Activity vs Effectiveness In Job Search

Mar 30 2010 in Featured, Job Search Strategy, reCareered Blog by Phil Rosenberg

How should candidates gauge their job search – based on activity or effectiveness?

Most candidates that I speak to gauge their job search based on activity levels. When I ask a candidate to describe their job search to date, I almost always hear about how many resumes they’ve sent out. Sometimes I’ll also hear about how many phone interviews someone has generated. These are activities.

It’s rare that a candidate will answer this question describing effectiveness – with the number of job interviews they’ve had. Let’s pause for a quick definition here … phone interviews, informational interviews, and recruiter interviews are all preliminary steps to a job interview. A hiring manager isn’t seriously considering a candidate until they have met face to face, discussed a specific job, and the hiring manager is in an active hiring process with an approved budget – otherwise, it’s still a preliminary step.

A job seeker’s number of first job interviews, second (and third) interviews, number of times they are a finalist, and job offers are all measures of effectiveness. These statistics measure your progress, measure how close a candidate is to a job, or if a change your approach is needed.

I think it’s difficult for candidates to describe their search efforts based on job interviews – because usually the number is low. Often, it’s embarrassingly low. Sometimes, it’s zero. It’s difficult for a candidate who want to find a new job (especially an unemployed candidate) to describe their job search campaign as zero – especially when they have invested time and activity levels for little return. This realization can be so difficult that candidates may try to fool themselves, by managing their search progress based on more favorable (although less meaningful) metrics.

For example, I’ve had candidates argue that phone interviews, informational interviews and recruiter interviews should count, even though they are just preliminary steps to what really counts . They don’t want to think of their job search as zero.

However, there are many problems that can come from gauging your job search based on activity numbers:

  1. Activity may not get you closer to your goal: I’ve spoken to candidates who have sent thousands of resumes without a single job interview. Often their response is they need more activity – send more resumes.
  2. Measuring activity doesn’t tell you if the activity actually works: If your tactics aren’t aligned with hiring manager needs, throwing more activity that doesn’t work well isn’t likely to change your situation. If the definition of insanity is “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”, throwing more activity at the problem may not work.
  3. Measuring activity doesn’t tell you which activity works best: By measuring effectiveness, you’ll find that some activities are more effective than others. This knowledge is important for time management in your job search.
  4. All activity is not equal: Basing your job search on activity assumes that all activity is equal, and has equal results. Do you think talking on the phone to your friends about baseball scores will bring the same level of results as talking to hiring managers?
  5. You’ll probably be measured by results over activity in the job you seek: Even if your position isn’t measured based on results, your boss’ performance is probably measured by results.
  6. Covering up poor results: By focusing on activities, a candidates can fool themselves into thinking they are making progress. This can have disastrous results – I’ve spoken to countless candidates who felt they didn’t need help. By the time they admitted that they did need help, they were often so far under water that they could no longer afford professional career assistance.
  7. Recognizing zero is enlightening: While recognizing your results may add up to zero may be upsetting, it’s also eye-opening. Recognizing that a great amount of activity has resulted in few (or zero) interviews should cause a job seeker to re-examine tactics. Focusing on effectiveness allows a candidate to critically look at the methods used in job search to determine what is working … and what isn’t.

If you determine that your activity just isn’t working, examine root causes – while the job market is still tough, it’s more than just the job market (see As lousy as the market is, there are people getting interviews and jobs. Those people who are making this rough job market work for them have either highly in demand specific skills, or they are using different tactics from the masses, in order to stand out. What can you do that is different, in order to stand out?

In reality, candidates need both activity and effectiveness. The most effective job search tactics in the world won’t work with zero activity … just like the highest activity won’t work if your tactics are ineffective. While most candidates focus on activity, a good way to start measuring effectiveness can be found at

Don’t be afraid of low numbers or even zero – seek them out, listen to them, and improve your job search tactics based on this valuable feedback.

Readers – what statistics other than “gut feel” do you use to determine when your search isn’t working?


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Author: Phil Rosenberg

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