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Tuesday, October 27. 2015
This post represents a major effort by a friend who wanted to share his career's worth of accumulated knowledge and wisdom from the opportunity-seeking end and from the hiring end. He warns that it is not a final draft. He doesn't know when he will get around to polishing it up (because he does have a day job).
Enjoy it, and send it around to those who might find it handy - young or older.
Up until then, I’d pretty much walked easily from opportunity to opportunity. After all, in the beginning there were not many skilled professionals in computing and the IT world, and demand far exceeded supply. At the last time I found myself looking for work, I’d nominally retired but had been requested to stay. During the financial meltdown however, all extensions were cancelled and I was summarily out of work with virtually no notice. I was already over 60 and the economy was unfavorable. I landed what I think is a wonderful, challenging, and interesting job but the process took over a year.
The reason I mention this is because at the conclusion of my search, an experienced recruiter said -more or less in passing - that “You ran a great search.” I’d never thought of myself as even doing “a search.” I thought I was looking for a job. These are much the same thing, but I learned that a search is a disciplined way of looking for a job and doing it right makes a big difference in the outcome.
These are my notes on how to do a great job search. For the more experienced reader to get something from this, I’ve had to write to the executive level. If you’re less senior (more junior?) or just starting out, some of this will be overkill, but it is maybe helpful to know this material in advance of needing it. The principles are the same. And while my vantage point is business/corporate, these basic principles should apply to any sort of work or career pursuit.
Other than obvious stuff on dress, I don’t think there is any overtly male/female, but I admit I may used ”he” more than “she” just from habit.
Your personality, strengths and brand
Whoever does anything for you – be it an email introduction, giving you a lead, or reviewing something for you – follow up to let them know you “have it.” You can of course say thank you, but you want to convey closure to the person who sourced it. Most senior people like closure and handing something off to you, should always result in them knowing that at least you have it in hand. Similarly, but a little less important is to let the source know how it turned out. You have to gauge these. These you don’t need to follow up to say “nothing ever came of that.” Sometimes you will get referrals just to give you something to go chase. Sometimes the interest is more sincere and in these cases the source may want to know how it turned out. If the referral is successful, then it certainly warrants a follow up – especially when there’s any chance they’d find out through another party.
Repeat after me. The purpose of the resume is to get an interview. That’s it. It’s not to get a job. It’s to get an interview. This is really self-evident, and should tell you what you want your resume to do. It needs to get noticed and not get discarded. This is mostly optics but it’s “effective communications.” A good resume takes intense editing but it gets noticed and stands out. Some principles are:
Typical client engagements included:
Bear in mind that in addition to the 3-5 new contacts, you have to do the follow up from whatever irons are already in the fire. You have calls and emails from the people you contacted last week. You have to take care of them plus do the new contacts. This is the grind of the search. This is why I say it takes self-discipline to do it and it takes self determination to sit down and grind this out when it might be more fun to get a frozen yogurt.
I don’t think it matters what tool you use. I’ve used Excel, Act and Access. You could use Word if you felt like it. Personally I find Excel to be adequate and the least effort though Access what more fun. The net of adding 3-5 contacts a day minus those that go cold is that you should shoot to have about 5-10 irons in the fire at any one time. That is 5-10 people or situations where you a credible dialogue going on. They’ve seen your resume, you’ve spoken, they’re checking this or that and will get back to you, or whatever Think of all your prospects graded A, B, C, D or F, you should be able to list (right out of your database) who they are and what’s the next step. My point is to keep options running concurrently. (It’s a secondary matter whether you think you can do this in your head for 6 months. I’d be impressed if you could, but I don’t know why you would if you could put it into some form of database.
So here’s another guideline – that I don’t actually think is very accurate, but it should help set your expectations. To estimate how long your search will take, allow 1 month for every $10K in annual salary. As I say, I don’t think it’s exactly accurate, but more lucrative jobs take longer to find. I mention it here only so you have some idea how long you may have to sustain the data maintenance.
It’s pale advice, but if you’re solid in who you are and what you are selling then treat it as statistical. 5 equally good people apply for a job, but 4 go home disappointed for nothing other than statistical probability. You just have to pick yourself up and play again. The good news, is that unlike the gambler’s fallacy, your luck does not need to change. You just need to play again. It takes a lot of personal resilience though, and it’s not a bad thing to have a good friend who can console you should the need arise. An ironic consequence of job searches being so tough, is that they also tend to humanize and humble us. See previous reference about who helps and who doesn’t.
Even without heartache, there will almost certainly be ups and downs. Things you want may fall through or get delayed. Sure-things will get bogged down. There will be hiring freezes, vacations, other candidates, budget cuts, and people leaving their roles. It happens. The ball isn’t in the pocket until you are filling out your W4.
Internal recruiters perform “screening” interviews. You need to pass them, but there’s little point in wowing them. Be enthusiastic, know something about the company, and be engaging so the recruiter has a good time. Bear in mind he or she has seen 20 people just like you and they’ve had a nearly identical conversation. Try to make their day easier. Do NOT bring up anything negative and don’t as too many questions. Bear in mind their main job is to filter out people who don’t fit, so try to fit. Internal recruiters are general salaried and not working on commission.
External recruiters live on the deals they close. They need to find candidates the hiring company will hire. They have a requisition for position X and they try to find an X. If you are not an X, they will have a great conversation with you, but you will go into a database. They just asked the database for an X and perhaps you showed up. Or perhaps you coincidentally you just sent them a resume that looks a lot an X. Anyway, they need to keep their network alive, so they will generally be nice to you. But as a practical matter, if you are a Z, they can only place you with people looking for a Z.
Recruiters are all people you want to maintain good relations with. They may or may not ever place you, but likely you will get at least one job in your life through a recruiter. They get a disparaging wrap amongst your peers, but don’t fall for it. Most are good – to extremely good -- at what they do and they can add 50% to the power of your search. Most are possessed of extraordinary, extrasensory perceptions about people and they can help you learn and grow.
Recruiters are excellent at smell detection. They can look at a resume and get a sense if there’s any hidden problem. During their interview of you, they’ll be looking for the “tell.” What happened here? Why did you change roles? Did you start that job immediately after the prior one? Be prepared to have a good story. You can’t lie but you can put the best spin on things that you can. If there’s anything funky, practice your story in the mirror.
If your job in “the process” was quantity, the recruiters’ job is quality. They want to put good people in front of the employer. Your job in front of the recruiter is to convince them that you are a top-flight person. You want them to include you in the slate of people they put forward.
External recruiters come in two tiers. There are a handful of multi-industry, international firms and then there are smaller, usually regional companies. If you get your resume to a person at one of the companies, it goes into their worldwide database. Which is to say that submitting it to 10 recruiters at the same company is not only unnecessary, and sort of marks you as a noob. Ideally, you’d submit and meet with the leader of the practice in your area (e.g. IT, Finance, whatever) and have her or his evaluation in their file on you. But the practice leader may be far away, so take who you can get.
As long as you don’t duplicate your submissions within one recruiting company, there’s no reason not to submit to multiple agencies. As a practical matter you may want 10 top tier agencies and 20-30 smaller retained or contingency agencies to be aware of you. Bear in mind that these 30-50 people all need to be called every 6 months so now you have 600 phone calls to make a year. Remember the part about the database and the process model and being disciplined? That would apply here.
When you are finally asked for a reference and you supply one, let the reference know that you’ve done so. Let them know what the job is, etc. Let them know who you think may be contacting you on your behalf. Then, once it’s settled, let them know the outcome of your application regardless of the outcome. Maybe they didn’t offer you the job. Maybe you turned it down. Maybe it was perfect fit and there was a happy ending. But someone vouching for you deserves to know and deserves to know how you handled it.
And it’s not impolite to offer to draft a written reference saying what you’d to be said about you. The draft is a courtesy to the reference to give them a starting point. Similarly, it’s not a bad idea to collect letters of reference as you leave jobs during your career. Would someone say something nice about you? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a folder of 5-6 of these for use 10 years later?
However, consulting/contract work has some risks and you need to treat them carefully. Aside from the fact that consulting uses different skills and behaviors than being a regular employee, there is actual liability. You are legally responsible for the work you do. Errors can be in the form of actual errors or omissions, things you didn’t say but should have. There is insurance for E&O and some companies will require that you carry it (others won’t).
And then there are tax implications. You will have a 1099 (which needs to be legit) but also the opportunity to deduct some costs as business expenses. You’ll also need to decide what form of entity you want to be. Roughly this ranges from sole proprietorship, various kinds of partnerships and various forms of Corporations.
Since there are issues of liability and of taxation, you will need to keep accurate records. Plus do the work. Plus keep up the mainline search.
This serves three purposes. First it recognizes and shows appreciation for the help you received. Second, for recruiters, it allows them to update their database so they can find you the next time they want to. And lastly of course, it humanizes you and sustains your network – which is likely what got you to the end of your search.
Sample resumes will be posted separately.
Posted by Bird Dog in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 12:32 | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)
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This is one of the best pieces on the subject I have ever read. I have forwarded to the kids and to job seekers I care about. I particularly liked your stress on quantifiable results rather than duties (in the resume), your reminder that employers don't care what you want, and the 80/20 rule (interviewer shd do most of the talking--something my verbose family needs to be virtually whacked to remember.)
Your friend should turn this into a book. Possibly researching a few other types of searches different from his own. And looking at issues unique to particular demographics...but it's almost perfect as it is. Could run in the Atlantic or some such w a little polishing (I have no connections). The only risk w publishing is that some rabid PC jerk will claim that it's unfair and excludes little tiny leprechauns so is oppressive.
I'd be interested in seeing the diagram he refers to when he talks about the waterfall model of the job search.
I keep trying to post the graphic, but I can't
The words cover the idea, though
Thanks BD. I am in my second month and it is a bit discouraging not to get a nibble. Thought my reputation, experience and contacts would have been more helpful. Baby's going to need new shoes soon, and the mortgage company wants their money.
It's mostly good advice founded on common sense. It's very helpful to have it all listed together like this, though. It's hard to think of everything when you already lost your job.
But, and maybe it's different in my part of the country, I've never heard of anyone in IT being hired except through a recruiting agency. I'm in IT. This essay is mostly for the higher levels of management, though, which I have no interest in.
I've always gone by the advice that if you can do 50% of the job description you are qualified for the job. The rest is personality.
Also, the most dependable way to get a job is by knowing someone. People will always hire someone they know with minor faults versus someone they don't know who might turn out crazy.
I like the Turkish rule.
Just glanced at his resume and the two others you posted. He has numbers - he is doing it right. The PWC one you posted is a job description.
Check out AskAManager.com for more great advice about resumes and cover letters. She would disagree re quality vs quantity and I am with her - better to have a few really well-focused applications with great cover letters than scattering a bunch of generic drivel.