Job Search 101 Guide

Part 2: Beginning Your Job Search



Read other parts of this guide:

Part 1

Creating an effective resume and writing your cover letter

Part 3

Working with executive recruiters and tracking your job search progress

Part 4

Preparing for a job interview and creating a job interview thank-you letter

Beginning Your Job Search

How long will my job search take?

There is no formula to predict how long your job search will take. Many different factors will contribute to the length of your job search.

Factors that could either shorten or lengthen your job search, depending on current market trends, include:

  • The overall job market itself
  • Your desired industry
  • Your desired functional area
  • Factors that would likely lengthen your job search include:
  • Changing your career field
  • Changing your industry
  • Being at a salary level above the market rate for your target position
  • Seeking a higher-level position with limited job openings such as director-level positions
  • Re-entering the workforce after a lengthy absence
  • Having a work history of frequent job changes
  • Being a mature worker
  • Lacking the degree typically required for a desired position
  • Hesitating to apply for positions
  • Number of applications per position

To give you a ballpark idea of how long your job search will take, the average length of unemployment as of January 2019 is 20.1 weeks for those 20 years and over, with the average length of unemployment increasing to 23.7 weeks for those 55 to 64 years (source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Many states require unemployed workers to first use their severance weeks before being eligible for receiving unemployment, which means the average time a job seeker is unemployed is actually longer than the time they receive unemployment.

Our intention in providing you with these statistics isn’t to discourage you, but rather to help you recognize upfront that you need to be as proactive as possible in your job search.

How did job seekers find their last job?

One of the things Quest emphasizes to job seekers is that they must expand their approach to landing desired positions. A mountain of statistics are available which show that employers and recruiters use a variety of methods to fill open positions—not just one thing.

The following infographic illustrates for you how important it is to take a comprehensive approach to your job search.


What does this mean for you and your job search?

The main point to take away from the research is that you don’t want to rely exclusively on any one method to find your next job. Your best approach is to initially cover all your bases, and then adjust the time you spend with each method based on your success with that particular method.

How can I maximize the number of quality job opportunities that I can target in my job search?

Here is an action plan to help you maximize the number of job opportunities you can target in your job search:

  • Post your resume to the ‘Big 3’ in job search: Indeed, Monster, and LinkedIn. Also post your resume to, the site powering over 90% of the Fortune 500 company job boards.
  • Post your resume to your college or university’s alumni job search site.
  • Post your resume on relevant industry and professional association websites, using sources like CareerOneStop to identify appropriate associations.
  • Utilize your local newspaper’s website to locate job opportunities.
  • Consider pursuing job opportunities with the federal government.
  • Consider pursuing nonprofit job opportunities.
  • Use to locate job opportunities with smaller companies that will use this resource due to its affordability.
  • Use Google to identify niche job sites focused on your functional area or industry.
  • Work with executive recruiters.
  • Identify companies to target in your job search, utilizing sources like Hoover’s to build a list of target companies.
  • Network with friends, family, neighbors, former coworkers, industry contacts, and vendors to identify job opportunities.
  • Attend industry and professional association meetings to network.

How do I best utilize Indeed, Monster, CareerBuilder, and other job posting sites in my job search?

  • Create ‘job alerts’ to have job postings emailed to you from each job site.
  • Check for new job postings on each site at least weekly and apply to appropriate positions.
  • Log into each site at least weekly to open and re-save your resume so it continues to show up as ‘newest’ when employers search for matching resumes that they sort from newest to oldest.

How do I best utilize LinkedIn in my job search?

Recruiters are relying more and more on LinkedIn to source job candidates. To find these candidates, they perform keyword searches within LinkedIn. To improve your chances of being found by recruiters on LinkedIn, consider adding the information in the Professional Summary section of your resume to your LinkedIn Profile and adding some bullets to your individual positions. Also add an appropriate string of keywords to the Specialties section of LinkedIn. Use job postings for your target position to help you determine the appropriate keywords.

Finally, don’t forget to use LinkedIn to find job opportunities by clicking on the Jobs tab on LinkedIn and performing keyword searches. With the advanced search feature, you can limit the job postings by various criteria including location, job title, and the date the job was posted to LinkedIn.

Expand your network exponentially

Set up an account on LinkedIn if you haven’t already done so or expand your network if you have an established account with LinkedIn.

In today’s job market, it’s likely that the job openings you will be applying for will have 200-300 applications. Even with a strong resume and extensive experience, the odds are stacked against you being one of the 5-7 people out of 300 applicants that are selected for an interview.

The purpose of building your network on LinkedIn is to give you an edge over your competition by building a large enough network where someone you know (called a first-tier or 1st-level connection within LinkedIn) or someone they know (2nd-level connection to you) is employed at the company with the job opening you are interested in.

Through LinkedIn, you can ask your 1st-level connection to present your resume directly to the hiring manager. You can also ask your 1st connection to make an introduction for you to their 1st-level connection at a target company. This friend-of-a-friend connection may be willing to present your resume to the hiring manager after talking with you to learn more about you and your experience. So they are motivated to help you land the job, your connection within your target company will often receive a referral fee from their employer if you are hired for the position.

Your goal should be to build your network of 1st-level connections to have the reach you need to properly leverage LinkedIn in your job search. Strive to expand your network beyond connections to your former coworkers at your most recent employer. In the example below, the individual has 52 first-level connections, which result in linking them to 12,100+ second-level or friend-of-friend connections.

Help employers and recruiters find you on LinkedIn

  • First, you’ll want to make sure your LinkedIn Profile is public so it can be seen and found
  • Next, you’ll want to update your Career Interests on LinkedIn

The information given below is taken directly from the LinkedIn website. If you need help beyond the information they’ve provided below, you’ll need to contact their customer service group directly.

Making Your Public Profile Visible

Your public profile will be visible to people who aren’t members, who aren’t signed in to LinkedIn, or those who haven’t linked their LinkedIn account to their account on other approved services.

When displaying your public profile, you can either set limits on how much of your profile information is displayed by customizing your public profile settings or show your public profile.

Customize your public profile settings.

To show or change your public profile:

1. Click the Me icon at the top of your LinkedIn homepage.

2. Click View profile.

3. On your profile page, click Edit public profile & URL on the right rail.

4. Under the Edit Visibility section in the right rail, check or uncheck the boxes to select which sections you’d like to display or hide. Note: Your basic information displays by default.

Your changes will be updated and saved automatically, however search engines can take some time to detect changes and refresh. LinkedIn doesn’t control that refresh process.

Updating Your Career Interests on LinkedIn

Updating your career interests on LinkedIn helps us customize the positions that are surfaced to you through the Jobs You May Be Interested In Feature.

To update your career interests:

1. Click the Me icon at the top of your LinkedIn homepage and click View profile under your name.

2. In the Your Dashboard section of your profile, click Career interests.

3. You can customize the following preferences:

  • Shared career interest with recruiters
  • How actively are you looking for a job
  • How soon would you like to move to a new jobJob titles you are considering
  • Location(s) and commute time that you would prefer
  • Important: LinkedIn is in the process of gradually rolling out this feature, and it may not be available to you at this point in time.
  • Types of jobs you are open to
  • Industries you’re considering
  • The size of the company you’d like to work for

4. Any changes made to your job preferences will be automatically saved

How do I use Indeed in my job search?

Think of Indeed as a Google-like search engine, but a search engine that only lists job postings it gathers from multiple sources. The advantage of using Indeed in your job search is that it pulls job listings from thousands of job boards, newspapers, associations, and company websites and puts them all in one place for you to review.

Use Indeed as your search engine for jobs. Enter your target job title or keywords relating to your target position in the ‘what’ box below and your target location in the ‘where’ box to have Indeed search through its database to find all the job opportunities that match your search criteria.

How do I find job opportunities with the federal government?

Federal government jobs are available throughout the country, not just in the Washington, D.C. area. You can find federal government job opportunities at USAJobs, the federal government’s official jobs website:

Process to Follow

Applying for a position with the federal government is more complicated than when applying for a position in the private industry. Here’s a suggested process to follow when applying for a job with the federal government:

  • Recognize upfront that your resume along with your responses to the Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSA) questions will be used to rank you against other candidates to determine whether or not you are called for an interview regarding a federal government job announcement.
  • Print a hard copy of the job announcement and highlight keywords and keyword phrases describing the position’s duties and responsibilities.
  • Review your existing resume to see if you have included resume content that addresses each of the keywords and keyword phrases you highlighted in the previous step. Note any areas where you have experience related to a particular keyword or keyword phrase, but your current resume doesn’t include that experience.
  • Add resume content to address all keywords and keyword phrases that your existing resume doesn’t currently cover.
  • Print a hard copy of the Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSA) questions and review the questions.
  • Plan to spend a significant amount of time (likely several hours) developing your responses to the KSA questions. As a general rule-of-thumb, plan on each KSA response being roughly two to four paragraphs in length.
  • Incorporate the keywords you identified in step 2 above into your KSA responses.
  • Be sure to include detailed examples that illustrate your experience related to a particular KSA in your response to that KSA question. Use your KSA responses to expand upon information given in your resume.
  • Include relevant information in your KSA response even if you have already included the information on your resume.
  • If a KSA question asks you to self-assess your experience in an area (through a simple yes or no response or to pick from a list of predefined experience levels), be sure to include information in your resume to support your self-assessment or the government reviewer could revise your self-assessment based on lack of supporting detail. Also support your self-assessment through your responses to the KSAs.

Where do I find nonprofit job opportunities?

  • You can find nonprofit job opportunities on Work for Good, a national online job site focused exclusively on the nonprofit community. Over 25,000 nonprofit organizations, national recruitment firms, government agencies and local service providers utilize this site to post nonprofit job opportunities.
  • Another resource for nonprofit job postings is the jobs section of Idea List.


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