The Math of the Job Hunt

job hunt magic math motivation Jun 11, 2022
J. Stuart Bradley MBA, CFA
The Math of the Job Hunt

The Magic (and Math) of Getting a Job

Optical Illusions in the job hunt

We’ve all seen optical illusions before - and they exist in the job hunt, too. Try this one: “summer has started”. For those still job hunting, the illusion is that there’s no more time left to get an internship or job. Then decisions are made not to try, or to double down on summer academics. Meanwhile, the start of summer was just a bit optical illusion.

This summer, I say let the illusion work in your favor. And if you’re a fan of magic, let the magic work in your favor, too. With so many companies out there, all needing to solve problems, the opportunities to get hired are endless. When action is taken by you, the job hunter, things happen unexpectedly all the time in the job hunt which simple math does not explain.

Try this one: messaging someone with a nice script result in suddenly getting invited to an interview. All you did was send a quality templated message and an invite to interview was extended - without any further work on your part! 

It all followed from not getting tricked by the optical illusion that with summer here, there was no more chance to “get anything”.

Math of the job hunt

Sudden opportunities appear like magic when we’re taking consistent action that can normally be explained and tracked by math. I'm just talking about simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, and how that can be helpful in helping you get a job.

One concept to look at is that of Yield. Yield is the idea that there are multiple stages to a job hunt such as applying, interview round 1, interview round 2, final round, offer and the percentage chance you’ll proceed through each stage.

Just for fun, think about the job hunt in terms of such a series of stages, knowing that there is a chance of success at each stage, but that there’s a magic that can also seem to come out of nowhere to assist us.

Math and Magic in Action: “A view of Manhattan and a Cat” 

Cara’s job hunt dream was to have a beautiful view of Manhattan and a cat and to work as a banker on Wall Street. To Cara, I said, “Hey, that sounds like a really cool vision - let's go for it.” At the time, she was a Master's in Public Policy student from China studying in Chicago and had no prior US experience. To her credit, she had banking internship experience in China. 

The next step Cara took was to join my Career Accelerator Program. In the program, we are interested in the math of the job hunt as well as those events which feel like “magic”, such as getting an immediate invite to an interview based on sending a single LinkedIn request to connect.

The best way to explain how this happens is to consider the average user of LinkedIn. How many people are actually making an effort? Very few. Doing the simple stuff and doing it right is one of the ways in which offers can come without a whole lot of grueling work.

As soon as Cara joined, because we have a strong set of scripts and strategies for messaging people, she received a response asking her if she would like a banking internship, which she accepted and started in the spring before her graduation.

No, this was not one of the big banks on Wall Street. Accepting this spring internship was more about helping her to brand herself as a US-based investment banker. We were able to get that firm on Cara's resume.

Now branding ourselves as having investment banking experience, when reaching out to other firms again, in service of that beautiful view of Manhattan with a cat, Cara continued to message bankers. This time specifically in NYC and ultimately Cara did accept that offer from the full-time investment bank.

Does job hunt math explain this? Yes and No. Models have limitations. It makes sense to think in terms of “stages” and “yield”. It helps us to remember that we’re not always going to hit 100% at every stage. That is the concept of a yield: we accept that some attempts won’t immediately produce interviews or offers.

The takeaway I have from Cara's story for me is that simply making an effort  - showing up -  is like 80% of the whole deal. Just showing up and making an effort to be seen is all that matters, because until you do that, guess what? You’re invisible. Until I write this post, I remain invisible to you. Because we conduct so much of our job hunt never seen by anyone, just by “showing up” we invite the magic in. That’s how you can get results sooner than you think. That’s why the start of summer is just an optical illusion fooling you.

The “Five I’s” of the job hunt: Moving from Invisible to Irresistible as a job hunter 

The 5 I’s of the job hunt are as follows:






We all start out as invisible. We’re on campus and nobody off-campus knows we exist. 

Then, Let's say somebody adds us on LinkedIn. Congrats you reached out - and you got an ad back.

Congrats, You’ve advanced to Insignificant.

IS that networking? NO! Dear friend, that’s really a big YAWN. Thus, insignificant. 

The next stage is to actually meet somebody. When we get to this stage and we get an agreement to meet - we have advanced from YAWN status to “interesting”. Yay!

What we have said and done after the initial email or connection or whatever it was - a chance meeting at an event - has made us interesting enough to our target company or person that they have said YES to our request to meet.

If you are a member of my career accelerator program, you come to find that when we apply this to the right people, this is no different than generating interviews on demand.

From interesting, our goal is to get to “intriguing”. You know you’ve achieved this status in the relationship when you get a formal interview. 

Let's say we have a networking call that moves into formal interviews. Hello - this is the INTRIGUING stage. 

Getting an offer - the last stage of job hunt math

Following along with the concept of the 5 stages of professional communication leading to a job offer, the last stage is irresistible: when you get an offer. When you get an offer, this means you have become irresistible to the employer.

So this is how it goes: invisible, insignificant, interesting, intriguing, and then irresistible - you have the offer.

Looking back at the “5 I’s”, you can see that each of those represents a stage. And it’s no surprise that there's an associated yield or throughput with each stage. 

The messaging that we do here on LinkedIn or via email to reach out to people - after you apply to follow up or to network - has a “success rate” between zero and a hundred percent.

The actual number 0% - 10% - 50% - depends on a few things, such as whether you actually do it. Then, assuming you ARE doing it, what does your LinkedIn profile looks like?

Are you messaging a non-Mandarin speaker, meanwhile your profile contains Mandarin characters? Does your photo look like you’ve just been photographed at the local prison or passport shop? Or does your photo reflect you know how to “look the part”, such as a photo of you in a suit smiling, taken in a lobby of your university or in an office tower? Success also depends on the type of message you send and whether you’re hitting some of these basics with your LinkedIn profile.

Just simply connecting with people over LinkedIn:

 When we're writing a great message, I expect my students to be able to get a 50% acceptance rate for their messages. Okay. So great. You're reaching out to people with a 50% connection rate, and let's say you reach out to a hundred people, you get 50 new connections. Woohoo, you're connected, you've added 50 people. But is it really the case that you’ve meaningfully added people to your network? Nope, that’s still in the YAWN / Insignificant stage. Now you’ve connected- and they have no idea who you are. So, let's not joke around and pretend to ourselves that we've really increased our network in a meaningful way. 

Our goal is to make magic happen. For that to happen, we need to be open to letting it happen. Rather than shut down now that we’ve connected, we want to get these people on a zoom call or coffee chat and get them to know us and us to know them. Kind of like the thing you are actually wanting to do in the future - talk with future colleagues - right? 

Now, the chance that somebody immediately responds to your connection request with a sudden invite to interview can occur. Or, the response of a YES, I would be happy to talk with you in response to a request for coffee can occur.

Moving from I can’t to I can in professional communications

Having a job, you can imagine that you might speak to 10-20 people in a week, easily. Just one Zoom call might have 10 people on it and you blow past 10 people in a matter of an hour. 

So, for those of you who haven't spoken with 10 people in 3 months, the prospect of speaking to 10 people in a week as a part of your job hunt is going to sound either amazing or impossible. This depends on your openness and dedication to getting interviews and offers. 

For members of my Career Accelerator program, when we're actively engaged in a job hunt or internship hunt, we might talk to two to five people in a day. Might amount to 10 people or more in a week. Sometimes members need to schedule things out into the future and slow things down a bit, since we need to be able to prepare for the calls.

Now that you’re open to speaking to others and are making an effort to do so, let's say 50% of people are accepting your request to connect and 25% are accepting your follow-up request to have a meeting. If you apply this logic to an effort to meet 100 people - the commercial Limit of LinkedIn - 10 people will agree to speak, and that’s without any follow-up at all with the initial 75 who don’t immediately respond.

 Then, oops! 2 of the 10 get busy. So only actually 80% of those 10 actually speak with us, or 8 people.  All right, you get 8 people speaking with you. Of those conversations, you're going to have some great conversations and some that don't go so great. Especially when starting out, you will have some nerves to tame.

Typically in my program, each one of those conversations is actually a chance to meet several more people. More introductions are actually the best, since that way you’re moving beyond cold messaging and can work mainly with warm contacts.

So let's say that with those eight people you speak with -  which by the way, I regard as interviews since they either will or will not assist you - you then will be introduced to more people at a rate of between 0% and 100%. 

Building your foundation to communicate well in the job hunt

Let’s say you're freaking out at the prospect of speaking to people, even if you know that yeah, one day that’s just a normal part of having a job. Let’s say that is where you are starting out - not able to speak with people. I still remember how that felt as an undergrad. I remember spending the day with an alum at his office - getting a good chance through an alumni connection to meet with a company -  and then sitting with HR for a conversation, physically unable to stop squirming in my chair. I sucked and I never got invited back. 

And it happened again, too, when I conducted a job hunt as a graduate student. That time I was unable to breathe, but I regained control. I actually asked the interviewer if we could start the interview over. She said yes. I started over and eventually got the job. 

If the sucking is what’s now happening to you, or you think there’s a chance that you might suck, then guess what - that's great. Sucking is how you build your foundation. You're finding out where you are, you're getting your footing. And if you find out that you're completely freaked out by the concept of talking with strangers, guess what? That's a good thing to know about yourself now because as you progress through your studies, what is your goal? Well, it's to have a job, and a job is about getting paid to talk with people who are currently strangers.

If you are now shivering in the corner of your room at the prospect of networking, find a safe harbor in the concepts of magic and math.  Magic can happen - just by trying. Maybe your trying IS magic since you previously were stuck and now you’re not. You can also find solace in math. Maybe you’re open to networking and 50% of people agree to invite you to formal interviews or a next conversation. Of 10 calls, 5 did not lead to anything and 5 did. Congrats - you’ve set up 5 interviews!

The math and magic of interviews and offers

Now let's say you're at this last stage of interviewing and you're interviewing is amazing. You’ve been able to move from “interesting” to “intriguing” among your firms of interest.

A fresh interviewer might win offers 10% of the time. A more practiced person might win offers 50% of the time. Let’s say someone has a series of interviews and their success rate is 50%. That means for every two companies they interview with, they get one offer.

What about someone with a little interview practice? Reaching out to 100 people might result in 50 new connections producing 8 actual meetings. From these, 4 opportunities to interview could formally emerge. If you’ve been practicing, your success rate with interviewing might be 25%. That means 100 requests to connect would generate one offer. And that would be just one week’s worth of outreach effort. What if you continued for 2 weeks or more? 

What does this imply for my job hunt? 

Now you have a handle on what it might take to generate interviews and offers using basic math. 

Well at the very front end of this process, there is an outreach effort and there's a quality of outreach and consistency of outreach.

Looking at that can also be dismaying and disappointing. Oh my gosh, I have to do all this work? 

Let me now bring you back to the story of Cara. For every outcome suggested by the math, there’s also magic.

After joining my program, Cara sent just a couple of requests to connect on LinkedIn, using an appropriate format that I recommend, and got an internship. That re-branded her as someone now having US experience in her desired industry. We then used that to upgrade her LinkedIn profile and shift to full-time offers in NYC, keeping with the focus of an apartment overlooking manhattan and a pet cat.

Internship now on her resume, we shifted to networking with bankers in NYC. She had about 20 of these calls. Of these, one banking director enjoyed the conversation and then immediately referred her to more interviews within the firm. Several interviews later, she had the job offer.


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