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How Lean Six Sigma Can Help You Get a Job -

Lean Six Sigma can be applied anywhere since its foundation is basic problem solving: find the root cause(s) of a problem and then determine the best solution(s). In this example, we show you how Lean Six Sigma can help you become more effective at finding and getting a job.

Operational Definition(s): What to Know Before Getting Started

  • Daily Job Contacts – mail, in-person, or phone contacts that are documented in an ongoing Job Search Log
  • Minor Phone Defect – one of three phone numbers on cover letters was defective. This phone number is infrequently used by potential employers.
  • Phrasing Defect – wordy, incorrect leading verb
  • Previous Style – changing from use of ‘…’ or ‘etc’ to complete phrases or thoughts
  • Punctuation Defect – incorrect punctuation
  • Spelling Defect – spelling defect noted after letter or email transmittal
  • Trailing ‘& ‘ Defect – a trailing ‘& ‘ is at the end of phrases
  • Trend Lines – used to show decrease in quantity defect (when relevant)

Project Results Summary (Executive Summary): Using Lean Six Sigma to Get a Job

Project Effectiveness!

  • Improved number of daily contacts from an average of 3.3 to 5
  • Decreased phone number & punctuation defects from .GT. 40% & 12%, respectively, to .LT. 5%
  • The client, perspective employer, received a higher quality cover letter & resume. The probability of receiving a job related contact increased

DMAIC Approach

  • Root causes were identified using reviews of job related correspondences as well as feedback from potential employers & the EDD
  • Defect rates and submittals were measured by reviewing, electronically scanning, and counting submittals.
  • Change was driven by implementing a thorough second check to increase removal of defects and increase in submittals on a daily basis


  • In a job market with high (10+%) unemployment, highly accurate and defect free correspondences are essential to attract potential employers

Project Timing

  • Start Date: 6/10
  • End Date: 12/10


Project Summary - Using Lean Six Sigma To Get A Job -

Job Search Effectiveness Over Time


Project Details (DMAIC Process): Using Lean Six Sigma to Get a Job

Define Phase

Key issues for job effectiveness include quantity, quality, and effectiveness of correspondences

  • Focus is on customized cover letters
  • Targeted resumes had high quality levels


Number of daily correspondences were decreasing and quality defects were Increasing; customers expect zero defects in cover letters and resumes

Project Goal

Increase productivity, quality, and effectiveness of job correspondences

Project Impact

Increased customer response (interviews)

Project Communication Plan

  1. Direct Mail
  2. Faxes
  3. Emails

Direct mail and faxes increased (response rate improved)


Threat vs. Opportunity Matrix

Threats & Opportunities Matrix - Using Lean Six Sigma To Get A Job -


Business Case

Job search effectiveness is a key factor in obtaining employment.

Methods of increasing the chance of obtaining employment are increasing the:

  • Number of correspondences
  • Quality of correspondences
  • Using more effective marketing channels

Customers expect zero defect in employment correspondences.

Problem Statement

A decreasing number of high quality employment correspondences is causing a low response from potential employers.

Job hunting correspondences were identified as a key and controllable issue.

Goal Statement

Simultaneously increase the:

  • Number of correspondences
  • Quality of correspondences
  • Use of more effective marketing channels

Project Scope

In Scope

  • Increasing letters and resume submittals
  • Reducing correspondence defects
  • Use of more effective marketing channels
  • Utilize EDD and other job search resources
  • Focus on growth markets
  • Networking at professional society meetings

Out of Scope

  • Increases in job offers (uncontrollable)
  • Working excessive hours to ‘make numbers’
  • Focus on non job search activities
  • Routine exercise

Project Timeline: Estimated vs. Actual Activity

Project Timeline - Using Lean Six Sigma To Get A Job -



SIPOC - Using Lean Six Sigma To Get A Job -

Measure Phase

  • Defect rates, number of job submittals, and % direct mail were measured
    • Baseline data existed in electronic files
    • The defects were identified and tabulated
    • A baseline was established
  • A slow decrease in defects and submittals was identified in the baseline data
  • Trend line fits of data was completed for 2 major defects
  • Baseline measurements assisted in establishing an improvement goal

Defect Rate Measurement

Defect rates for phone number and punctuation were decreasing slowly while spelling defects increased slightly (baseline date).

Defect Rates - Using Lean Six Sigma To Get A Job -

Job Contact Measurement

Daily job contacts were decreasing (baseline data).

Daily Job Contacts - Using Lean Six Sigma To Get A Job -

Analyze Phase

Analysis of data after implementing improvements showed several key findings:

  • Number of daily job contacts increased at least 48%
  • Number of major correspondence defects decreased significantly
    • Style change in correspondences was implemented faster
  • A positive correlation exists between % direct Mail (x) and interviews (y)
    • % direct mail is associated with over 50% of the increase in interviews
  • Pareto charts, histograms, and scatter charts are the tools utilized

Defect Rate Analysis

Major defects decreased significantly starting late November.

Defect Rate Decreasing - Using Lean Six Sigma To Get A Job -

Job Contact Analysis

Daily contacts increased by at least 48% after early November.

Daily Job Contact Lat November - Using Lean Six Sigma To Get A Job -

Style Analysis

New style use in letters increased after late November.

Use of Previous Style - Using Lean Six Sigma To Get A Job -

Direct Mail Analysis

A positive correlation exists between number of interviews and percentage of direct mail.

Scatter Diagram For Direct Mail Analysis - Using Lean Six Sigma To Get A Job -

Improve Phase

Improvement Data

  • Customer Realizes
    1. Targeted & higher quality job correspondences
    2. One less resume in the reject pile
    3. Higher prospect yield for time spent
  • Job Seeker Realizes
    1. Less rework of incorrect correspondences
    2. Increase in employer responses
    3. Closer job match and more Interviews
    4. Focuses redundant correspondents on ‘buzz’ words
      • Increases in response rate

Control Phase

Next Steps

  • The sustained improvement that was implemented in late November and through December will continue into the future. The number of submittals and number of defects will be continuously tracked and are part of an improvement plan. The goal is to use direct mail for at least 1/3 of submittals. Direct mail repetition is thought to improve response rate.
  • There are numerous other studies that could be offshoots of this project. Other variables include level of unemployment, skill match, and others.
  • The relationship between faxed job correspondences and interviews needs additional clarification.
  • Many of these studies are expected to verify known effective techniques for job hunting.

Lessons Learned

  • Expect other high priority projects to disrupt efforts to complete projects
  • Numerous other factors such as high unemployment rates, redundant submittals, direct mailing to hiring managers, and networking can alter job search effectiveness
  • Pareto style bar charts and scatter diagrams with trend lines are effective for graphically displaying data. Correlation coefficients are useful for identifying relationships
  • Direct mail has a positive correlation to number of interviews. A correlation coefficient of +0.753 indicates that increases in % direct mail significantly increased the number of interviews; over half of the variation in the number of interviews is associated with direct mail. (There is a 30 day lag between the start of direct mail and the increase in the number of interviews.)
  • Strikethroughs are an excellent method of preventing cut and paste errors

Have questions about how Lean Six Sigma can help you get a job or about this project example? Please share your questions or comments below!

Ready to improve your job search with Lean Six Sigma? Register for the Green Belt Training & Certification today!

Tracy O'Rourke

Tracy is a Managing Partner at, the co-author of The Problem-Solver’s Toolkit and co-host of the Just-in-Time Cafe. She is also a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Instructor at UC San Diego and teaches in San Diego State University’s Lean Enterprise Program. For almost 20 years, she has helped leading organizations like Washington State, Charles Schwab and GE build problem-solving muscles.