6 Simple Ways to Maximize Your Job Search Productivity

Focused woman working at digital tablet in cafe
••• Hero Images / Getty Images

By now, you probably know that searching for a job takes a lot of time. But, it also takes a lot of focus. After a couple of hours of job searching - of clicking through to the very last page of job listings; of writing and re-writing cover letter after cover letter - you’ll likely to be tempted to switch gears and check your Facebook, read the news or scroll Instagram. But those minutes of wasted time add up, and after a couple of weeks, they can seriously cut into your job search productivity.

Fortunately, searching for your dream job doesn’t have to be a painful experience. With the right planning, you can maximize your efforts and get the most out of the time you set aside for job searching. Here’s how.

6 Simple Ways to Maximize Your Job Search Productivity

1. Create a job search plan. Don’t just job search whenever, wherever. Analyze your weekly schedule and find windows of time for job searching, then block out that time and stick to your schedule. If you’re super busy, know that you may need to be creative about finding time to look for a job. Perhaps you can sneak in an hour before breakfast, after dinner or on the weekends.

It can also be helpful to break down the job search process into different categories: for example, maybe on Monday you look for jobs for two hours; on Wednesday, you draft and review your materials and submit your applications; and you use Fridays for follow-ups. 

2. Make your “dedicated” job search time truly dedicated. Once you’ve found that window of time, don’t let everyday distractions dig into it. If possible, hole up at the library or at a cafe - someplace where two hours can truly be two hours, not two hours minus 30 minutes walking the dog or 15 minutes making your kids lunch.

It’s especially important to work in an environment where you can focus, so you can avoid making silly mistakes (like typos in your resume, submitting a cover letter you wrote for a different position, or misreading the application requirements) if you’re distracted.

3. Try a distraction-blocking app. If social media (or self-discipline) is the culprit, try a distraction-blocking app (ColdTurkey is one option) through which you’ll be able to block time-sucking sites like Facebook, Buzzfeed, Pinterest, and so on. That way, you’re guaranteed to get the most out of the time you set aside to apply for jobs.

Hint: keeping your phone tucked away (or on airplane mode) and turning off the TV is very helpful, too. 

4. Take advantage of time tracking. When you have a clock ticking, you’re more likely to focus and get straight to the task at hand. Additionally, managing your time can also prevent you from burning out and feeling exhausted. Try the “Pomodoro” technique, in which you set aside 25-minute “sprints” followed by a 5-minute break to get a cup of coffee, stretch, or listen to a song. The Tomato Timer) is an online timer which utilizes the Pomodoro technique. You can use it for free on their website.

5. Develop (and organize) strategic job search materials. Scrambling to write new cover letters or tweak your resume for every job you apply to is a huge time waste, and also leaves a lot of room for error. However, it’s important to personalize and customize your application materials for each job you apply to. You can easily accomplish this by creating a “core” cover letter that can be quickly edited for the position you’re applying to.

If you’re applying for a few different types of jobs, write a cover letter for each type, and create different versions of your resume to go along with them. Then, you’ll have them on hand when you’re ready to apply, and all you should need to do is change a couple of specifics.

Store these in organized folders (either on your computer or on a platform like Google Drive or Dropbox) and use clear naming conventions so you don’t mix anything up.

6. Keep track of what you do. Though it might seem like a waste of time, keeping track of which jobs you’ve applied to, or considered applying to, will help you out in the long run. By having a spreadsheet or even a simple list that you keep handy, or somewhere on your computer, you can avoid applying for the same job twice, or reading the same job description over and over again.

You will also have some sort of record that you can use as a metric to determine your level of success (meaning, how many responses or interview invitations you receive) with different types of jobs or companies.