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25 January, 2017

5 Rules for a Successful Job Hunt

Over the past year, my team and I have provided around 1 000 job hunters with the necessary tools to find a job. I have personally talked to a majority of our users in one way or another. During this time, we have gained the knowledge of what it is that successful job hunters do differently. I want to share this learnings in five simple rules that you can use to be more successful in your job hunt in the new year.

1. Show up every day

We asked job hunters one question: “how many jobs did you apply for last week?”. Here is what we found:

  • 47.50 % of all job hunters apply for less than 5 jobs a week.
  • The average amount of jobs applied for during a week is 7.6.
  • No one applied for more than 52 jobs in a week.
  • 80 % get invited to interviews on 0-5 % of their applications.

When I read this, I see the potential for anyone to have an edge. Imagine just sending one application per day/5 applications per week and perform better than 52.5 % of all the other job hunters.

Do you want to send more applications than 90 % of all job hunters out there? Then you only need to send 18 applications a week or 3.6 applications per day. I just gave you an opportunity to perform better than 90 % of all job hunters, consistently during 2017.

You are welcome.

2. Break down the goal

In our app, we have a chat function. This feature exists to support people that are job hunting and taking our program. I check the messages daily and have personally had around 269 conversations with users over the past couple of months.

During these chats and talks, our team has noticed that most people have a stretch goal but not a SMART goal. The difference between these are:

A stretch goal is your big vision stuff. Something you really want to see happen in 2017. For instance, finding a job in 2017. This in itself is not actionable, it is just inspiring!

The fact that it is not actionable means it has to be broken down into smaller pieces. That’s where the SMART goal comes in. A SMART goal is a goal that is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.

The by far most common stretch goal that I hear is: “I want to find a job”. This is great because people know what they want. The problem with a stretch goal is that it is not actionable. For instance, if the person has the goal of finding a job, it is very easy to see not finding a job as a failure. But, it really is not a failure to not find a job. Because as long as you have been showing up and worked on your goal, then you have made progress and I see that as a success in itself – to move towards the goal.

Here is an example of a SMART goal to make the concept easier to understand:

In January, I will send 200very  well targeted emails with spontaneous applications to companies that I think would be interesting to work for.

  • Is this specific? Yes. You can easily see what is expected – sending 200 emails. Maybe we can be even more specific by adding an example of an email that is “very well targeted”. You need to have additional criteria about what “very well targeted” looks like for you.
  • Is this measurable? Yes. Whenever you have sent 20 emails, you have done 10 % of your goal. Simply take note on every time you send an email.
  • Is it achievable? Yes. 200 emails over the course of a month are 10 emails/day. Certainly achievable.
  • Is it time-bound? Yes. We will do this during January.

What we did at 400contacts was to break the goal of finding a job into eight subgoals – each sub goal helps the user get closer to realizing their stretch goal – finding a job. So, we already made some SMART goals in the app that helps you along the way.

For instance, here are two goals we suggest:

  • This week, contact fifteen employers and ask them what their challenges are.
  • During a week, meet two people from your professional network for lunch.

We propose these SMART goals for various reasons. For one, we know that at least 70 % of all job hunters find a job through an informal connection. So we want to help people develop informal connections all the time. We also want job hunters to have goals they can control.

If the goal is – reach out to fifteen companies – then you are the person that can make this happen or not. No one can stop you from sending out an email. But if you will base your success on whether you get the job or not – then the success of that goal is in the hands of someone else.

Your SMART goals should be something that you can affect. It needs to be achievable by your actions.

In short, break your stretch goal into SMART sub goals. Focus on achieving the sub goals that you can achieve. That is progress and success.

3. Target Your Message

During 2016, we made a survey of people that had high and low response rates on their job applications. Around 20 % of the job hunters got invited to interviews on more than 6 % of their applications. The other 80 % got invited to interviews between 0-5 %. A classic example of the Pareto Principle.

We called people from both these two groups to discuss their strategies and habits in the job hunt. The biggest difference that we found is that people in the successful group of people spend more time on making their applications than people that had lower response rates. In the successful group of job hunters, a majority of the people spent 1+ hours on an application and also made calls to the employers or recruiters. Many people got interviews just because they made those calls.

There is an important lesson here – please take some time to target your message before you send it to a recruiter or employer. Some people told us that they spend only a minute on making their application and then they are not getting a response. This simply won’t work.

Do target your message to the specific company, person and role that you are applying for.

4. Experiment, experiment, experiment!

Take time regularly to think about the challenges you are facing and where you are getting stuck;

  • Are you being invited to interviews but don’t get the job?
  • Are you sending applications but don’t get responses?
  • Do recruiters say you need more experience?

In other words, if you could make your job hunting process more efficient where would you want to improve?

Think about these particular challenges and how you can make small experiments to figure out how to become more efficient in your hunt. For instance, are people not responding to your emails?

Then try various combinations of headlines, content, and signatures to see which ones work the best. For email response rates, Boomerang has found by analyzing millions of emails some basic rules for getting high response rates:

  • have 1-3 questions in the email
  • make the text between 50-125 words.
  • have 3-7 words in the subject line.
  • write in a language so simple that an 8-9 year old kid would understand.

If you are having challenges with low email response rates, experiment with these rules. See what happens.

One common thing in the Swedish job market is the need of understanding Swedish. There are various ways you can try to respond to recruiters. One recruiter told me about a good way to respond to the lack of language skills:

“Yes, I have basic skills in Swedish right now. But you should have seen me one month ago. I had no understanding of Swedish whatsoever. I am a fast learner and can develop the language in three months.”

Experiment with various approaches to see what works. If you are not having any positive responses at all right now, this is the where you should start. We have tons of recommendations for this in the app.

5. Never Give Up

Obstacles are a part of any progress. You will have moments when you don’t want to keep going. Expect this.

If you feel yourself losing motivation, go back to your goals and revise them. Think about why you wrote them down in the first place. Why do you want to find a job? To excel in your career? To support your family? Something else?

Use that motivation to see the obstacle as a challenge and learn from it.

Never give up.

Written by Andreas Wennberg

Andreas Wennberg is the founder of 400contacts, an app that helps people find a job in eight weeks. He blogs about jobs, how to find that elusive job and how to tweak your experiences and skills to become attractive on the Swedish job market. For more help on finding a job – sign up at 400contacts

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