The 2-Hour Job Search

“The biggest lie told to job seekers is that searching for employment is a full-time job,” says Steve Dalton, senior associate director of the Career Management Center at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and author of The 2-Hour Job Search: Using Technology to Get the Right Job Faster (Ten Speed Press; $12.99). “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

The veteran career consultant suggests that job seekers focus their energy on activities such as finding companies that are currently hiring, researching employment at those companies, and securing referrals from employees within those companies to improve their job search effectiveness and efficiency.

“Everything else is busy work,” he quips, referring to tasks such as repeatedly tweaking your résumé, reading through endless job postings, and submitting countless résumés to job ads.

“The online job application process is inefficient,” insists Dalton. “Online job postings have destroyed the value of the résumé and forever ruined the old-fashioned mail-and-wait strategy.” He argues that while technology makes the process of looking for work easier, there are several reasons why the process actually makes it harder to get a job. For one, he says, few recruiters sift through the thousands of résumés they receive for any one job post. Instead, employers rely on referrals from company employees and professional colleagues because the quality of online applicants may be diluted and the number of people applying makes it hard for individuals to stand out.

“Advocacy matters more in today’s job search than qualifications. Proficient job seekers will leverage the best of technology to find and recruit the best of referrals to get their next job,” asserts Dalton. Follow Dalton’s 2-Hour Job Search process to gain the greatest return on your job-hunting efforts.

Create and Prioritize
Take 40 minutes to compile a list of 10 employers combined from these four categories: (1) Dream employers: those companies for which you’ve always wanted to work; (2) Alumni employers: these are companies who have hired professionals from your alma mater; (3) Posting employers: located on job search engines such as; (4) Trending employers: companies that are involved in new and emerging industries. Prioritize the list according to personal appeal, current hiring status, and internal referral potential.

Contact and Qualify
Take 50 minutes to identify and secure conversations with potential referrals at your top target employers. Dalton recommends a linear approach to your outreach, starting first with alumni directories, then LinkedIn, then other avenues such as Facebook, Google searches, and cold calls to find several contacts for each company. Request an informational interview by sending a concise e-mail of fewer than 100 words and that does not mention a particular job. Limit follow-up attempts to just once per contact after your initial outreach and eliminate those who don’t respond.

Recruit Referrals
Use the final 30 minutes to conduct the informational interview with each contact. The goal of the discussion is to build rapport, solicit information, and obtain a referral for a job within the interviewee’s company. Dalton recommends focusing on topics that highlight the interviewee’s knowledge: Trends, Insights, Advice, Resources, and Assignments (TIARA). Questions might include: What trends are most impacting your business right now? What surprises you most about your job? What can I do right now to best prepare for a career in this field? What resources should I be sure to look into next? Which projects are most important in your work? What you ask should frame your contact as an expert, one who can be converted to a mentor with progressively more inquisitive questions.