During my recently-concluded job search, I became obsessed with tracking my activities. It was a way to make sure I was keeping up the pace, and it formed a sort of “scorecard.”

And I can happily report that I did better than the poor soul cited in this recent article in The New York Times:

“[An executive]...jumped actively into his job search but said that he had gotten fewer than 10 interviews in two years, despite averaging nearly 40 hours a week looking for work.”

During a ten month period I recorded 713 discrete actions. These included applying to 358 online job postings, and mailing 137 DM letters to targeted employers (the online job postings were either through services like Ladders and Monster, through aggregators like Simply Hired and Indeed, or posted directly on companies’ own sites. The DM letters followed the model in John Lucht’s Rites of Passage). Here are the results:

358 submissions to online job postings resulted in 46 responses (13%). Of those responses, 36 were “No” and 10 were interviews.

137 DM letters resulted in 4 responses. Of those responses, 3 were “No” and 1 was an interview.

* More than 86% of my online submissions generated no results (that is, no response beyond a computer-generated acknowledgement when I submitted).

* More than 96% of my DM letters generated no response.

* On average, I generated one interview for every 36 online job submissions.

* I contacted 33 recruiters, and “refreshed” those relationships by phone or email every 60 days. I believe I was presented to 6 companies by recruiters. I interviewed with 1 company through a recruiter.

* I made 284 networking contacts, either by email or by telephone.

The total results of all my efforts (DM, online submissions, networking, recruiters) were interviews at 21 companies. 8 of those interviews resulted in second interviews, and three of those went on to third or more interviews. I received one offer.

I share these numbers because they’re REAL. They’re mine: for me, searching for my job at my level, in my geographic area and my industry, during 2008. Your mileage may vary. But you might find it valuable to see some real numbers instead of generalities about job searching or vague reports in the Jobs section of your Sunday newspaper.

Good luck!

jhack's picture


Great data. Thanks for sharing this.

It's clear that a job search is a "needle in a haystack" situation. And your success was undoubtedly due (partly) to the breadth and intensity of your efforts.



basking2's picture

That's fascinating stuff. Thanks for sharing it!


davidperez248's picture

I know folks who say they're looking, and they are not looking this hard or this methodically. It's good to hear that this methodical approach achieved results.

rgbiv99's picture

Hugh - the thought of this spreadsheet makes me salivate. Congratulations on landing that job! I will definitely use this approach in the future and hope to be as detailed and methodical as you.


HMac's picture

I appreciate your comments that my methodical approach acheived results. But I'm not so sure. My new job came from networking, pure and simple. A former supplier of mine, upon learning that I was looking, put me in touch with another former supplier, who had moved to the company that eventualy hired me. Which leaves me wondering about the true value of all efforts other than networking.

I'm just raising this as something to think about - I'm absolutely NOT advocating that your shouldn't go to the job boards, contact recruiters, and do a DM (Direct Mail)campaign. Your results may be quite different than mine!

* In my experience, I generated more interviews from the job boards than I did with recruiters and DM.

* If you're going to use the job boards, you really have to think about responding to HUNDREDS of ads, not dozens.

* My experience with Ladders was OK - they brought me opportunities that I didn't find elsewhere, but they also brought me a lot that I did see elsewhere. So I don't feel like I wasted my money, though I haven't become a bigtime advocate of the Ladders.

* The job aggregators (I used Indeed and Simply Hired) are pretty cool - and they'll keep you busy with daily search results to review. But I'm a little wary of the "freshness" of the opportunities. A lot of times I saw opportunities that I had previously seen - or responded to - weeks before.

* I think most recruiters you'll come across are as bad off as you are: the same companies that won't hire you also won't hire through recruiters. This is like the opposite of the adage that "a rising tide lifts all boats."

asteriskrntt1's picture

Congrats Hugh

I am very happy for you. You have inspired me to look at my own numbers and journey, which I will post in a bit. I did not measure everything you did, but I did measure a lot. Do you have a number on face-to-face meetings/networking too?


asteriskrntt1's picture

Great job Hugh

Again, congratulations. I know how hard you have worked at this. I don't track as closely as you do but I think my numbers are similar. I am very grateful that I am teaching part-time at the various colleges or I would be living on the street now. I don't wish a protracted job search on anyone. You have inspired me to keep better track of things. I also wish I had more solid Manager-Tools guidance early on in my search. I believe it would have made a huge difference. Here are my mind-blowing numbers so far.

I keep an extensive Outlook database. Not counting service providers (doctors, locksmiths etc), I have roughly 3200 contacts in my Outlook. I moved to Toronto just before 9/11 with 1000 contacts, so I have added on average about 275 contacts per year (2000 total). Most of them I met face-to-face with a smaller percent (about 10%) only through email or voicemail.

I network at any level and have sat down with Chairpersons, CEOs and senior executives - Roughly 150 contacts at the VP level or higher across a variety of industries (banking, financial services, insurance, advertising, consulting, consumer goods, pharma etc).

Over the last 18 months, I generated at least 60 customized resumes and cover letters for applications. The actual number is probably double that as I did not do a good job as saving them with distinct names as opposed to AsteriskRNTT's resume. I don’t even want to think about how many blind applications I submitted – maybe 7-10 a week at some point.

In the last 4 years, I have added (been in contact with via email, phone, face-to-face) 135 local and 60 non-local recruiters. Most have switched companies, shut down or left the business. Very hard to maintain relationships with them. Case in point, I just saw a posting with an agency for a job that is a good fit for me. I looked on their roster – all five recruiters I knew there are now gone.

Most external recruiters asked me to alter my resumes in mind-numbing fashion. I have stopped accommodating them. I can only identify getting one interview from an external recruiter. In that one, I went to a 4th interview without getting an offer.

I share my network indiscriminately. It is rare that I will not pass on someone's name or ask a contact if I can pass on his or her contact info to someone. I recently helped 4 students get jobs (not one said thank you, go figure).

Would love to see any other numbers out there....


ashdenver's picture

You know ... this reminds me of something I learned many years ago.

I had stupidly quit a job that I actually liked because of the culture of the company itself. I wasn't able to find a suitable job before resigning - primarily because I was young, stupid and didn't bother to look for one - and ended up answering an ad in the newspaper. I showed up at a rented office in some building where it was essentially a "cattle call" to find desperate schmucks like me to sell knock-off perfume door to door in the bitter Chicago wintertime.

As a testament to the general cluelessness of my 20-something-year old self, I actually showed up the next day for the "training" and basic sales pitch. The guy in charge of that particular three-ring circus said something along the lines of: "It takes 350 contacts/attempts/pitches to close one sale."

I've believed that over the last 20 years without any proof of the numbers. It was of great comfort to me when I'd find rejection letters or a general dearth of responses -- "It's not that hopeless yet; I've only sent out 50 and it takes 350 to close a deal."

It's great to see that your numbers actually support that statement from nearly two decades ago. Thank you for sharing, Hugh.

jhack's picture


Your comment about networking rings true to my experience. With one exception (moving across the country to a new city where I knew no one) all my positions have been found through networking. I worked with recruiters, I did direct mailings, worked through job listings, etc. In the end, however, it was networking that made the difference.

You run your campaign across all media, but the ground game is essential. (or some such metaphor!)

Folks, you must keep your networks alive. Give, share, and help others. It will benefit them, and ultimately it will benefit you.


HMac's picture

Asterisk: Maybe you're looking for jobs that aren't there anymore? If you haven't already, please take a look at my recent posting "The Biggest Thing I learned When Looking for Work." Maybe you're fighting an outgoing tide like I was.

Once I learned that the problem was with the market - and not with me - I reinvented my job search by looking for an entirely different type of work: one that I had done several jobs before, and had LOVED, and had been hugely successful at. The people in my network remembered that success, and within a week I was talking to the person who eventually hired me some months later.

In my 12 years with my previous employer, I spent my first six selling and designing training, learning and employee engagement programs to Fortune 100 companies. In recognition of my success, and as my company's focus changed following 911, I was promoted into the consumer marketing field, and I spent my last 4 years leading the company's largest global client relationship, with a team of 60+ in the US and UK.

After 8 months of banging may head against the market trying to find my old job leading a large consumer marketing team, I was finally able to admit something I had never breathed aloud: I didn't like my later jobs as much as I had like my earlier jobs. And I was trapped by the thought of "going backwards" from a senior director role to an individual contributor role.

My "moment of sanity" came on August 15th, when I was able to admit that while I really liked my last job, my team, my clients, and the ego rewards of leading a major international account for a prestigious global brand, I didn't LOVE it the way I loved training, learning and employee engagement. One of the telling clues was what I did with my spare time: I was far more interested in reading about training, presenting and engagement than about consumer marketing...

A long story - but I wanted to give you some context to what I'm saying...Maybe it's not you; maybe it's the market. And if you're looking for work, make sure you're looking for work you can throw your whole heart into.


HMac's picture

Ash - you're right to think the way you are. In my first sales job many years ago (I was a contingency recruiter for Management Recruiters - and that's pure telephone selling), I learned that ALL selling is just numbers.

I also learned that numbers vary, depending on a lot of circumstances (like the salesperson's skill, the value of the product/service, the condition of the market, etc).

So it's tricky to know exactly what the "right" numbers are - how many ad responses, recruiter contacts, DM letters it takes to get an interview or an offer. I think I remember Lucht saying it takes 1000 DM letters to surface 5 interviews. And my experience with only a few hundred letters doesn't contradict him...

Last April, when I realized that my job search wasn't going anywhere, I arbitrarily declared a "Campaign to 500" - that's when I started really tracking my job search activities, and the game was to get to 500.

I eventually needed 753 before I received and accepted the offer. But that big goal of 500 got me focused and kept me plugging away. It gave me exactly the same kind of comfort you mentioned in your post, and anyone who's job searching will beenfit from your advice.

You're on the right track. Keep climbing!


simonspeichert's picture

Thanks for this, Hugh. I'm a young individual contributor beginning a job search and your numbers really help put things in perspective. Transitions can be daunting, but quantifying your efforts has helped me realize that this isn't going to be easy. It also makes me shake my head at some of the stories in the media about people standing on corners wearing cardboard signs looking for jobs, who say they've searched "exhaustively".

jhbchina's picture

Hi MT'er's

I have always said that submitting your resume on-line is a waste of time and you are playing resume roulette. Your resume goes into a dark hole and nothing comes out.

"More than 86% of my online submissions generated no results (that is, no response beyond a computer-generated acknowledgement when I submitted)."

It would be great if more people could share their results for online applications, and then we can report the results and inform companies to stop wasting their time and money on Monster and Hotjob, etc.

Looking forward to seeing your posts.

ashdenver's picture

Granted, the last time I submitted my resume online which resulted in a job offer was five years ago - a different economy and job market entirely - but I've not experienced the black hole phenomenon myself. In fact, prior to MT, I was submitting my two-page resume online and getting fairly decent results in that I was getting call-backs with mini-phone interviews initially followed by a least a half-dozen first-in-person-interviews. None of those opportunities would have been a good fit for me though I did get called back to a couple of second in-person interviews.

I think if your presentation is top-notch, the method of submission is irrelevant. If you're submitting a perfect resume that's been proofread by several people but then add an ad hoc cover letter with serious typos and grammatical errors, that may be a contributing factor to the black hole effect. The current climate and fierce competition for jobs may also lead to feeling/experiencing a black hole sensation but I do believe that recruiters don't really care how they get resumse so long as they are top quality, well presented and are fully qualified.

At least, that's my take on it having once been a recruiter myself.

HMac's picture

Ash - I'm guessing that one difference between your experince and mine (that is, one difference OTHER THAN your superb qualifications ;)..)is how much growth there's been in online job postings. I'd bet that some postings generate hundreds of responses - or more - and it's a problem with being able to stand out in such a crowd.

One thing I made sure to do: If it was an online posting that identified the company, I'd go to the company's "careers" section and submit directly into their system, rather than submitting it through Monster, Careerbuilder, etc. I thought it might make mine stand out a little, because it was coming from "inside" and not from a web service.


PS. This was written from my desk on my fourth day in my new job. WooHoo!!