First, the job I found was in the area of new media strategy. While many traditional industries are shrinking - including advertising, publishing, real estate, finance, and traditional marketing - one area where companies are still building up staff is in digital. For anyone who has worked in a new media environment for a substantial length of time, as I have (fifteen years), the hiring prospects would be better than most other industries. It's probably third only to government and healthcare in terms of marketable expertise these days.
Even so, the difference between my job search this time and the last time I actively looked for a job (in 1996) was noticeable. My job hunt in 1996 took roughly a week. This job hunt took approximately six months. Of course, I'm looking at a higher level (middle-management), and that would arguably add to the time. But certainly the tough environment has probably doubled the normal time frame that a job search - even in a growing segment - would take these days.
So here are the stats for my search:
I sent out ~180 resumes over a period of six months, averaging roughly eight a week. These resumes were targeted to companies and positions for which I was qualified and which I would consider a good career move - there were no "just need a job" applications. The great majority were in my geographical area (New York metro). I created six different versions of my resume based on my experience and interests, each extremely tailored to a particular type of job title / industry vertical that I was looking for (product development, agency strategy, publishing strategy, interactive marketing, etc.) The best place for me to find job leads were:
Twitter job tweeters (ie., @socialmediajobs) and their ancillary job boards
Google search on desired job titlesThose 180 resumes resulted in roughly 35 phone screens, or approximately one phone screen a week. About half of the phone screens were with independent recruiters, the other half with in-house HR personnel or entrepreneurs. That's about a 20% success rate from resume --> screen, which is what you want your resume to do.
Phone screens led to approximately 14 in-person interviews, or about a 40% success rate on the phone screen. To me that actually seems a good rate - anything higher and you'll probably be wasting your time, as the most time you spend is on arranging and attending the first in-person interview. Also keep in mind that my schedule was flexible and allowed me to arrange all these interviews without interference.
Each initial interview required a few hours of preparation in terms of reviewing your resume and the job description, researching the company and the position, determining the correct wardrobe and strategy for the interview and so on. I found this research essential to having a good interview and being able to respond to questions "on your feet." It was particularly good to research a few facts related to your duties that you could toss out - information that would be impressive to know - and find good occasion to include this information in the discussions. In fact in the cases where I didn't have time to do such preparation (I got one call from someone to come down "immediately" that afternoon for an interview), the interview didn't go nearly as well, so spending this time was critical.
Fourteen first interviews led to eight second interviews, or a ~60% call-back rate. Cases that didn't result in a second interview were likely cases where there had been no phone screen, I hadn't had time for full preparation, or in some recruiter-arranged interviews where my background hadn't been a good match for the position to start with, and one case where a new person was assigned to manage the job who brought a different set of requirements from the initial reviewer. In most instances where I had already had an initial contact with the company going in, and knew that job was a good match for my skills, getting a second interview was going to be likely. Lesson: if you are well prepared and a match for the position, then you should be able to get the second interview, unless there are factors out of your control.
So I had eight second interviews, but of those eight second interviews five of them PUT THE POSITION ON HOLD instead of giving a job offer. This was very frustrating because in normal times, I felt I would have gotten five - not one, but five - job offers out of this process. It was also frustrating to go through a complete interview process only to be told at the end that there was no position. Couldn't companies make that decision earlier, or give candidates some indication that the allocation for the position might be uncertain? All of these positions that evaporated - saving one - were advertised as fully funded approved positions. I know these are challenging times, but I think that companies might want to re-look at how they handled the "putting on hold" issue with their HR personnel. However, the fact that so many positions are being "put on hold" means essentially you need to be able to land four offers just to actually get one, since a MAJORITY OF ADVERTISED JOBS are ending up being put on hold. If you think about that, you realize that you can't count any offer until it actually arrives - and don't think anything is likely. Getting your hopes up and then dashed is one of the hardest things about this process.
Of the remaining three companies, one was planning to continue interviewing for another couple of months and was in no hurry to extend an offer, one praised my abilities but said they felt they couldn't afford me and were hiring someone more junior instead, and the other extended an offer.
One last point I need to make. As it turns out, the company that extended the offer has turned out to be a really excellent match both for them and for me: not only an excellent opportunity for my personal career, but also a job where it seems all my experience is valuable and I can make the biggest difference for my employer. So perhaps there is a silver lining, here: the fact that the slow economy has stretched out the interview process, and required talking with many more companies and a wider pool of possible employers, might mean there is more time now for the right employee to realize a better match with the right employer. Which is good for everyone.
So this was the process. The average time from initial phone screen to hearing a no, "put on hold" answer, or an offer was approximately two months, with a lead time between one to four weeks from resume submission to phone screen.
I hope this information helps anyone who is looking for a job in this tough environment. One other piece of advice - keep some kind of Excel document or ledger about your progress, so it is easy to track who you've talked to and when to check in with them again. While you are in the interviewing process, check in every couple of weeks by sending a very short "hello again" email with a link to some relevant research, news, or information. Everyone I did this with appreciated it and staying in touch pro-actively with my active leads kept me on the radar at companies where I might have slipped off otherwise.