The One TRUE Measurement of Your Job Search Progress


Skip Freeman

Skip Freeman

In a job search, one often measures his or her progress by tallying up the total number of résumés submitted, usually online at the job boards, to prospective employers. To put it mildly, this measurement is largely meaningless.

The only true measurement that is an accurate gauge of progress is this one: the total number of First-Time, Face-to-Face (1FTF) interviews you have completed or have scheduled. No other measurement is more meaningful in your job search. None. If you are NOT getting 1FTF interviews, you are NOT going to be getting job offers! It’s really that simple.

Every single day I hear (or read) comments such as these from job seekers: “I have sent out over 200 resumes and haven’t heard from anyone!” Or, “I had six interviews with one company and still didn’t get hired!” Or, “I have been to dozens of networking meetings and met a lot of people but I can’t seem to get anything going!”

While such frustrations and laments are certainly understandable, the fact of the matter is, these job seekers are measuring—and working on—the wrong things!

Let me use an analogy to underscore my point.

When engineers and construction managers build something (home, skyscraper, road, bridge, etc.), they use a flow diagram or flow chart called a PERT chart (Program Evaluation and Review Technique).The power of this flow diagram is that it lays out the critical path for completing the project in the minimal amount of time. And within the chart, there is always a critical activity around which everything else depends. Everything done before this one critical activity must only be those things necessary to make that one thing happen, and nothing after the critical activity can be accomplished until the critical activity itself is accomplished.

When building a home, for example, completing the roof is the critical activity. The home can’t be finished until the roof is on (the electrical work, the sheet rock, the finishing, the painting, the appliances, etc.). Every one of these subsequent activities is dependent upon the roof being on. Thus, since putting the roof is on is THE critical activity, all activities prior to the roof must be those that are focused on getting the roof on as fast as possible. So clearing the land, digging and pouring the foundation, putting up the frame, etc., are activities geared toward getting the roof on as fast as possible so everything else can follow.

The same principle holds true in your job search. Your most critical activity, i.e., the one activity around which everything else depends, is your “first-time, face-to-face” (1FTF) interviews. This one number, more than anything else, allows you to accurately assess the effectiveness and progress of your job search. And the power that it provides you is that it gives you the opportunity to modify your job search activities immediately to ensure that you will stay on track.

It is not until you have the 1FTF scheduled that you can prepare for the interview. It is only during the 1FTF that you can build rapport and “sell” yourself, and it is only after the 1FTF that you can develop and implement your follow-up plan, discuss offers, negotiate and ultimately start work.

So, everything else prior to the 1FTF needs to be focused on securing that 1FTF. It doesn’t matter how many resumes you send out. It doesn’t matter how many networking meetings you attend. What matters is whether or not you are converting them into 1FTF interviews.

The single most important question, then, that you MUST ask yourself every single day that will keep you on track is, “Where is my next 1FTF coming from?” Any activity that helps you secure the 1FTF is good. Any activity that isn’t getting you a 1FTF must be brutally assessed and changed.

As a “headhunter” I ask myself every single day, “Where is my next 1FTF coming from?” It is the ONE measurement that “headhunters” use to manage our business. I know, with absolute certainty that, if I’m not getting candidates in front of hiring managers for 1FTF conversations, I am not going to make placements! It makes absolutely no difference how many job openings I am aware of. It doesn’t matter how many candidates I may have submitted to a hiring manager or company. The only thing that matters is getting the first time face-to-face interview scheduled and completed! Without that, I am out of business. It is THE critical activity in the job placement world and should also be yours.

Why 1FTFs and not some other measurement? First, seldom is a person hired without someone in a company meeting him or her for the first time. Since that is practically a “given,” it is a constant. Subsequent interviews don’t provide a meaningful measurement because you never know how many additional interviews a company may have. Thus, additional interviews are a variable whereas the 1FTF is a constant.

So, how many 1FTF interviews does it take to get an actual job offer? Currently, in our firm, The HTW (“Hire to Win”) Group, it is taking, on average, 4.1 1FTF interviews to make a placement, i.e., for a candidate to be offered a position. In 2007-2008, it took 2.7 1FTF interviews to make a placement. In 2009, the number was 6 1FTF interviews to make a placement. Today, at 4.1 1FTF interviews, the good news is that the number of “first time face-to-face” interviews required to get hired is trending downward.

So how many 1FTF interviews have you had?

Now that you know it takes 4.1 1FTF interviews, on average, to get hired today, you won’t get discouraged if one company tells you “no.” Remember, getting hired is a sales process and sales is both a “numbers” game and a “skills” game. Sure, sometimes one may get lucky and “close” the “sale” on the first call, but it is generally unlikely.

So, if you haven’t had 4.1 (let’s round to 4) 1FTF interviews, then the questions you need to ask yourself are on the front end of the process. What must you do differently to get the “first time face-to-face” interviews arranged? If you have had more than 4 1FTF interviews and still don’t have any offers, then the questions are on the back end of the process and probably relate to your interviewing skills, your follow up process, etc.

To restate and summarize, to accurately assess your job search progress at any point, focus exclusively and quite heavily upon the only true measurement in the process: The number of “First-Time, Face-to-Face interviews you’ve had! Everything pivots around the 1FTF.


Skip Freeman, author of “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever!, has successfully completed more than 300 executive search assignments in just seven years. Specializing in the placement of sales, engineering, manufacturing and R&D professionals in industry, he has developed powerful techniques that help companies hire the best and help the best get hired.

A distinguished graduate of the United States Military Academy, West Point, he is a lifelong student of leadership, people and the principles of success. While serving in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Chemical Corps, he also earned a Master of Science degree in Organic Chemistry from The Georgia Institute of Technology and a Master of Business Administration degree in Marketing from Long Island University.

Visit or contact Skip at his book website,

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