How Long Does It Take To Find a Job?

By Chris Kolmar - Nov. 13, 2020

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A job hunt can be exciting and frustrating, and sometimes both at once. At times it feels like there is a world of opportunity at your fingertips, and other times you may find yourself wondering if you’ll ever get an interview, let alone a position.

Whether you’re currently unemployed or are just looking for a change, finding a new position takes hard work. The process goes differently for everyone, especially when it comes to how long it takes to land a job offer.

How Long Does It Take To Find a Job?

While the length of your job search depends on factors such as the industry you work in, the economy, and even the time of year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has calculated that the average time it took Americans to find jobs in September 2020 was 20.7 weeks.

This is the national average, which means yours may take more or less time. For reference, the bureau also found that 20.2% of job seekers found employment in less than five weeks, while 19.1% found positions after searching for over 27 weeks.

Some job seekers are hired within days of beginning their search, while others look for months. The amount of time your search will take depends on several factors.

  1. Your job search methods. One of the controllable factors impacting your job search’s length is how you’re going about it. The websites you use and the number of positions you apply for each week will all impact how long it takes you to finally land a job.

  2. The economy. The economic state of the country, your state, and your industry is one of the most significant and least controllable factors affecting your job search.

    While you can’t do anything to change this, it is helpful to know that it may take a little longer to find a position if the economy is down. This way, you can make an informed decision about when you want to quit your current job or if you should take a side gig to make some extra money while you look.

  3. Your industry’s natural cycles. Many industries hire in waves. For example, engineering companies often open up a number of their entry-level positions around the time college students graduate each year so that they can train all of the new hires at once.

    Other industries are project-based, so they’ll start hiring as soon as they get a new project but may not have many open positions after filling those staffing needs.

    Similarly, companies with regular busy seasons may want to do most of their hiring right before the extra work hits but may not have time to onboard new employees while they’re in the thick of it.

  4. Your location. Your success in quickly finding a job could vary based on where you’re looking. Large cities typically have more options than small towns do, and some regions have higher concentrations of companies in certain industries than others.

    Job type you want
    Full Time
    Part Time
    Internship
    Temporary

    For example, only a handful of cities have many options for someone starting a career in filmmaking, while someone looking for an accounting position is more likely to find opportunities no matter where they are.

    While you don’t necessarily have to move to the hub of your industry to find a fulfilling position, you should be ready for a more prolonged job search and willing to take a role that may not be your dream job if you choose to look elsewhere.

  5. Your qualifications. Candidates with more experience are probably going to be snapped up more quickly than those with less. This is especially true in a struggling job market, as highly accomplished professionals are more likely to be vying for the same position as recent graduates.

  6. The quality of your application. This is another controllable factor that may be affecting the length of your job search since it has to do with the materials you produce.

    Your resume, cover letter, and application will be lumped in with the hundred others that hiring managers receive for a single position. Turning in bland, sloppy documents will significantly reduce your chances of standing out enough to get an interview.

  7. Who you know. The saying, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” can be all too true during a job search. If you have an in at a company you’re applying for, this can go a long way in shortening your search time.

  8. Your willingness to adjust. If you’re only going to be satisfied with finding your dream job located in your hometown, your job search will probably take a while.

    Being willing to apply for positions that would require a longer commute or a smaller paycheck will open up more possibilities and speed up your search.

How to Find a Job Faster

While several factors influence the length of your job hunt that you can’t control, there are some that you can.

  1. Make a plan. The job search process can be exhausting, which often results in seekers stretching it out much longer than necessary.

    Make a plan for how many applications you’re going to submit each week, and check for new job postings daily if you can.

    Your goals shouldn’t be impossible to reach or leave you entirely frustrated and drained, but they should help you push yourself to keep at it even when you don’t want to.

  2. Have someone else look at your resume and cover letter for you. Find an experienced professional who knows what hiring managers are looking for in a resume and ask them to look over yours.

    They’ll be able to give you suggestions that will help you make a better impression with your initial application, which could make all the difference in your job search.

    You should also ask them or someone else to proofread your documents for spelling, grammatical, and formatting errors. These can cause your application to be immediately tossed out, no matter how good the content may be.

  3. Tailor your resume and cover letter to the position you’re applying for. Many companies use automated systems that check for specific keywords before sending your application through to human eyes. Because of this, you should incorporate keywords from the job description into your resume and cover letter.

    Even if your application doesn’t go through one of these systems, hiring managers will appreciate that you took the time to tailor your resume and cover letter for their specific company and job opening. It also shows that you’ve done your research and care about getting the position.

  4. Keep learning and growing. If you find that you lack key skills that the jobs you’re applying for require, it’s never too late to learn.

    Sign up for a class or internship, or volunteer to help an organization with a task you want to learn. Even if you’re in a hurry to find a job, taking a few weeks to complete an online course may help the process go significantly faster than it would have without the training.

  5. Don’t stop networking. Try to form relationships with more professionals in your field by attending networking events, connecting and messaging them through LinkedIn, or conducting an informational interview.

    You never know what these connections might lead to, whether it’s as dramatic as an on-the-spot job offer or as simple as some advice for making your application more appealing.

  6. Be proactive. If you find a company that you’d like to be a part of, reach out to them even if they don’t have a job listing that fits your skills.

    Send a copy of your resume, tell them why you’re interested in working for them, and ask if they have any openings. Even if nothing comes of it immediately, they’ll have your name for the future.

    You can also post your resume directly on job boards to attract recruiters to you instead of the other way around.

  7. Update your LinkedIn profile. Make sure that your profile is up to date with a recent, professional headshot, your contact information, and your work experience.

    You should also make it clear that you’re actively looking for a job so that recruiters who find your page will be more likely to reach out to you.

  8. Be flexible. If you’re looking for your dream job in your current hometown, chances are you’re going to have to wait a while to find it.

    To speed the process up, make a list of nonnegotiables for your next position and then recognize the things you’re willing to be flexible about. This may be the location, pay, hours, or even responsibilities.

    The more flexible you are, the more relevant roles you’ll find. Just make sure you aren’t making so many compromises that you’re applying for jobs where you’d be absolutely miserable.

Remember that even if you follow all of these steps, hiring managers will take some time to look over your application and contact you to start the interview process, which can take several weeks in itself. It isn’t always your fault that you aren’t hearing back from companies, so be patient. You’ll find something.

Take the hassle out of your job search & get an offer faster
Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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