Job Hunting In Hard Times

by Brian Cormack Carr on August 15, 2010 · 4 comments

in Career


There’s no doubt about it – the recession is biting hard.  In the two years since spring 2008, employment levels amongst the working age population in the UK have dropped by around 3%.  Unemployment levels are at their highest in 15 years, amidst expectations that they will rise further in the year ahead as public service funding cuts begin to strike deeper.  The number of part-time workers has reached an all-time high as more people are forced to accept shorter working hours or not work at all.


Click here to see an interactive graph showing trends in UK unemployment since 1984


Given the current economic climate, it’s likely that many of us have been thinking about how we’d look for new work, should we need to, and many of us will already be doing it.  So, what’s the best way?

In his classic (and highly recommended) manual for job-hunters and career-changers, What Color Is Your Parachute? Richard Nelson Bolles points out that there are at least eighteen different methods of finding a new job.  They range from attending job clubs, to using the internet; from volunteering in order to build new skills, to searching the phonebook for organisations who might be hiring; from starting your own business, to mailing out your CV to prospective employers.

Most interestingly, Bolles notes that of job-hunters who use just one method of seeking new work, around half of them will abandon this method after the first two months, having found no work (the average job-search, according to Bolles’ figures, takes up to five months).    Of those who use several different ways of hunting for a job, the percentage who will abandon them all at the end of the second month drops to around 30%.

At first glance, it would appear that the more job-search techniques used in seeking new work, the greater the chance of finding it.  However, that rule seems to stop working at a certain point.  Research shows that if you use more than four methods of job-hunting concurrently, your chances of finding work decrease with each additional method you add to your search, beyond the first four.  That’s partly due to spreading your effort too thinly, of course, but it’s also down to the relative effectiveness of each method.

With that in mind, it’s worth knowing what the most effective job-hunting techniques are – and which are least effective.  From this information, you can choose the four most powerful ways of finding work (bearing in mind your own situation and proclivities), and can avoid those which will take up lots of your time and won’t give you much to show for it.

We’ll start with what doesn’t work so well.  The percentages in brackets refer to the proportion of job-hunters who, in applying this particular method alone, go on to find work as a direct result.


The Four Worst Ways To Find A New Job: *

1. Looking for jobs on the internet (4-10% success rate)
Whilst the media (particularly online) often highlights stories of individuals finding their ideal work through an online search, this actually only works well for around 4 in 100 people (unless the job in question is a computer-related, IT-based, in engineering, or a financial services job, in which case the rate rises to around 10 people in 100).

2. Sending your CV to random employers (1-7% success rate)
It used to be the case that careers advisers would suggest that you picked some employers you liked the sound of, and sent them a nice letter enclosing your Curriculum Vitae (it was certainly suggested to me more than once).  It’s unlikely that this method ever worked well, but nowadays, it’s virtually useless unless you and the employer are a very specific match.  This job-search technique is reported to have – at most – a 7% success rate.  Many employers actively discourage CVs, preferring job candidates to fill in an application form against a job specification.

3. Answering adverts in newspapers or professional trade journals (7-24% success rate)
This category may well surprise you.  Many of us – myself included – have found most of our jobs this way.  Nonetheless, we’ve had to do it by beating off a considerable amount of competition.  The proportion of candidates weeded out before anyone is invited to interview is usually very high.  The wide range is due to the different salary levels being considered; the higher the salary, the harder it is to find a job using only this method.

4. Using employment agencies or job search companies (5-28% success rate)
As with point 3, the range here is due to the salaries in question.  And again, although a not insignificant proportion of people using only this method are able find work, at least three-quarters will not.  Those aren’t terrific odds…


That’s the bad news.  Particularly since – I’m willing to bet – at least one of the methods you normally use to find a new job is on this list.  It doesn’t mean you should abandon these techniques altogether, of course.  If you’re already employed in a particular field, and have a good amount of experience and reputation to back you up, then your odds become considerably higher, regardless of which method you use.  And the odds rise still more if you combine them.

For most people, however (certainly for those wishing to find a first job, or break into a new field) these methods – whether used singly or in combination – are at best only moderately effective.

Don’t be discouraged – I wouldn’t tell you all this if I didn’t have some good news to share too.  Just as there are bad ways to find new work, there are also very good ways, and I’ll be covering these in the next issue of my newsletter.  Sign up here today – there’s no charge – and look out for the second part of this article, where I’ll be discussing The Five Best Ways to Find a New Job.

You can now read Part Two of this article by clicking here.


© Brian Cormack Carr, 2010

Thanks for visiting! You can find more of my writing in my Amazon bestselling self-help guides How To Find Your Vital Vocation and Real Food Revival Plan both of which are available worldwide in e-book and paperback formats. Find out more here.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Janet August 15, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Thanks Brian

Your newsletter always comes in my inbox at the right time and its always positive and encouraging.

I was feeling frustrated as I am really keen to move into an new area and with the current climate and so much competition I had hit a low and wonder will I ever get the break.

I look forward to your newsletters and especially the next one on The Five Best Ways to Find a New Job.

Thank again


Brian Cormack Carr August 15, 2010 at 9:25 pm

You’ve very welcome, Janet – really pleased you’re finding them helpful.

The next newsletter will be out within the week, and I think you’ll find some useful, practical information in there about the best job-hunting techniques – techniques which statistics show have a success rate of up to 86%: much better odds!


Salvora October 13, 2010 at 12:25 am

Hi there. I am discouraged. The worst methods are the ones I have always used! I have only recently suscribed to your newsletter. Please, can I have a copy of the newsletter where you talk about the best ways to find jobs?


Brian Cormack Carr October 14, 2010 at 12:21 am

Hi Salvora,

Of course! Here it is:

( And you can see every back issue of the newsletter here: )

Don’t worry about the fact that you’ve been using these ways to hunt for a job. That’s what most of us do! You don’t have to abandon them completely. In some circumstances, they’re the right thing to do (for example, if you work in a very specialised field where jobs all tend to be advertised in the same place).

However, the good news is that there are even better ways and the newsletter will fill you in on what they are. Enjoy!


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