Deceiving Metrics (3 Great Job Search Metrics and 3 Bad Job Search Metrics)

In a job search or networking campaign you can do things that “feel good” but produce not meaningful results. I’ve started down that road twice… I call this deceiving metrics. Deceiving metrics are those that you think are good but are not really helping you get closer to your goals.

When I got laid off I dove into the job search head first. I knew that “it is a numbers game” and so I began to develop various resumes (for different jobs I was applying to) and send them out to recruiters, prospective employers, etc. On a very focused day I could apply to about seven jobs… considering the time and thought that went into customizing the cover letter and going through all of the convoluted processes that each company has for applying, this was a lot.

I did this for 6 weeks – 6 days a week, 10 hours a day. It was a very intense process. At the end of the day I could smile and say “I applied to X jobs today” and feel really good about my efforts. After that 6 week period the net result was being invited to 2 different companies for interviews. Easily less than a 2% “success” rate.

I really was using the wrong metrics, deceiving metrics, to measure my efforts.

Another example of using deceiving metrics was when I first launched JibberJobber. In the web world there are various third-party metrics that help a webmaster understand if they are on the right path. Since I’m not MySpace or some other “amazingly successful” website I tried to determine what metrics I should use… and I reported back to my investors. These metrics included Google’s “page rank,” Alexa’s traffic rank, Technorati’s ranks. But at the end of the day, no matter what Google, Alexa and Technorati thought (and each of them have their own problems (think: where are they getting their raw data, and how reliable is it??)), the real metric should have been tied back to financial sustainability.

After all, that’s what we’re all going after, isn’t it? Financial sustainability?

When my job search paradigm shifted I found some consistency in other metrics that I should have been monitoring. Here is what I think might be the two most important metrics to have (no matter where you are at in your employment):

Number of Network Contacts: Whether they are new contacts or old contacts, the fact that you are meeting and talking to people on a regular basis. Weekly goal: 50 (10 per day)

Number of Interviews: This can include “informational interviews” which is just talking to someone at the company and interviewing them about the company, needs, etc. Note that this is an excellent networking technique as it (a) makes you listen more than you talk, (b) allows you to harvest excellent information, (c) gives you something to talk about at length (their company) which provides the environment to strengthen your relationship with them, etc. Weekly goal: 10 (2 per day)

OOPS. I forgot this one, but was reminded on 11/14/06: Number of Companies you are focusing on: If you have one that may be too few (rare exceptions, of course). If you have more than, say, 8, that may be too many. Having companies that you are focusing on really helps in your networking, and your other efforts.

I didn’t make these up, or invent them, but of all the metrics that I have seen in accountability sessions these are the two that I think position you to have long-term success (in a job search and even after you land the job). Maybe more interesting than these two metrics are the metrics that I’m NOT listing above, because these are deceiving metrics.

Deceiving Metrics for Job Seekers Include:

Number of hours/days put into the job search: This is obviously important, but I struggled with listing this as critical because I’m a fan of ‘smarter not harder.’ I think this would be a non-issue if you are hitting other, more important goals. However, I do remember one bit of advice that I found very interesting: “don’t take vacations” was advice from a guy who talked about a weekend vacation that left him totally unfocused and he spent the next 2 weeks trying to get back into a productive groove.

Number of jobs applied to: … isn’t this one of the deceiving metrics from the 1980’s? Seriously, it doesn’t play into the idea that most jobs are found through networking, or the “hidden job market” idea… this is one of the deceiving metrics that too many people get trapped into.

Number of recruiters working with: (or number of job boards posted on) there has been discussion on this blog about how to effectively work with recruiters and job boards. I know they are valuable but don’t spend time with this as a key metric (my results here was that I had 30 recruiters that I was “working with” – it literally did me no good but it made me feel better that 30 recruiters knew who I was. Too bad I couldn’t read the JibberJobber blog back then :p)

What are the metrics by which you think you are successful in your job search or networking activities? Are these metrics really appropriate for you and the goals you have?

9 thoughts on “Deceiving Metrics (3 Great Job Search Metrics and 3 Bad Job Search Metrics)”

  1. Your goals for contacts and interviews seem like stretches to me. Power to you if you make them. 😉

    Not saying that they don’t seem like the valuable metrics, as I think they do.

    Also, not sure that “the real metric should have been tied back to financial sustainability” is realistic given the startup nature of your (or my) web business. I’m of the opinion that building traffic and THEN monetizing is a viable way to make money from the web. Also, there is the underlying business plan to which one should be comparing his or her result.

  2. In the weekly meetings where we go and give accountability (report on our numbers) it is pretty rare that anyone gets *those* numbers… and those that do are working very aggressively. It is something that everyone can change to meet their own needs (maybe they already have a job and are relatively satisfied) or circumstances (perhaps they aren’t finding networking opportunities – small town?). The point is to have an aggressive target that helps shift the paradigm from “applying to jobs” to “increasing a meaningful network.”

    This financial sustainability is going a little off-topic for my blog, but it is fun conversation! Perhaps I should have said “a goal/target of financial sustainability.” I’ve seen too many people focus on their alexa traffic – even though it has been noted time and again that the data/report is not accurate. Or the fact they have a Google page rank of 5 or whatever, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have visitors, users, etc.! My main point on these metrics is that just because they may be popular doesn’t mean that you should use them as your principle metrics, and definitely question the data/results. Translate that to job search or networking ==> if Jason Alba says that you should have 50 network contacts a week – maybe that is bunk for you. But some folks will include an e-mail, a phone call, a voice mail, etc. as a contact. Is that appropriate? I think so… but others might choose to include/exclude some of these listed.

  3. If you are talking about weekly accountability meetings for job seekers having 50 new contacts and 10 interviews per week… that would be unbelievable to me. I could understand people including an email as a ‘interview’ if there is pressure to perform to the numbers.

    Hey, metrics are good. Accountability is good. But goals have to be achievable, otherwise your reporting system gets “played.” I have been in work situations where the accountability was tied to continued employment. We were told that our ‘goal’ was a product mix of 20% or better. Guess what, EVERYONE achieved the numbers… but the product never achieved any success and had to be discontinued. TWo guesses why….

    The old adage that you only achieve to the level at which you set your goals is pretty true. Also that you should ‘inspect’ what you ‘expect’… but if your expectations are too high and the consequences for overly aggressive goals too severe, then expect your numbers to be absolutely worthless.

  4. Cool – agreed on all points. Goals should be S.M.A.R.T. (A -> achievable). I guess I have 2 points here then:

    1. Have metrics that are not misleading,
    2. Have goals that stretch you.

    When I was job searching right after I got laid off I was putting about 60 hours a week into my job search. So perhaps the 50/10 is achievable… but even if it isn’t you are making dang good progress. But you are right, don’t have a number just to have a number. If it isn’t working, or is discouraging when you consistently don’t hit it, then change it.

  5. Jason,

    I love the idea of using metrics to determine the success of your job search / networking efforts.
    There is one metric that I think you could add; how many consulting or “internship” project did you land through your networking? Most adults do not think about internships as a way to find a job since they are not in college anymore. However, forget about the name and focus on the work. An internship is a short term project with a company in your field of expertise. If you are job searching for a job I cannot think of a better way to find a job then to do some free or paid work for a company you want to work for. As an adult you will not be able to call it an internship but contract work or consulting work is acceptable. In the age of a leaner workforce consultants are used to get projects done more than they ever have been.

    justin driscoll

  6. Hey Jason,

    I loved this post – metrics are one of my favorite topics, and I’m a *total* Excel geek… everything in my world needs a spreadsheet with a pretty graph.

    Except this.

    The thing about the process of finding a job that you truly love is that it’s non-linear. The thing about that non-linearity is that it’s often less about “how many” contacts you make than about whether you make the “right” contacts. And, while many people suggest that you need to make more contacts in order to make the right ones, I don’t believe that.

    The important question to ask is a simple one: who could I meet today in order to move my process along? And then, who in my current network would know them? Or, who would know someone who knows them?

    In my experience, it’s more about following the path than it is about indescriminently meeting scads of people.

    Networking is a lot like dating, in my experience – the benefit of selectivity in who you want to date up front keeps you from having a lot of bad dates (or sleeping around a lot ;).


  7. Mike, thanks for the comment – I’m seeing a theme amongst the comments here 🙂 I agree with you… its like, if I lost my keys I’m guaranteed to find them in the last place I look (assuming I don’t stop looking until I find them). If I knew where that “last place” was I could start there and not spend all my time turning over couch pillows and looking on my nightstand 3 times! But I don’t know that last place.

    Here’s the interesting thing about networking for a job search. The relationships that you develop during this time may or may not lead to you finding “the job.” But, if you continue those relationships they may turn out to be critical business contacts, friends, support, mentors, etc. Perhaps you will be able to help them over the years. You never know where its headed.

    I think when you are unemployed, or in a serious job search, is a great time to develop new relationships. But the time to end or drop those relationships is — well — never!

    That’s one reason why I think (total biased opinion coming here) you need to use something like JibberJobber FOREVER. Track the relationships – the strength of each relationship, log significant events, put their photos and birthdays in your database, etc. And keep in touch, reach out, offer to help, ask for help and advice, etc.

    Jobs won’t last, but some key relationships can and should, right?

    Having said all of this, I agree with your comment… there is a nice quality vs. quantity debate on a yahoo group for LinkedIn that I’ve bene following, and there are people passionate about different stances.

  8. Justin – interesting thought – an internship changed the future of my career, and helped me “grow up”… I can see using this metric to further substantiate your personal brand – “I’ve consulted for 15 companies … “, which is pretty powerful. Seems to me that this would go on a resume and/or your personal website.

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