The 20-20-60 approach to job hunting

If you’re job hunting, you might have your own rhythm that looks something like this: Refresh Idealist. Search. Apply. Repeat. While there is nothing wrong with searching for opportunities online, perhaps your job search needs to be shaken up a bit?

In his article A 10 Step Guerilla Job Hunting Program on LinkedIn, HR and job search expert Lou Adler suggests a 20-20-60 approach to job hunting: 20% searching/applying on job boards, 20% getting attention of recruiters, 60% networking. Here are some tips on how to make the most of this plan.

You should spend only 20% of your time applying directly to jobs you see posted on job boards.

On a website like Idealist, with new jobs posted every day by organizations from around the world, you could easily spend a ton of time scouring the site. To make the most of the site so that you a. find fantastic opportunities and b. have time to pursue other ways finding a job, check out the following resources:

Another 20% of your time should be spent trying to get noticed by recruiters.

Just as there are many ways to search for a job, there are also many ways to connect with recruiters. Here are a few resources to help you out:

If you’re not sure working with a recruiter is right for you, Liz Ryan, CEO and Founder of Human Workplace, offers some great advice here. She makes a really good point that a recruiter might not make sense for all people (for example, recent grads). An alternative could be working with your college’s career services office.

The remaining 60% of your time should be spent networking. 

Networking can be one of the most challenging parts of a job search. Many of us don’t know where to start or feel that networking is, well, slimy. However, to get past this we have to: figure out what we have to offer (and focus on giving), set goals, and network in ways that feel authentic to us. Here are a few tips to get you started:

And…non-job search time?

Personally I would add one more tip to this approach: You should also carve out time for non-job search related activities. The job search can easily go from an exciting time to explore possibilities, to being depressing and confusing. Here are a few ways to stay confident:

What does your job search plan look like? Any ideas to share? Include them in the comments.

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Former Editor and Creator of Idealist Careers, a publication of Follow me on Twitter @ajlovesya.
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    • Karen Uminski
    • May 20, 2014

    Sorry but, in my career, I have NEVER gotten a job from “networking” or “getting in front of recruiters.” And non-job searching time? Like when, after I have spent an exhausting day at work and have to come home and research the organizations I want to apply to, writing customized resume and cover letters, which easily takes a couple of hours per application? Get real. The way we hire people and look for jobs in this country is nuts. All the power is in the hands of the hiring manager, or worse, a recruiter or computer! I will spend 3 hours on an application and the computer scans for a minute and rejects me. Now I have lost 3 hours I will never get back and the organization I researched and fell in love with has no time for me. It is messed up.

    I have been on the other end, and I am here to say a resume, cover letter, references and interviews mean nothing. You don’t know if someone can do the job until the DO THE JOB.

    1. Wow, I am surprised at your statement never gotten a job from networking.
      Just last week I went to a local TedX event and met with two people who called me to do consulting work for them as a result of our conversations there.
      There is NOTHING as powerful as open, honest, eyeball to eyeball conversations between potential employer and employee.

      • Kathy
      • May 29, 2014

      Karen, you hit the nail on the head. There is no honesty in looking for a job. I can’t truly say what on my mind like – just tell me if I have a shot and I really need this job and can do it just as well as anyone else. It would be nice if they could just say what they are looking for – the references that they don’t even use, the cover letter that’s not even read and the resume that they want you to explain every printed word. Let’s just have an honest conversation.

      • Mallory
      • July 10, 2014


      I must admit that I felt very similar to what you are expressing. I too have been on both ends of the hiring process and neither is an easy task–especially with the internet is making the odds of a job seeker getting hired similar to that of the Mega Millions Jackpot winner earlier this summer. It is true that the power has shifted to be completely in the hands of the hiring manger…or at least, that is how I used to perceive it.

      I challenge you to read the 2-Hour Job Search, by Steve Dalton. His theory also agrees with your frustration, but teaches his readers how to shift the power back into the hands of the job seeker. It’s very interesting and motivating. I hope you accept the challenge and begin to think about your job seeking process, and power, a little differently.

      Here’s a link to his site, if you’re still not convinced:

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