In the past couple weeks, I’ve talked to several friends and customers who’ve been feeling especially frustrated and confused about the job search. “If unemployment is <5% and there are so many jobs out there, why is my search taking so long? Is there something wrong with me?

They’re not alone. Forget the official numbers, it’s miserable out there for millions of Americans. Don’t believe me? Take one look at Twitter or Reddit and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

So, what’s the deal? How is it that unemployment is <5% but everyone you know and their mom is complaining about the job search? Well, there’s a lot that the official government lies about hides (more on that later), but I pulled some of TalentWorks’ data over the weekend to see if we could shine some light on it.

tl;dr: Yes, the US economy is adding jobs, but it’s still a serious pain in the ass for any single American job-seeker to actually get a job. No, there’s nothing wrong with you — it’s miserable for everyone.

This graph summarizes it better than anything I can say. With a standard (non-TalentWorks-optimized) search, here’s how long it takes to get a job for some of the most popular roles at TalentWorks:

How long does it take to get a job in America today? Forget 4.4% employment, it takes 84.3 days for HR folks, 94.7 days for sales folks, even more for others.

What gives? There are 3 major things going on here—

Job Applications, So Many Job Applications…

For starters, check out how many job applications it takes to get a job. For HR and administrative assistants, it takes 200+ applications to get a job! Even software developers (supposedly in dire shortage), need to submit 150+ applications to get a job offer!

If that doesn’t make sense to you, consider this: On average, you have an 8.3% probability of getting a job interview from one job application. That means it takes 10-20 applications to get one interview. And, on top of that, it takes 10-15 interviews to get one job offer (more on that later too).

This obviously varies by your specific role, past experience, location and about a dozen other factors, but it doesn’t vary that much:

RoleInterview Rate (%)
Property Managers10.2%
Project Managers9.3%
Human Resources Workers4.7%
Marketing Specialists9.7%
Software Developers6.1%
Mechanical Engineers10.1%
Kindergarten Teachers10.6%
High School Teachers5.3%
Sales Representatives5.9%
Office Managers8.6%
Customer Service Representatives10.0%
Administrative Assistants4.5%

Not Enough New Job Openings

So, how long does it take to submit 200+ job applications? Even if you’ve got brilliant AI and fantastic industry mentors on your side (sorry, I had to get that one in), there’s only so many new jobs opening up around you.

The number of new jobs per week varies dramatically by city and job role, but you can roughly assume it’s somewhere between 50 and 100 for most jobs and major cities.

How many of those do you (seriously) qualify for? Or are (seriously) interested in? Based on what we see, let’s say it’s about 10-25% for now.

All of a sudden, you’re now living in a world where you can only (seriously) apply to between 5 and 25 jobs per week.

If you need to apply to 150+ jobs, that’s 6+ weeks! And sometimes, it’s way, way worse. For example, if you compare the chart and table above, although mechanical engineers have a pretty high interview rate, there just aren’t that many mechanical engineering jobs out there in most cities. God forbid if you’re only looking at one city…

Slow, Ghosting Hiring Managers!

Who’s been ghosted by a hiring manager? (Everyone raise their hand…) It’s just a normal day in the job search. It happens so often, we even named it at TalentWorks: blackholing.

But, even when hiring managers are on their best behavior, there’s always a delay between when you start your job search and until you get a response.

For many competitive industries and roles, this delay can be quite short: 1-3 days. But, the less competitive your industry or role, the longer the delay. The more bureaucratic or traditional your industry, the longer the delay. And so on.

RoleResponse Delay (# days)
Property Managers1.1
Project Managers2.9
Human Resources Workers3.2
Marketing Specialists2.2
Software Developers3.0
Mechanical Engineers3.0
Kindergarten Teachers3.7
High School Teachers1.0
Sales Representatives6.1
Office Managers3.1
Customer Service Representatives2.4
Administrative Assistants3.2

When you look at the data, this effect is especially bad for writers: it can take 10+ days to hear back from a job application. But, it can be even worse for others: for nurses (not shown), it takes 30+ days on average to hear back from a job application.


@DameWritesalot called it: #FML. Right?

Here’s the thing. Whatever the official unemployment numbers say, it’s really hard to get a job right now. (It’s been really hard for awhile, actually.) There’s lots of reasons why and there’s even a few things you can do about it, but there’s something even more important I want everyone to understand—

The #1 thing I hear personally (and the #1 issue our amazing TalentAdvocates work with at TalentWorks) is just how depressing the job search is. Whether people say it or not, you can see it in their eyes and hear it in their words: “Is there something wrong with me?”

So, please hear me say this:

There isn’t anything wrong with you. There are good, reasonable, scientific explanations for why it’s so hard to get a job right now. And even though people don’t talk about it, it’s hard for everyone.

Stay strong, folks.


  1. Thank you for this. I’ve been out on the job hunt for a month now and I’m getting to that “what’s wrong with me?” stage. Reading your post here made me feel a lot better. So thank you 🙂

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  3. This numbers are very exaggerated I work with job seekers and no one is posting to 200 separate jobs. When you refer to interviews are you talking 10 -15 separate companies or interview sessions (for one job you usual interview with 3 to 5 people ) . Certainly perseverance is important but if you have a proper resume and prepare for your interview you should do way better .

    1. I have applied for 287 positions (per my Indeed tracker) within the last three years for full time positions with only 4 interviews offered and no job offers. They are not exaggerated, job hunting just isn’t anything like it was just five years ago. Also, before you throw maybe I should rethink my resume, I am a professional resume writer, have been for over 6 years, I’d like to get back into HR full time but job hunting isn’t easy peasy anymore. You have to silently fight the other 150+ people who you’ll never meet or know anything about for the same position your just submitted your resume too. And I agree with @pigbitinmad if we all were perfect…….

  4. I have been unemployed for a little over four months now. I work in education, and I’m mid-career. I have had several job interviews (about 8 with one second interview). For some jobs, I definitely have been ghosted or “blackholed” and from the little feedback I have gotten, they decided to go with another candidate, the job disappeared, or in my opinion, they had someone else in mind already. I have applied for around 100 jobs so far, but I feel like the information is accurate. With resumes and applications submitted online, there is just a lot of competition. 5 years ago, I think I applied to 15 jobs and got an offer with my first interview. Things are very different now. I would recommend job hunters not to take it personally, expect multiple interviews, and definitely start your job hunt in advance if you know you might lose your job. Also, have money saved when unemployment runs out because it takes longer than expected to get a job.

    1. That’s the spirit! Let your husband do all the heavy lifting. While you’re at it, you should just tie a cement block to his leg and throw him off a boat..

  5. That’s all nice. But not being a loser is no reason to not kill myself if it does not end in a job. If it is this hard then a lot of us need to just off ourselves and reduce he surplus population. I for one am sick of it. Its been more than 11 years.

  6. I have been looking for a job for long now but there is just no way out, I am in cameroon and I need help

  7. I’m with you guys its really hard to find a job I ask my self too what’s wrong with me I refine my resume still I put good words and I’m trying to sell myself GOD HELP ME I don’t know its been long time gosh!

  8. I’ve been searching since November 2017 for a full time job. I’ve had two temp gigs since then. For a total of 14 months unemployed out of 24 months. I’ve applied to over 3,000 jobs, and got 125 contacts total, I had two offers total.

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