That’s a great question… and one for which there is no “magic” answer. But if you’re in the job hunt at this point, you might swear that the process seems to be taking longer than ever before.

At the heart of the problem is the fact that most companies receive unprecedented volumes of resumes in response to any job posting. In other words, the popularity of Internet job search is at least partly to blame for extending the job search process.

However, even seasoned professionals and executives using targeted networking and other types of job search methods are finding their quest is ongoing. Some prominent studies suggest that a job search will take one MONTH for every $10,000 of salary.

What’s a well-qualified candidate to do?

Here are some ways to gauge how long your job hunt might take, and some methods to start addressing it—long BEFORE frustration sets in:

1 – First assess the factors that may affect the duration of your search.

In particular, the amount of time you’ll need to invest will be largely dependent upon the following:

  • Your qualifications for the role you seek vs. that of your competition
  • The industry in which you may be limiting your search
  • Economic conditions affecting demand for your skills or within your industry
  • Any factors that play into selection by recruiters (an unfinished degree, frequent job changes, short tenure at your current position, etc.)
  • Any other mitigating circumstances, such as large numbers of people exiting your field (such as in the mortgage or construction industries) or relatively high pay for your career goal (including the field of pharmaceutical sales) that encourages applications to flood employers with resumes
  • The type of job search you conduct (i.e., online only or using networking to expand your options)
  • Your level of preparation for the job hunt itself

While a few short years ago, candidates could call a few recruiters and quickly line up interviews, hiring authorities—and systems—have become increasingly particular about the content of your resume.

Spend extra time developing one or more resumes (and cover letters) that concisely reflect your career goals, keeping length to two pages or less. Be sure to address any potential issues in your work history, such as gaps in employment, potential age bias, or other issues, as the payoff can be significant.

2 – Next, take a look at your methods, and expand them beyond Internet-only search.

Online search efforts CAN be fruitful, but for many applicants, the low rate of return (anywhere from 4 to 18 percent) can severely limit your success.

There are numerous ways to expand your search beyond the Internet. For example, look at professional associations as a source of networking. While each organization is different, some conduct in-person meetings frequented by recruiters.

In addition, take a look at the social networking sites, including LinkedIn, Ryze, Naymz, Plaxo, Twitter, FaceBook, and others. Maximizing your connections and availability on these sites can put you in front of hiring authorities—plus give you another avenue to search for job postings.

Don’t forget about using recruiters. If you haven’t found a good source in your industry, simply google to find recruiting firms that specialize in your field. Think of professional recruiters as another networking source that you must cultivate and manage; after all, they’re in front of employers constantly and can let you know of great insider opportunities.

3 – Last, revise your thinking about job hunting itself.

A successful search is no more than a means by which to spread the word about your qualifications. Job hunters who embrace technology and the latest wave of search techniques are actually CREATING demand for their skills, using a combination of viral marketing and online networking.

Tools such as establishing a blog in your area of expertise, or creating a web portfolio that allows the reader to drill further to get more detail on your accomplishments are part of the emerging “job search 2.0” movement.

In essence, the theory is that the more you establish yourself as an expert in your field, the easier it will be to have others pursue YOU for your unique capabilities.

In short, while some facets of a job hunt may be beyond your control, you CAN significantly cut down the amount of time needed to find your next opportunity by using the most productive search methods, and developing a business presence that can catapult your job hunt from ordinary to cutting-edge.

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