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How Long Is It Supposed to Take to Find a Job?

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The search for a new job is an emotional journey, involving distinct highs and lows.

There’s the excitement of discovering an appealing position, and the elation of getting an interview. There are the nerves as you wait for your interviewer, and the relief you feel once the conversation goes well. There’s the tension of salary negotiation or the disappointment of learning that the position has been filled. Hopefully, there’s the eventual thrill of getting hired.

Mostly, however, there’s just a lot of waiting.

For many job seekers, this extended uncertainty is a major source of stress. As the hunt continues longer than we expected, we start to question our own credentials and hedge our own hopes. We fire off additional applications and toy endlessly with our resumes. Mostly, we wonder when it will end.

Ironically, hunting for a job can feel particularly bad in economic boom times. Since the end of the Great Recession, unemployment has fallen steadily, giving applicants the upper hand in a tight labor market. Many businesses are scrambling to fill key positions and thinking outside the box to hire capable candidates.

If you’re stuck between jobs at the moment – or currently employed and eager to make a change – this narrative can actually feel discouraging. According to experts, job seekers often wonder why they’re missing out on a bustling economy, even though they have reason to be hopeful about new opportunities. In other words, even in the best of times, looking for a job can be tough.

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How long should you expect to endure this process? What is the average job-hunt timeline, and is yours taking longer than it reasonably should?

In this article, we’ll attempt to answer those questions as clearly as possible. Obviously, the length of your search will depend on many variables, such as your field, qualifications, and location. What we can provide are some helpful estimates, including some of our research on the subject.

We’ll also provide some concrete tips to help expedite your job search. With the right expectations and information, you’ll be able to pursue appealing opportunities confidently.

How Long It Takes to Find a Job: Averages and Estimates

We also wondered how long it takes the average person to find a new position, so we searched for data that might describe the typical job search timeline. We found a number of authoritative sources, uncovering some compelling statistics related to how long it takes to get hired. Here are some of the facts we found:

  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks the length of time that unemployed people remain out of work. At the time of this writing, the median unemployment duration was 9.3 weeks – or more than two months between leaving a job and obtaining a new one.
  • The National Association of Colleges and Employers conducted a large study of college seniors seeking employment and companies looking to hire them. On average, employers posted jobs 37.5 days before conducting interviews. From there, it took an average of 23.6 days for companies to make an offer.
  • Until May of 2018, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis recorded a metric called the “DHI-DFH Vacancy Duration Measure,” tracking how long it took businesses to fill open positions. Economists looked to this statistic to see how quickly businesses were able to find and hire qualified candidates. As of the last date on record, positions remained open for about 31 working days, on average.

While these findings offer helpful insights and context, they don’t directly answer how long it takes to find a job. So we decided to conduct our own research on the subject.

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In a report titled, “What Motivates People to Find a New Job and the Timeline to Do So,” we analyzed the average professional’s job search. To conduct this study, we surveyed approximately 1,000 individuals about their own experiences pursuing new positions. On average, here’s what we found out:

  • Employees contemplated quitting eight weeks before they served notice that they were leaving.
  • It took about six weeks from the time people started sending out applications to the time they served notice. In other words, the average job hunt took approximately a month and a half, according to our data.
  • It’s important to reiterate that this figure is just an average. As a rule, excellent jobs don’t come easily, and many companies have recently introduced new screening measures to their recruiting and hiring processes. If your job search is dragging on, the gig you eventually get could be well worth the wait.

How to Get Hired Faster – and What to Do While You Wait

If you’re eager to start the next chapter of your career, the figures we cited above may seem a bit discouraging. For those between jobs, the pressure to find a new role can be enormous. Among those unhappy in their current roles, it can be tough to accept several more weeks – not to mention your two weeks notice period.

Thankfully, there are some things you can do to stand out from other applicants and remove potential barriers from the hiring process. These tips will apply across industries and help you make real progress as you await good news.

Look Before You Leave

There’s some truth to the truism. In many ways, it’s much better to search for a job if you already have one. Employed candidates clearly possess more leverage with prospective employers. Because they already have a paycheck coming in, they don’t need to jump on the first low-ball offer they get.

This bargaining power translates to major differences in pay. According to one recent study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, salary offers extended to employed job seekers were 23% higher, on average, than offers to unemployed candidates.

Of course, you can’t always pursue employment from this position of power. When job loss catches you completely off guard, there’s no time to plan a seamless transition, but if you’re currently in a job you’d like to leave as soon as possible, it’s probably a good idea to stick it out while you search.

Follow Up, Respectfully

So you’ve found a great position, written a strong cover letter, and submitted your application. You’re hoping the company will be equally enthusiastic about your interest, quickly contacting you for an interview.

Instead, you hear a whole lot of nothing for several days. Will a follow-up email seem pushy, desperate, or reinforce your interest in a positive way?

It’s a good idea to follow up, as long as you do so tactfully. One easy method is a brief email, addressed either to your contact in HR or the hiring manager. Don’t demand an update on where your application stands or assert that you deserve an interview. Instead, simply reach out to confirm that your application was received and offer to provide any additional information that might be helpful. You can also inquire about the general timeline of the hiring process. Close with a strong but simple reiteration of your interest in the role.

Another option is calling to express the same message. Especially with more traditional businesses, this could be seen as a nice, personalized gesture of interest. However you decide to follow up, it’s best to wait roughly a week before reaching out.

Write a Nice Note

One of the more painful waiting periods comes after an initial interview when you’re anxious to see if you’ll proceed in the hiring process. You feel the conversation went well, but you know they’re also interviewing other qualified candidates.

Use this lull in the process productively by writing an excellent thank-you note. We’re not talking about the bland, obligatory cards that most candidates send. We mean a personalized note that proves you paid attention and attests to your continued interest. You don’t need to compose poetry, but spend a little time and show a little character.

Put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes. After meeting many candidates, their answers and attributes start to blend together. A distinctive note takes just a few minutes but effectively sets you apart. You’ve already made a great first impression, and now your note can make a second one.

Notify Your Network

As the saying goes, sometimes who you know matters more than what you know. When it comes to helpful job connections, you might not even know you know them!

A huge portion of professionals finds their jobs via networking, either through work connections, friends, or family, but your network may not know you’re looking, and you may not realize how many doors they can open. The only solution is to let others in on your search and ask for help.

Sure, it can be uncomfortable to put your professional ambitions out there, and asking for a favor is no one’s idea of a good time. Plus, you don’t want word of your search to get back to your current boss. With these precautions in mind, take a leap of faith and ask others if they know of any suitable opportunities.

Scrub Your Social Media

It’s true – employers scrutinize applicants’ social media profiles. While that reality might make you uncomfortable, you need to prepare yourself for this digital background check.

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There are obvious red flags to remove, such as images in which you’re clearly intoxicated, but risqué jokes or harsh language could also prove problematic. If you posted things in your younger years that currently make you cringe, it’s probably time to remove them.

However, don’t just focus on eliminating embarrassment. On professionally oriented platforms such as LinkedIn, make sure your profile is fully up to date.

Keep Applying and Consider Remote Work

Even if you have your heart set on a specific gig, continue to seek viable alternatives. You probably can’t afford to wait months only to learn that your dream gig has fallen through. Keeping multiple options on the table will keep your spirits up and lessen the pressure associated with each application.

If you feel like you’re exhausting options in your local area, consider expanding your search to include remote positions. Remote work is increasingly common, both in the U.S. and around the world. As long as you’re willing to work from the comfort of home, your pool of options is virtually endless.

Speeding Up Your Search

We hope the suggestions above will inform your job search strategy, maximizing the impact of your efforts. Ultimately, however, you can only control some aspects of your hunt, and many relevant variables lie outside your influence.

Appealing positions will always attract competition, and companies may be slow in assessing qualified candidates. Hiring managers may struggle to find time to conduct interviews, or a company may pause hiring unexpectedly. All you can do is make the best case for yourself and continue to explore alternatives.

That’s where Joblist can help, providing a personalized array of employment options. We’ll help you find opportunities tailored to your criteria, instead of scrolling through endless listings. With our job search platform, you’ll never miss out on a great possibility – or put all your eggs in one basket. While you may not find a job overnight, we can absolutely help you find one faster.

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