be empowered to deny anyone nor schedule appointments. Therefore you need to know the score (perhaps you can try again at the same target by sidestepping the gatekeeper.)
  3. If you are getting formal denials, but no interviews, you need to re-examine your cover letter and resume, preferably with the aid of an experienced friend or counselor who can point out any "blah" factor which may be triggering such denials. Another thing to look for is whether the cover letter and resume REALLY match the job requirements [or adequately explain why one set of credentials meets or exceeds a specific set laid out by the employer - such as ASQ QE versus Six Sigma.]
  4. If you are getting interviews, but no second interviews (whether the first interview is by phone or in person) and no offers, you need to re-examine your interview technique with a knowledgeable person to tweak your performance and identify any "turn offs" which are killing your chances of landing a job.
So how long do some folks go before landing a job?
The short answer is that someone looking for a job paying over $75,000 can take seven to ten months and jobs paying over six figures ($100,000 +) may take longer than one year.

I was very interested in an item in last Sunday's New York Times about a Quality professional who was fired from his job because he was "too good" and his subsequent odyssey in trying to get a new job. Following is a brief excerpt for educational purposes - the complete article can be found for a short period at the link shown.
NYT link
GREG SAM, 50, has always been a rising corporate star. In his most recent job, as a vice president for Millipore, a company that services the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, Mr. Sam built a quality-oversight program from scratch into a staff of 350 working worldwide, from the corporate headquarters in Billerica, Mass., to offices in China, Japan, Ireland and France.
For this, he earned a mid-six-figure income and traveled the globe, making two dozen business trips a year. At Millipore’s 50th anniversary celebration in Puerto Rico, Mr. Sam delivered the keynote speech in Spanish. In France, he sometimes conducted business in French.
In fact, Mr. Sam was so good at what he did, he was fired.
“He came in, built us a global quality assurance program, but now that it’s in place, we don’t need a person of his skills and caliber to continue running it,” said Dr. Martin D. Madaus, the president of Millipore, who fired Mr. Sam during a round of 200 layoffs in December. “Someone with lesser expertise can do the job, because Greg essentially did such a good job.”


But because Mr. Sam was so highly valued until he was fired, Millipore added about $40,000 to his severance package for job placement services.


For three months, instead of going to work, Mr. Sam has come to a handsome fifth-floor office in a renovated warehouse overlooking Boston Harbor that is the headquarters of New Directions, a top-of-the-line job-search firm. As its literature says, New Directions specializes in helping unemployed “C.E.O.’s, C.O.O.’s, C.F.O.’s, C.I.O.’s” find their way back up the corporate ladder.


Mark Gorham, a Harvard Business School grad and a former Hewlett-Packard vice president, has been unemployed for six months. At first, he said: “I sat around thinking someone will realize how great I am and call me out of the blue. Next, I figured, I’ll throw out my great résumé to search firms and someone will come knocking.”
Now he’s learning networking from Jeffrey Redmond, his personal job coach.
“Mark grew up in an age when being understated about yourself was valued,” said Mr. Redmond, a partner who has been at New Directions since its founding 23 years ago. “At 53, he has to learn to tell his story and, like a marching band, toot his own horn.”


Mr. Redmond said in its 23 years, New Directions has served 2,400 executives and, typically, they find new positions in seven to nine months, although in a recession that could be a year.


He [Mr. Sam, the Quality guy] spoke with the staff psychologist, Dr. William Winn, who’d given him a battery of tests, and for several hours interviewed him to make sure he was suited for the jobs he’s seeking.
Dr. Winn concluded that it wouldn’t be wise for Mr. Sam to take a position that would focus solely on what’s wrong with a company. Mr. Sam is a builder who needs to be involved in fixing what’s wrong, Dr. Winn noted.
Since I've been an owner of a majority of a very large, diversified employment agency (back in the 70s), I am intrigued by folks who are paying upwards of $40,000 (including their incidental travel and phone expenses) to a job outplacement service for things they could do themselves for less than 5% to 10% of that amount.

Note even with this high-powered help, these clients of the outplacement agency are not shortening the timetable in getting a new, comparable job by much at all.

There are, however, some notable landmarks in what a GOOD outplacement agency does:

  1. help the client research targets for the job campaign
  2. help the clients craft pertinent, compelling resumes and cover letters to coax an interview out of an employer
  3. provide psychological counseling to determine whether the client is pursuing realistic goals for a good fit (skills, experience, workplace culture)
  4. role playing rehearsal interviews to assure client puts best foot forward
  5. help client with networking (the right way, NOT "net spamming")
  6. provide a reality check that other similarly-situated peer group folks are also struggling to alleviate some of the depression which comes from feeling the whole world is operating against you and you, alone.
Each of the above items are discussed in our premier job search threads listed below. If you don't have $40,000 to pay an outplacement group to hold your hand, read through those threads to get a good leg up on how you can do most of the work yourself and where to find some low-priced, yet effective counseling and peer groups to help you get past some of your roadblocks.

Thinking about a New Job for New Year?

Resume and cover letter - How good are yours?

The Job Hunt - Care and feeding of references

Tips to get past the "gatekeeper" when job hunting

Consulting – Is it in YOUR Career Future?

Wes Bucey

Prophet of Profit
Were you surprised at the timetable for getting a new job?

  1. Were you surprised at the timetable for getting a new job?
  2. Why or why not?
  3. Are you taking advantage of any outside help in your own job search?
  4. If you are using the services of headhunters or recruiting agencies, what kind of help are they providing you in preparing to put your best foot forward with a potential employer?
  5. Have you had some good experiences you'd like to share?
  6. Any bad experiences to serve as a warning to others?
  7. If you are job hunting, have you found any of the advice posted in various threads here in the Cove helpful?
  8. If not helpful, did you find it misleading?
  9. Would you recommend any of the advice to someone else?
  10. Why or why not?
  11. What was the worst advice (in your opinion)?
  12. The best advice (in your opinion)?
  13. Why?
  14. What other information would you like to see?

Wes Bucey

Prophet of Profit
Keeping track!

Quality professionals spend a LOT of time keeping records. Did you realize job hunters should ALSO be keeping records?

Here's an excerpt [for educational and review purposes] from a job site advice (broken link removed)
Make contact before sending your resume
Unless you're responding to an ad that requests "no phone calls," try to contact the hiring manager before you send your resume. Even if you don't know the name of the person handling the search, you can do a bit of investigation to locate the correct person, if you know the employer.
Once you get the person on the phone, be brief. The purpose of your call is to express enthusiasm about the opportunity, and that you can positively contribute to the team. Be prepared with a short pitch about your qualifications and the ways you could benefit the employer. Keep the focus on the employer, not you.
If you don't get to speak with the hiring manager, find out who the recruiter is in charge of hiring for the position as well as the correct spelling of his name.
Be purposeful in your subsequent follow-up contacts

If several weeks pass after your initial follow-up without word from the employer, initiate another call or email. Your purpose for following up could be to find out if a timeline has been established for interviews or to leave an alternate contact number if you will be traveling. As always, be polite, professional and respectful.
Keep a contact log
Your follow-up attempts will be much easier if you keep a contact log of all positions to which you apply. Your log should include a copy of the ad for the position (don't rely on a job posting URL, as jobs can be removed from the Web), the file name of the resume and cover letter you sent, contact dates, names of hiring managers and a summary of information you gleaned during your contact with them.
Copyright 2008 - Monster Worldwide, Inc.
This article is from a job site, so it isn't blatant about methods to evade gatekeepers, but it does advise to try to get real names, not titles [HR person] or, worst of all, the dreaded "To Whom It May Concern:"

I like the idea of keeping a log, something I'm not sure we have addressed in other job threads, certainly a piece of cake for Quality pros used to maintaining order among quality documents and records. The log is also a great way to evaluate your own performance as a job hunter. You should periodically evaluate the results posted in your log for each job and make assessments whether you are aiming for the right employers or right jobs, based on the feedback you record in your log. Your log can also be the basis for a Design of Experiments on the material you include in resume and cover letter. A quick review of the contacts will give you an idea whether you are reaching decision makers or merely wallowing in the slush pile with hundreds of other wannabes.

One part of the article I <SNIPPED> has to do with walking the fine line between smart follow-up and making a pest of yourself. I'm not really comfortable with the way the article addresses the issue, but I agree it is important to determine whether your candidacy is still alive or dead or whether the employer contact is an idiot who is embarrassed to tell you he is out-of-the-loop regarding which candidates are still in the running (happens a lot where the gatekeeper described as the contact is merely a drone whose job is to open letters and fetch coffee.) If you determine your initial contact is such a drone, please go back and reread Tips to get past the "gatekeeper" when job hunting
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