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How to Cut Your Job Search Time in Half

  • Kevin and Kay Marie Brennfleck National Certified Career Counselors
  • Published Jan 08, 2003
How to Cut Your Job Search Time in Half

A recent study concluded that 95% of job hunters make mistakes that inevitably delay their employment. These mistakes tend to fall into two categories: unproductive methods of finding job openings and/or less-than-effective interviewing skills. On average, people change jobs eight to ten times in their lifetimes, so it makes sense to learn how to do job search work like an expert. You can cut your job search time in half by learning strategies for today's job market.
How to Find Job Openings
There are two different job markets: the advertised (or organized) job market, and the hidden (or disorganized) job market. Understanding these two job markets will allow you to find job openings much more efficiently.
The advertised job market, which is the one with which people are most familiar, includes jobs that are found in classified ads, through employment agencies, and on the Internet. The jobs are organized and readily accessible. This is a formal employment process where the resume is the key. It is the most popular job market because it is the easiest to access. It should be noted, however, that it is very easy to end up underemployed by primarily focusing on the advertised job market. Only 15-20% of the available jobs are listed in the advertised job market.
Ninety-five percent of job hunters rely on the advertised job market to find employment. As you can imagine, this makes job search work much slower because they are accessing only 15-20% of the available openings. Not only is there a small percentage of actual job openings listed, but applicants will find more intense competition because of the large number of job hunters who use the classified ads. Some job hunters even give up their search for a particular job because they either see no openings in the classified ads for that type of work, or they get no responses to the resumes they have sent.
The hidden job market is made up of the other 80-85% of jobs that are available at any given time. The jobs are "hidden" because they are filled without employers advertising them through such means as the classified ads or on the Internet. This is an informal employment process that involves using a more strategic approach. Job seekers exercise initiative by developing personal contacts and contacting employers directly (whether or not an employer is advertising job openings). Phone calls, referrals and interviews are the keys. This market is more difficult to access, but tends to yield much more fulfilling and rewarding work.
Why are the majority of jobs found in the hidden job market? To answer that question, let's look at a typical scenario of how a job gets filled: Company ABC has 2000 employees. They have a human resources department as well as several other departments, including a graphic arts department. The company has been involved in expanding its advertising and is in need of additional graphic artists. The manager of the graphic arts department (the person who has the power to hire) is typically responsible for adding the needed graphic artists. Is the hiring manager's next step to advertise the job opening? Not usually. In fact, one study found that 85% of all employers don't advertise job openings at all. Why? Besides the expense of advertising a position, a classified ad can bring in hundreds of resumes from unqualified people. It takes a lot of staff time to go through these resumes and, even then, the hiring manager knows very little about the candidates who are brought in for an interview.
Hiring managers more typically hire people they already know, or those who find out about the job openings through word of mouth, or people who just by chance contact them directly by phone, mail or in person when a position is open or anticipated to open soon. If none of these strategies work, then managers may advertise the positions. So, if you contact a company that has an unadvertised opening, you could end up being the only candidate they interview for the position! The odds are certainly more in your favor than if yours is one resume among hundreds that is received in response to a classified ad.
Does this mean you shouldn't even bother using the advertised job market? Of course not! The advertised job market does contain approximately 15-20% of available job openings, and they are organized so that it is easier to find ones for which you qualify. What it does mean, however, is that you should organize your job search work so that you are investing no more than 25-30% of your job search time in pursuing possibilities in the advertised job market, and 70-75% of your time using strategies to tap into the hidden job market. By thus dividing your job search time, you will greatly increase your chances of finding employment quickly.
How to Interview Like a Pro
What is an interview? An interview can be defined as any situation in which you have a face- to- face meeting with a person who has the power to hire you (even if he or she does not currently have a job opening). Why would talking to an employer who doesn't have a current opening be helpful? Well, as one Harvard study found, of the people who found jobs through personal contacts, 43.8% had new positions created for them! Jobs are created every day for people who can meet an employer's needs. By thinking of any conversation with a prospective employer as an interview, you will be better prepared to take advantage of opportunities that may arise as you follow up on leads from your personal contacts and as you contact employers directly.
You could become the best person in the world at finding job openings, but that still would not be enough to obtain a job. You also need to interview well--that is, you need to be able to prove that you can do the job and meet the employer's needs. If you can prove to the employer that you can meet their needs (i.e., save them money, make a job more efficient, etc.) better than the other candidates, you will get the job. The key is being able to communicate effectively what you can do for the employer.
One study showed that 80% of job hunters can't prove their top ten skills for the jobs for which they are interviewing. ("Proving" your skills means that you can give specific examples that illustrate that you do, indeed, have the needed skills for the position in question. For example, a secretary might prove she has the skill of organizing systems by saying, "Mr. Employer, recently I organized our filing system which allowed our staff to find files in half the time it used to take.") In order to prove that you are the applicant who should be selected, you need to first know what relevant skills you possess and then be able to cite compelling examples of how you have used those skills.
Communicating effectively also means being able to answer the most frequently asked interview questions like a pro.  Practice answering interview questions with a friend or family member until you feel you could confidently answer most questions in your sleep! And, for the best possible practice, work with a career counselor who can coach you on how to answer each question most strategically. Remember that it is not necessarily the most qualified person who gets the job, but rather, the person who can most convincingly communicate in the interview that he or she can do the job.
If you had time to practice answering only one interview question, this is the question we would suggest: Why should I hire you? This question underlies almost all other interview questions. Listed below is an example of how a person applying for a graphic artist position might answer this question:
"Mr. Employer, I've had two years of work experience designing and producing brochures, newsletters and training materials. I'm proficient with PageMaker and saved my employer $6,000 this past year by doing the work he'd previously hired out to a graphic artist. I am skilled in providing good customer service, handling pressure and meeting deadlines. Mr. Employer, I believe you'll never regret making a decision to hire me."
Take time to write out and then memorize your own answer to this key question. This "30-second commercial" about yourself can then be used in talking with your personal contacts or potential employers.
Using the techniques we have described can maximize your efforts in finding a job in less time. But remember--knowing this information is not enough; you also need to be persistent in implementing what you have learned. If you find that you could benefit from some professional assistance with any part of your job search work, we are available to help you. Learn more about the services that are offered by Kevin Brennfleck, M.A., NCCC and Kay Marie Brennfleck, M.A., NCCC, directors of CareerPlace and the Christian Career Center.

Kevin & Kay Marie Brennfleck, National Certified Career Counselors, are the directors of the Christian Career Center and Church Jobs Online. (Through these sites you can search hundreds of current job listings from churches, ministries and Christian employers, post your free or featured resume and obtain career counseling and testing to discover work that fits your God-given design.)