When it comes to job search strategies, use one that includes these 6 key considerations.

Would you ever go on a long road trip without driving directions? Sure, maybe you’d eventually get from Point A to Point B, but it wouldn’t be the most efficient or economical way to travel. Having a strategic job search plan is essentially like having a map. Job search strategies will save you time, sanity, and will shorten your search.

Determine Your End Goal

I occasionally talk to clients at the beginning stages of their job search who say something along the lines of, “I just want a job where I will be happy and can work independently.”

Happiness is a relative term and you can work independently picking up cow manure. Probably not what you had in mind! Instead, consider your ideal job situation or professional objective. What kind of work do you want to do? When you are clear about the work you want to do, you become a more attractive candidate.

Set Aside Focused Time

A U.S. Department of Labor study showed that two thirds of job seekers reported working on a job search five hours per week or less.

If you want results, you need to be committed. Job search intensity is essential to your success. 

Clients often ask how much time they should actually be spending on a job search. I recommend 30 hours a week if you are unemployed and 10 per week if you are employed.

A breakdown of your week could look like this:

  • 7 hours per week spent researching companies and people. LinkedIn is a great tool.
  • 8 hours per week devoted to writing and refining job search communications including resumes, follow-up letters, hand-written thank you notes, and emails.
  • 5 hours per week searching for and applying to jobs through online job sites and employer websites.
  • 5 hours per week spent out of the house at professional networking events, career fairs, and lunch and learns.
  • 5 hours per week spent doing in-person informational interviews.
  • I also strongly recommend that unemployed job seekers schedule daily exercise time and quiet meditation, yoga, or prayer time.

Write Targeted Resumes

It’s important to take the time to write targeted resumes and cover letters that specifically link your qualifications to the hiring criteria for the jobs you are applying. Most of the executive resumes I write are hybrid resumes because they are highly customizable. I recommend looking at the job description and highlighting the requirements in your executive summary or skill section.

This process can be automated by pasting your resume and job description into the form below:

Track Your Progress

A key component of having a strategic job search is tracking your progress. When you are applying to 20 or more positions a week, you are going to have a difficult time remembering everything. Tracking your job search also helps you to hold yourself accountable to accomplishing your goals. If you are looking for a spreadsheet to track your job search, I recommend maintaining one like this job search strategy template.

Make Sure Companies Can Find You on LinkedIn

Recruiters and hiring managers can’t find you without a complete and fully optimized LinkedIn profile.

Your headline plays an important role in how search results are ranked and displayed. I was talking to a job seeker last week whose headline just said “Director.” I asked him what he is directing. The orchestra? When your headline is vague, you will get overlooked. When he shifted his headline to something along the lines of, “Senior Director Private Equity| M&A Advisory | Strategic Consulting,” he significantly increased his online visibility. Not only does his headline now more accurately describe his work but it also leverages the right keywords (or search terms) that recruiters in his industry use.

Jobscan has a great feature that scores your LinkedIn profile based on custom keywords, completed fields, and optimized content in your headline, summary, and work experience.

Lastly, and most importantly, NETWORK!

Some reports suggest that as many as 80% of jobs aren’t published publicly and may only be accessible through networking. For those earning more than $100,000, networking is clearly the most successful strategy, with 50% of candidates surfacing opportunity in this way.

My not-so-secret tip I share with all of my clients is that informational interviews are powerful. An informational interview is a one-on-one conversation with someone who has a job you might like, who works within an industry you might want to enter, or who is employed by a specific company that you’re interested in learning about. One of the best summaries of an informational interview can be found here.

I also love the book the Informational Interview Handbook by Jeff Neil. I don’t know him in real life, but he should start paying me a commission. I tell all of my clients to buy his book because it’s just so darn practical and good. He gives easy to understand and practical tips on setting up informational interviews.


Sarah Johnston has worked for over ten years in the recruiting and development field. She has advised hundreds of professionals across industries like nursing, marketing, nonprofit administration, operations, sales, construction, education, and retail in developing resumes and personalized career strategies that stand out in today’s market. In addition to resume writing and job search coaching, Sarah specializes in mock interviews. She is based in Columbus, OH but has clients globally. Sarah is active on Facebook and LinkedIn. You can visit her website www.briefcasecoach.com to learn more.

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