How Long to Find a Job?

With college commencement ceremonies approaching, I’m answering a question I received last summer to prepare this year’s graduates – and job seekers from any era! – for the realities of the employment market and to provide hope and encourage tenacity.

Dear Anita,

I am a recent college graduate and I am having the hardest time finding a job. Granted I have been out of college for just a little over a month and I was recently told that on average it takes about 6 months if not longer for a college grad to find employment. Is that true?

How Long to Get a Job InfographicDear, Month of Sundays,

I am often asked by discouraged job seekers of all ages some variation of the question, “How long does it take to get a new job?” Check out our infographic for some eye-opening statistics. Then, let’s see what we can do to skew your interval between jobs to the short end of the spectrum.

Recent college grads as well as the recently unemployed may start out their job search in a flurry of activity. Then, day after day of entering and reentering information into online applications, coupled with disappointing rejections or no response at all, takes its toll. Keep on keeping on, as they said in the ’70s.

Stay busy. Volunteer work will prevent self-pity… and can pad a skimpy resume. But be sure that job-seeking tasks don’t fall by the wayside because of your do-gooder endeavors. Calendar time for scouring job sites like or and applying to feasible postings. Find networking opportunities to cut weeks off your job search time. Practice mock interviews with friends. Create your personal brand.

If your résumé isn’t getting you offers for interviews, it may be time for a revamp. Download a copy of my e-book, Anita Clew’s Guide to Better Résumés.

Expand your opportunities by expanding the borders of your search. Are you willing to move?  This may be easier for a carefree college grad than for the family man with kids in school and deep roots in the community.  Look in less likely places for jobs. See my posts, “How to Find Jobs Not Advertised on the Top Job Boards,” Part 1 and Part 2.

Lower your standards. If bill collectors are calling and the welcome on your friend’s couch is wearing as thin as the fabric, I advise you to take something, even if it is not your dream job. You can continue the hunt for greener pastures while gainfully employed.  Consider temporary work with The Select Family of Staffing Companies to get those weekly paychecks rolling in. Those who have lost a job may have the added incentive of the looming expiration of their unemployment insurance benefits. Most states’ benefits last 26 weeks, but a few states have shorter or longer periods.

Finally, keep a positive outlook. Winston Churchill once said, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

Readers: How long did it take you to land your last job?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

Job Search is a Marathon, not a Sprint
Reasons for No Résumé Responses
Including Volunteer Work in Your Résumé
ATS 101: Demystifying Applicant Tracking Systems

9 Alternatives to Posting Open Positions on Job Boards

Dear, Anita,

I’ve been trying to hire a new Accountant for my department. Like in the past, I have advertised my opening on the large job boards, but it’s not getting the type of response that my ads did a couple of years ago. I notice that there are many options available to job seekers today when looking for a new job. Is there something else I could be trying? What do you recommend?

Dear, Board to Death,

CareerXroads’ Source of Hire Report notes that LinkedIn and job board aggregators (like are playing a bigger role in recruiting, while traditional job boards like Monster and CareerBuilder are seeing declining traffic. (I remember when “help wanted” ads in the newspaper were the go-to for hiring managers!) While there’s no magic bullet, choose a few from this list to try. If they are successful, add them to your hiring toolbox for future use.

If the list below seems like an overwhelming amount of work over and above your regular day job duties, consider enlisting the aid of a professional staffing firm, such as The Select Family of Staffing Companies. Not just for temporary workers, Select’s divisions can find qualified candidates for direct hire positions. Its temp-to-hire solution is like an extended working interview that ensures the right fit.

  1. Niche Boards
    Since you’ve noticed decreasing results from generalist job boards, you may want to try an industry-specific website, such as Accounting Jobs Today in your case.
  2. Industry Associations
    Do you belong to any professional organizations in your field? Openings posted on associations’ job or career boards are more likely to hit closer to your target candidate. (Try The PASA: The Professional Accounting Society of America, or similar groups.)
  3. Craigslist
    Plenty of communities have vibrant Craigslist job boards. In many non-metro areas, posting an ad is – amazingly – still free.
  4. Social Networking
    Social Media Strategies Summit found that 78% of recruiters have hired through a social network (95% through LinkedIn, 24% through Facebook, and 14% through Twitter). So if you’re not a full-time recruiter, I’d invest my time in LinkedIn.Job_Fair_000027571881
  1. Job Fairs
    Larger businesses may host their own job fairs, and smaller businesses may participate in career fair events hosted by local chambers of commerce or area universities and colleges.
  2. Career Centers
    Local governments and educational institutions often have career centers. Be sure to alert these counselors to your open positions. In fact, if you often need young, enthusiastic employees, cozy up to the department chair in your discipline at the local college. He or she can be a valuable source of referrals.
  3. Referrals
    Undercover Recruiter claims that employee referrals have the highest applicant-to-hire conversion rate – only 7% apply but account for 40% of all hires. An added bonus is that applicants hired from a referral begin their position quicker than those found on job boards (29 days vs. 39 days).
  4. Fill from Within
    Companies fill 41% of their open positions with current employees, CareerXroads finds, from promotions or lateral moves. Not only is there the added benefit of the employee already knowing your company (culture, terminology, policies, workflow, etc.), which allows for quicker onboarding, but it also promotes loyalty among other employees who will view your company as a good place for professional development and movement along a career path.
  5. Your Company Website
    Companies who wish to maintain a strong pipeline of candidates make use of their own website. If you don’t have one already, add a Careers page. Check out’s list of 10 Companies with Fantastic Career Sites for inspiration.

Hiring Managers: What has been your best source for new hires in the past 6 months?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

How to Find Jobs Not Advertised on the Top Job Boards, Part 1
How to Find Jobs Not Advertised on the Top Job Boards, Part 2
Onboarding New Employees

Overcoming Negative References

Hello, Anita,

Since 2010, I have not had the best fortune in regards to employment. In the myriad of positions held I did what I could not to burn bridges and always gave 2 weeks notice. If an employer were to verify my work history, is it true the only thing they can legally verify is if I worked there and eligibility for rehire? Can my previous employer disclose wage history or anything beyond the aforementioned items? I believe one of my previous employers (a former supervisor) may be providing negative information when contacted about my tenure. Thank you for any clarification you can provide in this matter.

Dear, Ruffled About References,

As I mention in my post Responding to Reference Check Requests, there are no Federal laws regarding what may or may not be divulged by a previous employer for a job reference (although compliance with the EEOC and Fair Credit Reporting Act is required). State laws regarding background checks vary; there’s a great Nolo website that outlines what information may be disclosed and who may receive that information, state by state.playing cards at computer

While it may be legal to answer many of the questions asked by reference checkers, HR departments these days, wishing to avoid discrimination and defamation lawsuits, are playing their cards close to the vest and not revealing much besides dates of employment. (Just try getting an opinion rather than a hard fact from a seasoned HR professional!) Of course, not everyone got this policy memo. Supervisors at smaller companies without strict HR guidelines may become Chatty Cathy when called for a reference.

Combat negative references by offering glowing testimonial reference letters instead. Attach them to your cover email before they are even asked for. When asked for a list of references, omit this former supervisor you think may be giving you a thumbs down, unless this was your most recent job. If your job list is as long as you imply, many employers (particularly smaller businesses) will call a few references  and, unless they’re getting any red flags, will call it a day before reaching out to each and every past employer on your lengthy résumé.

If you are unable to omit this reference, you may want to address the issue head-on during the reference discussion. Tell your potential employer that you and your supervisor did not see eye to eye on certain issues and offer contact information for another colleague at that same company who may balance out the perspective.

Another tactic is to contact this former supervisor directly to clear the air. Ask whether, despite the bad  blood, you can come to a mutually agreeable response for him/her to give when called for reference checks. If you strongly feel that this supervisor is still dispensing inaccurate negative information (based not only on intuition, but feedback from interviewers), check to see if this manager is following his or her company’s HR policy for responding to reference requests.  If worse comes to worst, contact an employment attorney about the possibility of sending a cease and desist letter to your former boss.

Readers: Have you ever been surprised to hear you received a bad reference from a former employer?


Responding to Reference Check Requests
Finding Job References
Reference Check Response

Asking for Vacation Time

Hi, Anita,

 I am a manager over 11 employees. I believe I am well-respected by them and my authority is clear. Lately, I noticed that my employees are no longer asking me to take vacation but TELLING me when they will be out. In the past, it seems they were more courteous and asked for the time off. After all, it’s called a vacation request, right? Not vacation demand. I never say no but would appreciate the courtesy of being asked. Am I being too old school?

Two business peopleDear, Dinah Sore,

We relics of the polite era need to stick together. I get it; vacation is earned by employees, and I don’t begrudge that. In fact, I think it’s healthy to get a clean break from work without, dare I say it, having to check email and answer text messages. But what your staffers need to understand is that you as a manager may have other factors to consider: upcoming deadlines, new projects on the horizon, or other colleagues out of the office at the same time for business trips, vacations, or medical reasons.

Does your employee manual have a vacation request procedure? If not, you may wish to add some verbiage to your handbook for clarity. Can a vacation request be made in person or must be it be made in writing, either via email or by filling out a company form? Establish that all vacation requests must be approved X weeks in advance by the employee’s immediate supervisor. Many companies also include the caveat that vacation scheduling should be mindful of a company’s operational requirements. (I doubt many UPS drivers get vacation requests approved for Christmastime!) It may be a good time to clear up other vacation policy conundrums. (Can employees who have accrued multiple weeks of vacation time take them consecutively?  When two employees request the same time period off, does the staffer with seniority take precedence?) The sample policy at may address some, but not all, of your needs.

And now, for the other side of the coin. Depending on how formal or informal your company culture (and your relationship with your supervisor), here are several ways for employees to ask for vacation time.

  1. Ask instead of tell. “Ms. Supervisor, I have four vacation days left, and I’d love to use them the third week of June. Is that possible?”
  2. Plan around your workload. You’ll earn your manager’s appreciation when you show you’re aware of the side effects of your vacation time. “Mr. Boss, I’d really like to schedule a vacation. I know we are wrapping up that big project at the end of next month. Do you have any objections to me scheduling my trip after that from July 6-10?”
  1. Give plenty of notice. As soon as you get that invitation to your cousin’s graduation or find that great package deal on, put in your vacation request. “I just got some exciting news. My brother’s wedding is December 17. I wanted to ask to use my accrued vacation time from Dec. 14-19.” Time off around the holidays is popular, so ask well in advance.
  2. Put it in writing. It’s not a bad idea to have a paper trail. If your company doesn’t have a standard form, use one of these more conventional sample vacation request letters from
  3. Email your request. If your company is a little less formal, an email request may suffice. “I would like to request the following days off: March 14-18. Please let me know if you have any concerns or anticipate any issues regarding my request.”
  4. If you haven’t earned it/used it. “While I [haven’t accrued / have used all my] vacation time, I would like to request time off for my parents’ 25th anniversary. May I take off September 18 -21 – unpaid?
  5. Mention flexibility. “I haven’t finalized my vacation plans, as I’m still checking out airfares and resort availability, but I would like to take my vacation sometime in mid-August. Are there certain days that would work better for me to be gone?”
  6. Note limitations. “Because I will be on a cruise in the Mediterranean, please note that I will have limited access to the Internet during these days.”

Employees: How do you ask for vacation time off?
Managers: Have you ever had to deny someone’s vacation request? For what reason?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

The Importance of Vacations
Unlimited Vacation: Benefit or Burden?
Rules for Requesting R and R
Proper Use of Sick Days


Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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