Job Search Strategy
I do have a bit of a secret weapon when it comes to searching for jobs: I worked in Recruiting and Human Resources, and this gives me an advantage as a job-seeker. I’m not suggesting everyone needs to go get a job in recruiting in order to develop a great job-seeking strategy. I do know that understanding the selection process from an employer standpoint helps demystify the job seeking experience.
Here’s some basics about the recruiting process every job seeker should know:
- Apply directly through the company’s career page. Do not apply through a third party platform such as LinkedIn, indeed, job board, etc. Go to their website, find their careers page and apply to the job there.
- Apply Now. You have no idea where they are in the selection process: that job could be taken down tomorrow. I don’t recommend you wait to have your portfolio more polished, or until you have more green squares in your GitHub. If you start to play the ‘I’ll apply when I’m more ready’ game you’re just going to miss out on job opportunities. You’re ready now, just start applying. If you get an interview and need to study up on a specific thing, you’ll do it. But you won’t get that interview if you wait to apply until it’s too late.
- Recruiters want to hear from you. It’s their job to communicate with you! You’re not bothering them if you reach out.
- Know the typical roles involved in filling a job: Know what a recruiter does vs what a hiring manager does. If it’s not obvious, learn who is the decision maker for the role.
- Know the basic selection process: Job posted → recruiter reaches out to promising candidates → recruiter does an initial phone screen to make sure you’re a reasonable human being→ recruiter hands the candidate off to the hiring manager or technical assessment → oftentimes if the candidate is promising or more info is needed another interview is scheduled → decision. Hint: it’s OK to ask the recruiter to clarify what the process is and where you are in that process.
- Know how to interpret and negotiate an offer!
Network Network Network
Whether in person or on LinkedIn, you need to network. Interact with recruiter and business content on social media. Reach out to contacts in the industry you’re looking to apply to. Leverage your network!
Seek out job fairs
Personally, my strengths lie in personal interactions, but employers will be impressed if you show up even if socializing isn’t your thing. Make as many person-to-person connections as possible so you have someone on the inside of the company helping move your application forward in the process.
Keep a neutral attitude about the job searching process.
I am not sure how best to describe ‘attitude’ as a strategy but I think it’s a huge component to any successful job search. Neutral, dispassionate, realistic, all these words would work to describe the attitude and demeanor I tried to maintain.
The main takeaway here about attitude: During my last job search, I looked at every new twist and turn in my job search as simply more information to help inform my next moves.
Let’s take an example: a rejection letter. I have a choice on how I can interpret a rejection. Option one is to take the rejection personally: “This means I am unemployable and they’re rejecting me because I don’t have the skills to be in this industry”. Option two is to take in the rejection simply as more information: “Ok, that’s good to know, there’s dozens of reasons why I could have been rejected and I won’t know exactly why (they hired someone internally, for example). If I notice I’m getting rejected consistently from this kind of job I’ll use this feedback to help tailor my next job application.” Choosing option two is much more sustainable for the long haul for me personally.
I applied the same strategy for positive developments too. For example, when I got a request for an interview I would let myself get excited but would keep myself in check — there was just as good of a chance that I don’t get this job as there’s a chance I DO get the job. Even in the final stages of the job I was finally offered I was applying to other jobs and making moves as if would get rejected.
No, I’m not perfect. During my last job search, I broke down and cried multiple times from the financial and emotional stress of being a full time job seeker. I froze during technical interviews and panicked. I got frustrated with the tech bootcamp I just took and wondered if things would be better if they had taught me different skills or gave me more support. When I felt myself start to go down these paths, I took a break, reached out to friends, took care of myself. I reminded myself that this was a part of the process, there’s plenty of jobs out there, I’m employable and people like me, damnit.
Not only was this emotional strategy good for my personal mental health, but it was good for the job search too. By not allowing myself to get emotionally attached to any one outcome during the job seeking process, I stayed positive and present for interviews and interactions with potential employers. I knew that when I feel desperate, rejected, or not worthy of a job in tech, that ‘vibe’ would be picked up on by the people interviewing me. No one wants to hire that version of me, so staying neutral was key.
My Application Strategy:
Moving now into the operational side of job seeking, here’s some suggestions for a daily application process and strategy. I recommend using Teal to keep track of the jobs you apply to! Here’s some other strategies:
- Practice makes perfect. The more jobs you apply to the better you will get at writing cover letters and reaching out to recruiters. More interviews leads to more practice at interviewing which will lead to getting hired.
- If you’re putting on a full court press for your job search: Apply to 2 jobs per week-day. You can estimate a response rate of about 20%, which means that you want to get two responses a week you need to apply to 10 jobs a week at least to keep momentum up.
- Customize a cover letter for each job. This is painful but necessary for professional level jobs. If you’re applying to entry level or service jobs it’s not as important. I personally like to use templates to help streamline the process.
- Save copy of the job posting and cover letter for each job. True story: I’ve been called for an interview several weeks after the job posting has been taken down. Not having a reference makes researching the job for the interview super difficult! I make a copy and save every posting for every job I apply to.
- Reach out to 2–4 people on LinkedIn. Keep templates on hand for messages, but customize each to the company/job. Search LinkedIn for the company’s recruiters, and message two of them. Sometimes if the job is posted on LinkedIn, you can see which recruiter posted the job. Also search LinkedIn for anyone at the company with a similar title to the job you just applied for. Make these messages more casual, more of a ‘hey, what is it like to work there as a xyz, I just applied and it would be great to learn more.