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:

estimated.mdf.png
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%
Designers8.3%
Writers6.8%
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
Designers6.9
Writers11.1
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.

#FML

@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.

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About the Author Kushal Chakrabarti

Mission-driven entrepreneur, world traveler (400K+ miles), dad to 100-pound German Shepherd. My #1 mission: To help you get the job you deserve.

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