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The 14 Ways to Look for a Job

By Richard Bolles

Not many people realize it, but the job-hunt is one of the most studied phenomena of our time. It is amazing what we know about it.

Acquainting yourself with this research can pay rich dividends to any job-hunter, and especially if your job-hunt is running into trouble. Let me illustrate what I mean.

Most job-hunters think there are basically only three ways to go about their job-hunt: resumes, ads, and agencies. Actually, there are fourteen:

  1. Using the Internet to look for job-postings or to post one's own resume. (1%)
  2. Mailing out resumes to employers at random. (7%)
  3. Answering ads in professional or trade journals appropriate to your field. (7%)
  4. Answering local newspaper ads. (5-24% depending on salary demands) 
  5. Going to private employment agencies or search firms. (5-24% depending on salary demands) 
  6. Going to places where employers come to pick out workers, such as union hiring halls. (8%) 
  7. Taking a Civil Service exam. (12%) 
  8. Asking a former teacher or professor for job-leads. (12%) 
  9. Going to the state/Federal employment service office. (14%) 
  10. Asking family members, friends, or professionals you know for job-leads. (33%) 
  11. Knocking on the door of any employer, factory, or office that interests you, whether they are known to have a vacancy or not. (47%) 
  12. By yourself, using the phone book's Yellow Pages to identify fields that interest you, then calling employers in those fields to see if they're hiring for the kind of work you can do. (69%) 
  13. In a group with other job-hunters, using the phone book's Yellow Pages as above. (84%) 
  14. Doing what is called "the creative approach to job-hunting or career-change": doing homework on yourself, to figure out what your favorite and best skills are; then doing face-to-face interviewing for information only, at organizations in your field; followed up by using your personal contacts to get in to see, at each organization that has interested you, the person-who-actually-has-the-power-to-hire-you (not necessarily the human resources department). (86%) 

There are five interesting things about this list: 

  1. Researchers have discovered 'the effectiveness rate' of each of these methods. By which I mean, we now know how often each method 'pays off' for the job-hunters who use that method to hunt for a job. Those figures in parentheses above are the effectiveness rate.
  2. We know the failure rate of each of these methods. That is, how often they don't 'pay off' for the job-hunters using that method. This failure rate is found by simply subtracting each effectiveness rate, above, from 100. You can do the math.
  3. I listed the fourteen methods above in inverse order to their effectiveness. That is, researchers have discovered that method #1 above is the least effective way to conduct your job-hunt, while method #14 is the most effective way.
  4. Generally speaking the effectiveness rate for each method is directly proportional to how much work that method requires of you. That is to say, method #1 requires the least work, but it is also the least effective; method #14 requires the most work, but it is also the most effective.
  5. You want to use more than one method, but less than five.

Researchers discovered that one third of all job-hunters never find a job because they give up too soon. And the ones who give up most easily are the ones who are using only one job-hunting method (such as sending out resumes).

51% of those who use only one method of job-hunting abandon their job-hunt by the second month. On the other hand, of those who are using two or more methods, only 31% abandon their search by the second month.  

Does this mean that you should try to use all fourteen methods, if your job-hunt just isn't working? Not exactly. As I said earlier, it is amazing what we know about the job-hunt.

Researchers discovered that job-hunting success increases with each additional method you use, but only up to four methods. If you use five or more of the fourteen methods listed above, job-hunting success starts to decrease.  

I have pondered this bizarre finding, and concluded that the explanation may lie in the fact that you can give up to four methods the time each deserves, but if you try to do five or more, you start cutting too many corners.

Well, there it is. Some of what we know about the job-hunt. The moral for your next job-hunt? Don't just use one method, such as resumes, or ads. Use up to four methods, and especially those that pay off the best. And give thanks for our friends, the researchers!