The average job search in the United States takes 43 days, according to Money, and as long as 65 for those who work in the healthcare industry. And this is if you’re willing to put in a diligent effort to finding the ideal job, not just floating a few resumes out there each week. Whether you’re unemployed or looking to make a career switch, here are five things you’ll need to do to find the perfect job:

Target Your Ideal Career

Use your past experience to home in on the type of job that you really want. Start by assessing your skills and accomplishments, then ask yourself what you liked and didn’t like about past job duties.

Choosing the right career entails finding work for which you have a passion as well as the best environment for your personality. You may want more autonomy to express your career skills like writing or developing strategies to solve problems, for example, than your previous job allowed. Perhaps the larger corporate setting didn’t tap into all your skills and you feel a smaller company would be a better fit.

After assessing your ambitions and desired work environment, start searching for these types of jobs.

Maintain Search Records

You must be organized when searching for that perfect job. Write every company, contact person’s name and position down for which you apply. When filling out online applications, jot down usernames and passwords so you can check the statuses of your job search with each company.

Good record keeping enables you to keep track of each stage of the interviewing process. With some positions, you may have just sent your resume, while you’re preparing for a second interview with another. Most importantly, take notes during your interviews for each job so you can later access them for subsequent interviews. That way you know what questions were asked and answered so you don’t ask the same ones.

Tap Into the Hidden Market

The hidden job market accounts for about 80 percent of all hiring, according to Forbes. These are jobs that aren’t advertised in traditional sources like online classified ads.

One of the best ways to locate open positions in the hidden market is networking. Start by contacting past employers, coworkers, clients, suppliers, friends, fraternity brothers and anyone else who you know or worked with. Let them know you’re looking for a job and send them copies of your resume. A client from a couple years ago may have loved your work, for example, and knows of a particular opening.

Another method of finding leads is through people you don’t know. These sources include professional associations, social media sites like LinkedIn and job support groups. Join some professional associations that are related to your career and start attending the luncheons. Get to know people at the meetings and pass out business cards. Discuss the type of job you’re looking for and be willing to help others if you know of openings germane to their backgrounds.

Join or start a job support group. These groups can unearth possible job openings but, more importantly, they give you a support system to polish your resume or hone your interviewing skills, which can make or break your job success.

Improve Your Interviewing

The best way to improve interview skills is by doing more interviews. But second to that is familiarizing yourself with the interviewing process. In most cases, you will start with a phone screen interview from a human resources manager. If you meet the qualifications for the job, you will then talk to the hiring manager.

The method used for interviews will largely depend on whether you’re searching for a local or distant job. For distant jobs, you will have more interviews over the phone or even via teleconferencing before meeting with employers in person. During the typical interview, you will need to have a list of questions prepared in advance to ask prospective employers. You will also need to know how to answer the employer’s questions. The order in which these sets of questions occur can vary, so have your questions and your answers handy from the start.

One caveat is to never ask questions you could’ve researched yourself. Ask about the corporate culture, size of the department and responsibilities of the job. Listen to the interviewer’s responses and ask questions directly related to the discussion.

Conversely, some questions to anticipate for employers are: “What interests you about this job,” and “Why should I hire you over someone else?” Corporate interview questions are often designed to test your critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Some may fluster you to ascertain how you handle adversity.

Learn how to answer common interview questions and practice reciting your answers in advance. Get books on interviewing at the library or bookstore. Some informative online sources include Quintessential Careers, Monster or CareerBuilder.

Prepare in Advance

In addition to mastering interview questions, you must know how to relate your past skills to the open job. To accomplish this, review all the responsibilities you had on past jobs and be prepared to talk about them.

Develop SAR stories to highlight some of your key accomplishments. SAR stands for situation, action and results. Employers are more likely to remember you if you use this formula in highlighting your background. Outline the scenario of a special project (situation), discuss the actions you took and then provide the results. Results should be measurable such as, “I increased sales by 10 percent.”

Conduct basic job research about the company and position. Examples include the year it was founded, key executives, the number of employees, product lines and total revenue. You can get most of this information from the company’s website. Read articles about the company. The best way to differentiate yourself from other job seekers is to position yourself as a consultant. For example, if you know some of the challenges they face, relate your skills as to how you could help increase market share or expand their product line.

Arrive early for each job interview. Smile and look into the interviewer’s eyes when shaking their hand. Be confident and use your preparation to your advantage. If you can master some of these basic techniques, you can land your dream job.

carlosseller / Shutterstock.com

carlosseller / Shutterstock.com