5-3-1 Method for Maximizing Job Hunting Success


 This post is from an anonymous contributor to my blog. In today’s world, the reality and facts of life are that no job lasts forever, job security is a thing of the past, and sooner or later, each and every one of us will find themselves involved in a job search, and likely it will not be at a time of our choosing, at least not completely.

There are hundreds of self-help books, networking groups and centers, and placement services, but at the St. Margarets of Scotland “Career Connections Club” we have found something that we call the “5-3-1” method. It is an essential fundamental of a search process. Without 5-3-1 or something like it, many of the other techniques and practices will dramatically diminish in effectiveness.

The simple concept is this: At all times your goal should be to be actively pursuing five target companies, three of which you are actively engaged in the candidate selection process, one of which you will receive and accept the offer.

The 5-3-1 method protects the job searcher from what we call the dreaded “1-1-0” method (also known as “single-threaded”) and the far worse “40-0-0” process. 1-1-0 occurs due to lack of DIVERSIFICATION and 40-0-0 which occurs due to lack of FOCUS. Note that there is NO SUCH THING as 40-1-1, or 1-1-1 because either the severe lack of focus, or the over-zealousness which unintentionally broadcasts desperation CAUSE the hiring managers to eliminate you from consideration. The sad thing is that the 1-1-0 person is dumbfounded and has nowhere to go when they lose, and the 40-0-0 person doesn’t even get engaged in a meaningful way, and spends all his time LOOKING for LEADS and never closes them, and gradually looses overall hope due to lack of even preliminary success.

While the there are obvious risk-mitigation and “keeping it under control” aspects of the 5-3-1 method, there are a number of other side effects that significantly enhance the likelihood of success.

  1. The “people are busy” effect: while YOU are probably searching for a position full time, and putting 100% of your time and even lots of passion and intensity into this, the people you are interviewing with are not only spending less than 100% of their candidate-review time with you as only ONE of the multiple candidates, they probably each have a “day job” of which only a SMALL SLIVER of their time is dedicated to hiring. So you are getting only a portion of their “small sliver”. If you do 1-1-0, you are likely to be a worse interviewee and a pest by email and phone because you are inappropriately highly focused on this deal. If you do 40-0-0, you will never connect and engage with these people because you are not putting ENOUGH effort in.
  2. The psychology of solid alternatives: it seems to be bad for human beings to have either “no other alternative” than the current opportunity (all the eggs in one basket kind of thing) and also bad to have “too many choices” which prevents the candidate from actually BELIEVING that one of them will happen.
  3. Leverage: when this method works best, the candidate actually is likely to end up with TWO offers, and is then is in a position to (carefully and professionally) leverage them against each other in order to end up with the best situation for himself

All-in-all, using the “5-3-1” method makes you a better candidate and increases the likelihood of success. It accomplishes this by allocating available time across several targets, and literally makes it impossible to make a number of mistaken moves simply because there isn’t time to do so. We think you will find that employing this approach works well in almost every case, and is applicable to most things that involve a pursuit process.

Published by Above The Rim

Executive & Career Transition Coach helping professionals take their career Above The Rim.

2 thoughts on “5-3-1 Method for Maximizing Job Hunting Success

  1. I think this is pragmatically AND psychologically a very effective strategy. As you mentioned, avoiding too much concentration on one company or too little concentration is a sensible strategy as far as maximizing your time spent. However, I can see in the article hints that it also helps you avoid setting yourself up for disappointment by having unrealistic expectations. This is particularly clear in case of the 1-1-0 strategy. Would you invest your retirement portfolio in one company just because you liked their fundamentals?

    However, I think it should be made clear that this 5-3-1 strategy will work best if it is targeting companies that are in the same industry. Especially if you are in a situation as mentioned in paragraph 3 and you have 2 offers, having rivals in the industry fight over you would be an especially enviable position!

  2. This is very consistent with prospecting in sales which is my background. I take the approach that you always have to have enough prospects in motion to be able to afford to lose a sale. Also related it getting bogged down with overinvesting in a prospect (time or emotion) where you feel they are a bellweather account that will define success or failure. While selling to customers is not totally analogous to a job search, a successful sales and client relationship means you are working with a customer/client who values your product or service and wants to work with you. Focus on the companies in the interview process that want to bring you in respecting your talent, experience and personality as a cultural fit (assuming other element like pay and benefits work) rather than “I have to get that great job at company X.”

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