To be honest, I’ve only done an official full-scale job search once. I landed my first regular job through an internship, and then my current job, I wasn’t even job searching when I found it. I literally saw one cool job/company and applied for it and ended up with the role (these results are not typical, and I make no promises on your own results!). However, I have worked in Human Resources for a very long time and do have a general sense of things to consider when job searching!
- Do some soul-searching. It’s important to understand why you are looking for a new job. Often individuals will say they are looking because they want to earn more money, but while more money often causes individuals to accept a new job, looking for more money isn’t always the driving factor behind what causes someone to start looking for a new job! Think about what you like/don’t like about your current job or organization (or boss!). It’s important to have a good sense of the type of role or organization you are looking for next, so you aren’t wasting time on applying for jobs that wouldn’t interest you in the long run.
- Determine if you want to jump ship. First, consider if you want to try to change jobs within your current organization or look elsewhere. In my experience, most managers are incredibly supportive if you let them know you’d be interested in seeking out new opportunities internally (but hey, you know your manager better than I do!) If you are thinking of changing organizations, consider if you’d want to target the same industry.
- Polish up that resume. One great way to do this is to look at past performance appraisal documents at your current job. They often detail your accomplishments, and if you can review yours over the years, you'll get some great ideas of some achievements to highlight on your resume. When I have done this, I’ve always been pleasantly surprised by the amount of detail included, as it’s hard for me to think about what I did three or four years ago. One suggestion for your resume, is that you should focus it on your accomplishments, and the impact your work had – reference specific numbers when possible! If you detail your job responsibilities, it is going to look at job description. Remember that a job description would be true of anyone who had that role, and your resume should read about what you specifically accomplished.
- Ask someone else to give it a second review. At one point, I thought my resume was perfect regarding formatting and grammar. Then I asked a friend, who is a journalist to look it over for me. Let’s just say I apparently don’t understand the rules of capitalization.
- Start searching! The most helpful piece of advice I can give when job searching, is to treat the job requirements as a wish list vs. a set of requirements you need to meet before applying. There is a great Harvard Business Review article about how women are significantly less likely to apply for a job than men are, when they don’t meet the requirements. I have a story I tell about how I got a job with my current employer. I saw a posting for a company I had never heard of, and after googling them and seeing their Instagram page (seriously) I was excited about their company culture, and it looked like it would be a good fit. I was not qualified for the job as listed, but I had just read a similar article about women not applying for jobs in these situations, so I thought I’d take a chance. After my interview, I was told that I wasn’t a good fit for that specific role, but they liked me enough that they thought I’d be a fit for a role they hadn’t even posted yet. So, I ended up applying for a job I wasn’t qualified for and getting a job that didn’t even exist. True story.
- Keep track of applications and save job descriptions. When I was leaving my first professional job, I was casting a wide net. To be honest, I really wanted to leave and didn’t have narrow requirements for where I was applying. When I started the search, I thought it’d be easy and I’d apply for a couple of jobs and find one that was a good fit. Well, it didn’t work exactly like that, and I ended up applying for probably a few dozen jobs. One thing I didn’t do – was keep track of where I applied or what the job was for. At one point, I got a call from someone over the phone who set up an interview, but I couldn’t really tell where they were calling from, and I was too embarrassed to ask. So, I showed up at the address, and went to the 3rd floor. I didn’t know who I was meeting with, or even what the job was for, and someone politely walked me around the office asking leaders if they had an interview that day. Not a great first impression. But in the end, I did get the job. The reasons I had no idea about where I was interviewing, was the person who scheduled the interview referred to the acronym DoDEA. (Department of Defense Education Activity). I did end up with an offer and working there for a few years, even after that awkward start! Anyway, the morale of that story is that you should ideally have an excel file where you track the jobs you apply to and the status, and then I’d also recommend a folder where you copy and paste job description. In the past I’ve gone to prep for an interview, only to find the job description removed, so better to be prepared here!
- Get ready for story time – preparing for interviews. The way I see it, interviews are a lot like my kid before bedtime asking me to tell them a “story from the head” and then making demands that I tell stories about specific situations, such as, “Tell me a story where I’m lost and then I turn into a butterfly.” I haven’t had that specific situation pop up in an interview, but if it does, I’m prepared. Behavior Based Interviewing (or BBI) is used commonly in organizations, and you’ll recognize questions that ask for a story – “Tell me about a time you had to balance multiple priorities.” I recommend preparing for interviewing by coming up with a list of stories (seriously). Think about situations at work that reflect well on you and come up with a brief scenario description the situation (what was the context,) the action (what did you say or do) and the result (which can be either a goal accomplished, or a stronger collaborative relationship). I like to be ridiculously prepared, so when I recently interviewed for a role, I used my prior performance appraisal documents to come up with a list of examples I could use to answer these questions. You can also capitalize on your current projects – what have you been working on most recently? You also get bonus points if you can think about which stories you can tell that are most like the requirements listed in the job description.
- Be prepared to talk about compensation. I think this is the most painful part of the interview process. Conventional wisdom says to never disclose the number you are looking for, but if they don’t disclose a number either, you could end up wasting a lot of time. I used this advice for my current job. I remember that I was at the gym when I got the call from the hiring manager, and the salary was less than I was currently making, so I just turned it down. (I have no idea why I didn’t negotiate) but I was just like, “Oh, I’m sorry. That won’t work for me. Thanks for considering me though.” The manager said something along the lines of, “Well, I tried to ask what you wanted but you wouldn’t tell me!” In the end we agreed on a number, and I took the job. I do think it’s worth discussing numbers early in the process, even if it’s just a ballpark. I think it makes sense to ask for a range from the recruiter, or if they aren’t willing to share, to throw out a number (ideally higher than your current salary) and ask if that is at least in the ballpark – but you should also be sure to say that you need to learn more about role requirements before you can commit to any numbers. Also, be ready to compare non-cash aspects. How many days of PTO are provided? Do they offer fertility benefits or maternity leave? Do they have 401k matching and when would it be vested? There are so many potential benefit options that could influence your decision. When I was doing my first real job search, I went so far as to calculate how much my PTO days and benefits were worth, so that I could determine I was making a smart move financially.
- Do some research before you interview. Once an interview or recruiter screen is scheduled, it’s time to do a bit of homework. For publicly traded companies, I recommend looking for their 10-K filing for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). It’s an incredibly detailed report, so don’t plan to read all 100+ pages, but you can look for the sections that detail an overview of their business, projections for future growth, and risks in their market. They will also often have a section detailing offerings or benefits for staff – such as paid leave programs or available training. This allows you to get a deep view of the organization and come up with some insightful questions to ask during your initial interviews.
- Say thank you – it’s not out of style. I agree that written thank you cards for interviews probably don’t make sense at this point. Most people aren’t working from a physical office, and if you send thank you notes to the homes of your interview team, they will be more likely to get a restraining order than to offer you a job. However, if you have email addresses (often located in the meeting invitations), it is thoughtful the following day to send a thoughtful note. Usually this doesn’t happen when I’m interviewing candidates, so it’s always a pleasant surprise. If you don’t have email addresses, you can ask the recruiter to share them or use linkedin.com if you are able to message them. Keep your note sincere, and please don’t mention if you know where they live! 😊
What other suggestions do you have to share? I’d love to hear them!
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