Stop Wasting Your Time: How to Actually Spend Your Time When Job Searching

Recently I wrote about how to stay motivated when the job search gets tough, where I outlined how to set a schedule and break up your time while job searching. What I didn’t cover was how you should actually be spending the time that you do have dedicated to job search tasks. I find that a lot of people struggle with this and end up confused as to why all their hard work and time has not provided the return on investment they were hoping for.

Let’s break it down:

My guess is that if you were to outline how you currently spend the time you have dedicated to job search activities, it would look something like this:

50% Looking through job boards
25% Applying to positions
15% Informational Interviewing/Networking
10% Online Research

While these tasks are important, my recommendation for a more productive use of time would instead be:

50% Informational Interviewing/Networking
30% Applying to positions
15% Online Research
5% Looking through job boards

A few concerns probably come up:

1. Why so much more time spent on informational interviewing/networking? That doesn’t seem as productive as searching for actual openings.

You’ve probably heard the statistic that 80% of jobs are never posted, or shared only through the “hidden job market.” And it’s true, most positions are shared through individual networks and word of mouth, so it’s critical that you talk to people! Plus, those jobs you’ve seen posted on job boards are often old or require an internal referral to get a foot in the door. If you’re a new reader, you can read more about my stance on why informational interviews are so helpful and how they help to create happenstance in your job search.

For all these reasons, you really should be spending the majority of your job search time focused on informational interviewing and networking. This could look like a variety of things: having a coffee meeting with an individual, writing email or LinkedIn requests for an informational interview, following up with an old contact, going to a networking event, etc.

Professional relationships take time to cultivate, but are by far the most rewarding task you can invest your time in on the job search.

2. Only 5% spent on searching for job postings? That doesn’t seem like enough time!

Ever heard of Parkinson’s Law? It is the idea that “our work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” In other words, you will spend whatever time you have allotted on a task. So, if you give yourself hours to scroll through job postings online, you’ll do just that. And you probably often find yourself getting distracted by irrelevant postings, or falling into a spiral of other information on the internet. Instead, give yourself much less time to search and use that time as efficiently as possible to search through relevant postings that truly speak to you.

3. Why do I need to dedicate more time to applying? Won’t I need to search for more job postings in order to be able to spend more time actually applying?

Most of your time applying to roles should be focused on tailoring your resume and cover letter to each position. Think quality, not necessarily quality here.

Your resume can be reorganized, positions can be removed, sections can be added. You may want to create a master version of your resume that has everything on it from which you can pull to then create customized versions.

Your cover letter should specifically address the job opening and what skills the organization is seeking in their new hire. This takes time to write, and generally should not be cut and pasted from one cover letter to the next.

Finally, if you’re actually spending 50% of your time focused on informational interviews or networking, you’re likely to get some leads that also require customized emails or cover letters. For example, if a contact has offered to refer you to a position, you will probably need to send them your application materials along with an explanation of your background so they can speak to that within the organization.


Restructuring your time dedicated to job searching can be a game changer. Give it a shot and let me know how it goes for you!