Top 5 Reasons Your Job Search is Taking Too Long


Looking for a job can be an arduous process; even the most experienced executives can feel frustrated. Understanding the underlying reasons for slow progress can help you jump-start your results. Below are actionable strategies that address the top five drivers of long searches, so you can start landing more interviews and offers.

1. You’re fishing in a sea with too few fish

For a productive job search, play the numbers game to win. That is, ensure you’re targeting enough potential opportunities to get results quickly.

For example, one client was targeting Chief Marketing Officer roles at hedge funds. We figured out that only 13 hedge funds were present in the geographic area she was targeting, and each of those funds employed one CMO. She was therefore targeting only 13 potential positions, too few to get results without a multi-year job search, given that most or all of these positions were probably filled. She began to get more interviews and offers when she expanded the number of potential positions she was targeting from 13 to roughly 200. She did this in three ways: expanding geographically, expanding the types of organizations she was targeting, and considering roles other than just CMO.

As a rule of thumb, targeting 200 positions (open or filled) will land you a role in three to four months at senior levels (a little faster for more junior roles). Double that time frame if you’re targeting 100 positions.

2. Too much “applying,” not enough tapping into the “hidden job market”

A client came to me frustrated with his long search, saying he had applied to dozens of firms with limited success. Right away I suspected that he wasn’t optimizing his efforts across all marketing channels: postings, search firms, networking, and cold outreach. In fact, networking and cold outreach can short-cut a job search because you bypass the screening process by pitching directly to the person you would work for. Improve your job search productivity and tap into this hidden job market by building, keeping in touch with, and optimally leveraging your network to land the “right” meetings with people in a position to hire you.

3. Your pitch isn’t resonating in your resume, emails, and interviews

In all your communications, keep the focus on your target audience’s number-one question, “How can you help me?” This means, for example, dropping the resume jargon relevant only to your current or last job, and using the language of your prospective employer.

Lastly, look to surface any potential issues with your pitch or candidacy before they say “no,” both in the interview and in your follow-up Impact Email. To surface these issues, ask two questions as the interview is wrapping up: 1) “Just so I’m clear about what you’re looking for, I’m curious as to how I compare with the other candidates you’re speaking with,” and 2) “How do you feel about moving my candidacy forward in the process?” Many clients at all levels have been able to turn a “no,” into a ”yes” based on the answers to these questions.

4. You’re dropping the ball when you should be following up

Keep in touch with everyone who might help you. The goal is to stay top of mind, so they think of you when something opens up. Jobseekers have long searches when they fail to stay in touch with those who can help.

A simple “Hello and Update” email can be enough to stay on their radar. If you had an interview and haven’t heard back for two-plus weeks, it’s time to follow up, perhaps with an “additional thoughts” influencing email. And if you get rejected, reach out to one or more people with whom you interviewed who seemed to like you personally. Be super gracious: “I wish you much success with the new hire. Given that I’m still in a job search, I would be grateful for 10 minutes of your time to gain your feedback as to why I was not offered the role.” Then offer to stay in touch, connect with them on LinkedIn, and effectively bring them into your network.

5. You have a blind spot

Have someone in your life, or a career coach, review how you present yourself and communicate. Is there something you’re not seeing that may be obvious to someone else? One client was getting interviews but couldn’t close the deal. We met, and I immediately saw what the problem was – he avoided eye contact, always looking down at the desk while talking. His employer of 12 years ignored this quirk as he rose through the ranks to VP of IT. But it wasn’t flying with people who didn’t know him well. When we addressed this issue, his fortunes turned around and he quickly began landing offers.

You may also be misunderstanding the time investment required to land a good offer. If you’re not putting in at least 15-20 hours a week (ideally 35-40), you’re in for a long search. For my job search clients working full time, they are usually able to carve out this space: one hour each morning and evening five days a week, then 2 1/2 hours each weekend day and you’re at 15.