9 Steps to a Shorter Job Search

WorkCoachCafeThe average job hunt these days is at least 4 months long. And over one million have been unemployed for one year or more. Following these 9 steps should make your job search shorter.

How to Shorten Your Job Search

1.) Have a VERY GOOD answer for the question, “What are you looking for.”

When someone asks you this question, giving an unfocused or unclear response about what you want squanders a valuable opportunity. People who ask are usually interested in helping you. Help them to help you!

Say, very clearly, “I’m looking for a job as a [list one or two job titles] working for [name a couple of employers or the class of employer]. I’ve been doing [that kind of work] for [however long you’ve been in the field], and I’m good at it [list a major accomplishment or two].”

For example, someone in the Boston area looking for a job as a writer might say this:

“I’m looking for a job as a writer working for a top local media company like The Boston Globe or HubSpot. I’ve been writing and editing web content  since 1998, and both of my websites have won several awards over the years, including the 2013 Forbes 100 Best Websites for Your Career.”

This may take some time and effort to figure out what you want, but it will be very well worth the time investment!

2.) Don’t job hunt alone.

A job hunt is a tough, discouraging, hard-on-the-ego slog through seemingly endless weeks of rejection. Find a buddy, or join a “job club” or job search support group. Members help each other with resumes and profiles, exchange job leads, and expand networks. The old saying “More heads are better than one” is a cliche because it is so true. Often group members become life-long friends.

Look for notices about them in local places of worship, public libraries, the local CareerOneStop centers, MeetUp.com, and elsewhere.

3.) Do at least one face-to-face networking meeting a week.

Sitting at your computer for hours every day can feel very productive, but the best networking is face-to-face. You can:

  • Follow up on a LinkedIn introduction or other social media connection.
  • Meet a former colleague for coffee or a drink after work.
  • Attend a meeting associated with your kid’s school or some other community group.
  • Attend an “event” with a speaker and official networking.

Whatever you find, at least one a week, get out of the house and connect with people face to face, being sure that you have number one, above, nailed so you can turn those introductions into useful networking opportunities (when asked).

4.) Pay daily attention to LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is the happy hunting ground for recruiters looking for qualified applicants. It’s also the best “social proof” of who you are and what you’ve done when recruiters and employers look for validation of the facts on your resume or job application.

Complete your LinkedIn Profile so the facts are there for validation,and be active in several LinkedIn Groups to demonstrate your knowledge, grasp of social media for business, and communications skills. Connect with “Open Link” recruiters to get on their radar. Follow your target companies.

5.) Don’t waste your valuable time applying online for jobs that aren’t good fits for you.

Read Before You Apply, Ask 4 Important Questions. Applying for every job you see, regardless of fit, is a waste of time, can damage your reputation with employers, and is very discouraging because most employers have several qualified candidates to choose from.

6.) Customize your resume and cover letter to the specific opportunity.

Applicant tracking systems are merciless screeners. If your resume doesn’t contain the “right keywords” – the ones used in the job description – it won’t be seen by a human being, regardless of how perfectly-qualified you might be. This is not something to skip. Read 5 Resume Rules You MUST Ignore for the details.

7.) Have a list of target employers.

Learn as much as you can about these employers and their competitors. Look for personal connections or LinkedIn connections. Join LinkedIn Groups which would be appropriate for those employers – look for activities by current employees, topics that seem to be important to those employers, and, if and when appropriate, reach out via “Reply privately” to comments.

8.) Carefully prepare for every interview.

Don’t walk into an interview without knowing what the employer does (products and services) who their competitors are (also good prospects for you, maybe), where they are located, and how well they are doing (avoid an employer heading for layoffs).

Hopefully, you know the names of the people who will be interviewing you, and you can check out their profiles on LinkedIn to see if you have anything in common or any connections.

Read How to Knock Their Socks Off in a Job Interview and How to Answer the Top 10 Interview Questions for more details.

9.) Focus on learning new skills and staying up-to-date in the skills you have – demonstrably!

Learning may mean volunteering, taking MOOC (Massive Online Open Courses) classes or other courses to fill any gaps you have in your skill set, do contracting or temporary work, even starting your own “side business.”

If you can afford it and the school shows graduates have high employment at a decent salary, a certification or other advanced training may be appropriate. Look for solid help for graduates from the school’s career center or find another school.

Be sure to update your LinkedIn Profile with these activities.

More Information on Effective Job Search Techniques

Why Submitting a Resume Isn’t Enough, and What You Can Do About It

Applying for a Job: 5 Tips to Avoid the Discard Pile

3 Reasons You Didn’t Hear Back From Your Application

How to Get Your Emailed Resume Noticed

Express Lane to a New Job: Employee Referral

5 Resume Rules You MUST Ignore

How to Knock Their Socks Off in a Job Interview

How to Answer the Top 10 Interview Questions

Before You Apply, Ask 4 Important Questions


About the author…

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been  observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 2011, NETability purchased WorkCoachCafe.com, which Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoach since then.  Susan also edits and publishes Job-Hunt.org.  Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on .


  1. Really good tips, Susan. To me #1 is the cornerstone of your entire job search. If you don’t have a good answer for that, maybe you aren’t really ready to be looking. To follow up on what you said, the time invested up front pays off in the end!

    • Susan P. Joyce says:

      Thank you, Ronnie Ann! It’s good to see your smiling face (and excellent advice) on WorkCoachCafe, again – your “baby” for so many years!

      We are in 100% agreement on #1. I feel so bad for, and so frustrated by, job seekers who are “keeping my options open” by being vague about what job they want next. I think it’s a natural instinct to try not to close off any options, particularly when you’ve been unemployed for a while, but helping someone who could “do anything” is very hard! I’ve never seen a job posting for an “Anything.”

      Thanks, again!

  2. Great tips!

    Another one could be to maintain a consistent pace day to day. Try to take meaningful action every day instead of going full speed ahead for a few days and then taking time off due to discouragement and lethargy.

    Try to maintain a schedule as to which job clubs and networking events you attend. Consistent attendance at the same events builds stronger relationships over time and helps people remember you when they hear of a suitable opportunity.


    • Susan P. Joyce says:

      Great addition, Diana! You’re absolutely right about the consistent attendance helping enormously! Networking groups, particularly the job club kind, can become excellent “accountability coaches,” too, helping people stay focused and moving forward in their job hunting.

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