The 2-Hour Job Search, Second Edition: Using Technology to Get the Right Job Faster

The 2-Hour Job Search, Second Edition: Using Technology to Get the Right Job Faster

by Steve Dalton


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Use the latest technology to target potential employers and secure the first interview—no matter your experience, education, or network—with these revised and updated tools and recommendations.

“The most practical, stress-free guide ever written for finding a white-collar job.”—Dan Heath, coauthor of Switch and Made to Stick

Technology has changed not only the way we do business, but also the way we look for work. The 2-Hour Job Search rejects laundry lists of conventional wisdom in favor of a streamlined job search approach that produces results quickly and efficiently. In three steps, creator Steve Dalton shows you how to select, prioritize, and make contact with potential employers so you can land that critical first interview.

In this revised second edition, you'll find updated advice on how to efficiently surf online job postings, how to reach out to contacts at your dream workplace and when to follow up, and advice on using LinkedIn, Indeed, and Google to your best advantage. Dalton incorporates ideas from leading thinkers in behavioral economics, psychology, and game theory, as well as success stories from readers of the first edition.

The 2-Hour Job Search method has proven so successful that it has been shared at schools across the globe and is a formal part of the curriculum for all first-year MBAs at Duke University. With this book, you'll learn how to make it work for you too.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781984857286
Publisher: Clarkson Potter/Ten Speed
Publication date: 04/21/2020
Edition description: Revised
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 91,330
Product dimensions: 5.45(w) x 8.24(h) x 0.62(d)

About the Author

Steve Dalton, MBA, is a senior career consultant and associate director at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business and the author of The 2-Hour Job Search. Prior to entering the career service industry, Steve was an associate marketing manager at General Mills.

Read an Excerpt


Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards. —ALDOUS HUXLEY

I’ve heard numerous theories for why the job search is so difficult these days: unresponsive employers, an uncertain economy, outsourcing, nepotism, poor work ethic, too much reality TV. During my decade and a half as a senior career coach and programming director at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, I’ve helped people of all backgrounds, professions, and ages through the job search process, and I attribute its difficulty to something else entirely—technology.

Technology has made our lives easier in so many ways, but it has only complicated the modern-day job search. Before internet job postings grew in popularity circa 2000, the job search was a simple (though tedious) process:

STEP 1 (OPTIONAL). Find classified ads in newspaper.
STEP 2. Mail resume and cover letter to potential employers.
STEP 3. Wait for invitations to interview.

That doesn’t sound so bad, right? Ship out resumes and cover letters, and whoever is interested writes you back. Very straightforward. And, believe it or not, it actually worked! Of course, those with connections to the potential employer still fared best, not having to rely on a piece of paper to make their first impression for them; however, cold calls by phone or mail were often all it would take to get an interview.

Fast-forward a couple of decades. The internet’s in full swing, websites find relevant job postings for you, and resumes can be submitted online at any hour of the day. Although it’s easier than ever before to find jobs, why does it now seem so much harder to actually get one? In short, technology made applying for jobs so efficient that hiring became inefficient.

Technology effectively ruined the “mail and wait” job search strategy because it is now far more difficult for employers to pick out the few interesting applicants from the massive new influx of casual applicants.

Applying for jobs used to require significant time and energy to search classified ads in your local paper, type and print cover letters and resumes (or CVs, depending on your profession and part of the world—I use the terms interchangeably in this book) on nice paper, and package them up in envelopes for mailing. Not everyone had that kind of spare time and energy (or money for that matter—stationery and postage weren’t cheap!), and applying to any job required at least a minimal amount of research—heading to the library to find an address to mail your CV to, for example.

With the internet, applying for a job can take less than a minute. Google a potential employer’s name, click on the careers section of their website, and submit your information and resume. Done. When it’s that easy, anyone can do it—and everyone does. Thus recruiters who, before internet job postings, used to get a dozen or so applications in several weeks from mostly local candidates, now get hundreds or thousands from across the country within hours.

Who has time to read hundreds of CVs? Recruiters today read resumes the way most of us read websites—ignoring a majority of what’s on the page and skipping to the headlines of greatest interest—in the case of resumes, that usually means objective information like schools attended, previous employers, and job titles, if that.

That’s if hiring managers actually look at CVs received online in the first place. My students commonly describe online job postings as black holes, and I agree. Because there is no way for a hiring manager to read all those applications, the only fair thing to do is not read any of them, so they may avoid online applicants entirely. (That this attitude saves a hiring manager many hours of additional work is hardly coincidental!) Employers these days rely instead on internal referrals to decide whom to interview.

Research backs this up. According to one study, for every one position the New York Federal Reserve filled with an online job posting applicant, they filled twelve through internal referrals.

Put another way, every time you apply for a job online, not only are you hoping to be one of the handful of applicants employers choose to speak to out of the hundreds who apply, you’re also hoping that it’s the one in thirteen that will be filled by an online applicant rather than an internal referral. The odds are nearly insurmountable. Pouring more hours into online applications is the equivalent of trying to pay your rent by buying even more lottery tickets. It may work once in a blue moon, but that doesn’t make it a good approach.

Getting internal referrals is simply the only predictable way to get interviews; getting them efficiently is the core challenge of the modern job search.

This book is effectively a “speedrun” approach for completing that core challenge. Speedrunning is a video-gaming hobby where players record themselves trying to finish video games in world-record times by combining world-class reflexes and concentration with a deep knowledge of quirks and vulnerabilities in each video game’s programming. Interestingly, it is a communal process rather than a competitive one; once one player identifies a new shortcut, every other player can now adopt that shortcut to improve their own times, further raising the bar. Similarly, this revised edition of The 2-Hour Job Search (2HJS for short) is itself informed by the thousands of readers, users, and practitioners who read the original edition and contributed their own shortcuts to the process. In that sense, we are all now standing on the shoulders of giants, and by considering the steps outlined in this book, you are joining a community that is eager to share their own best practices for this process with you.

Before we proceed further, a quick disclaimer: The titular two hours refers to the amount of time it takes to lay the groundwork for your process, not the totality of your job search. That said, once your foundation is in place, the remaining steps in your search become seamless, almost automatic. More on that later.

Now let’s finish discussing why online job postings make a speedrun approach to networking necessary in the first place. Consider Becca’s experience, for example (see sidebar, below). Online job postings are not inherently evil, nor was Becca being lazy by applying for so many jobs online—quite the opposite, actually. She was simply following the same old “mail and wait” paradigm her parents did, except electronically rather than with stamps and envelopes. It felt like progress, so she decided to invest as much time as she could into that approach rather than risk wasting time by experimenting with other approaches. This strategy is also known as satisficing. Satisfice is a hybrid word formed from satisfy and suffice. Coined by Nobel Prize–winning social scientist Herbert Simon in 1956, the term describes a person’s tendency to select the first available solution that meets a given need rather than an optimal solution.

Believe it or not, satisficing is actually a good strategy in a majority of cases—it’s what prevents us from spending hours deciding which of the dozens of hand soaps to buy at the grocery store. The alternative to satisficing is maximizing. Maximizing means finding the best possible choice, regardless of the amount of time or effort it takes. For major purchases like a house, erring on the side of maximizing rather than satisficing makes good sense, but in most cases satisficing, well, satisfices.

Hiring managers are classic satisficers, which makes total sense. Their ability to make outstanding hiring decisions rarely if ever factors into how big their raise is at the end of the year—therefore, they’ll want to spend as little time making hiring decisions as possible. For them, finding a “good enough” candidate quickly is better than finding a “perfect” candidate slowly—so their hiring decision is very unlikely to involve reviewing hundreds of resumes!

The fundamental flaw in Becca’s satisficing strategy was that she was satisficing on the wrong need; she satisficed on the feeling of making progress, rather than on actually making progress. To be fair, the latter is much more difficult and the route for how to do so is very unclear—thus many people make this error. But, unfortunately, just because something hurts doesn’t make it exercise. I call this phenomenon the Defensive Job Search (DJS)—job searching for stats and validation rather than efficacy. The DJS is ubiquitous and hard to quit, but quitting it is an essential first step to a successful job search (see sidebar, page 6). No matter how diligently or efficiently Becca employed a defensive job search, pushing out resumes and cover letters to employers through online job postings, she was unlikely to succeed.

Technology in this case had, as Aldous Huxley said, only given job seekers a more efficient means for going backward. It simplified the application process to the point of ruin, drowning out the qualified candidates (who used to be willing to take the time and effort required to apply via the postal mail method, as they had good odds of success) among many unqualified candidates (who didn’t bother to apply when the process was costly but applied in droves once those time and effort costs were removed). “Mail and wait” simply wasn’t designed for the explosion in internet-aided applicants.

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