Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How Long Will My Job Search Take?

There is one definitive answer for this question - Longer than you think.

It's interesting that when I talk to candidates, most have such an unrealistic view of how long their job search will take.

I think this reaction is driven by:
  • Past Experience - Chances are, your past experience in looking for a job was in a better job market than today, unless it was in the 1930's
  • Need - If a candidate is driven by the need to save their home and put food on the table, they are more likely to figure something out - even if it means working at a lower level position, even if it means working for much less pay
  • Hope - It's great to be hopeful, not so great to be unrealistic
Read more ...

I'm all for the power of positive thinking. However, unless you are independently wealthy, it pays to look at how long your job search will take realistically.

When you look at the "How Long" question realistically, you can plan ahead, and you are much less likely to be caught in a dire financial situation (see:

If you see that you have 2 months of savings, but it takes an average of six months to find a job today, wouldn't you want to know this up front? Understanding that issue today allows you to look for short term solutions like contract work, temp assignments, or cutting your monthly expenses. But not knowing this can lead to a disastrous surprise, if you discover your search is taking longer than your initial unrealistic expectations.

Here are some statistics, rules of thumb, and observations I've seen in the job market today:

  1. Average time for job search - CareerBuilder recently released that it takes US candidates, on average, 6 months to find a new position ( There was a very slight move to make that just a few average days shorter than 6 months ago. Not much of a move, but one in the right direction.
  2. Another view on average time - In a similar study CNNMoney reported that it takes US job seekers an average of 30 weeks to find a new job today. Let's split the difference with CareerBuilder and call it 28 weeks. Note that both studies included all industries, functions and all levels - a broad view of the market
  3. Senior Managers and Executives - It's taking US senior managers and executives longer than the overall averages, with an average search time of 6 months - 1 year. This is observational evidence from candidates I talk to, and I hear echoed by my peers and executive recruiters. It's also broad, and includes a wide variety of industries and functions.
  4. Presidents and CEOs - It's taking US company Presidents and CEO's 18 months to find a new position - Note: this isn't counting those who started their own companies
  5. Time from first face-to-face interview until first day on the job - The minimum I see is 2 months. For most companies it's stretched to 3 months, due to interviewing more candidates, more interview rounds, delays between rounds, scheduling issues, hiring manager indecisiveness, and lengthy budget approvals. Hiring managers have less urgency today, due to over supply of candidates.

Keep in mind these are averages, and some candidates beat them ... but most don't.

What are your options if you can't wait 6 months or longer in your search?

The double whammy of the financial crisis and job shortages has hit many people. Your safety nets of home equity and investments may not go as far as you expected, given turmoil in financial and real estate markets. If you find yourself stuck without enough cushion to cover your job search time, you'll have more options the earlier you realize this.

- Renegotiate your mortgage & cut costs - Banks don't want your house - you are more likely to get a mortgage adjustment if you negotiate with your bank early in the process
- Contract and temp work - This is a bright spot in the job market - contract and temp work is picking up
- Commissioned sales - Your income level isn't guaranteed, but it's one of the fastest ways to find work today especially with straight commission work - there's less risk for the employer. People often can find work faster in straight commissioned sales, but it may take a little longer to ramp up your earnings to comfortable levels.

Hopefully you beat the odds in your search. That's why I write these daily articles and teach candidates how to beat the averages, by using methods that aren't conventional, but are effective (see: Keep in mind that you'll increase your chances of beating these averages the more you can differentiate yourself as a candidate. Using the same advice and strategies as your competition doesn't differentiate you - it makes you look the same.

What are you doing differently than your competition to get find a new job faster?

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Are You Planning To Fail In Your Job Search, Or Failing To Plan?

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amy-johnraams said...

I totally agree with the above article. I am a senior level program management executive with over 15 years of managing large, complex IS&T or Supply Chain Operations programs. I was laid off 11 months ago (March 2009).
In order to save my sanity I assist the staff (unpaid volunteer) at a local elementary school one or two days a week. The flexibility I have at the school does not impede my ability to make calls and or send/receive emails etc.
I am constantly told that I am overqualified for this or that role.

Sahan said...

Great Article. You are absolutely correct.