I’ve spent the bulk of my career filling jobs, telling companies whom they should hire and telling job seekers what to do to get hired. Recently, however, things took a turn. I found myself in the role of job seeker rather than adviser or hiring authority, and it was an eye-opening experience to say the least. At the end of the day, I had what I consider a successful job search. I got some good attention, had some surprising feedback, and landed an amazing position with an amazing company.
It’s been scary and exhilarating to go back to all of the advice I usually give, my stock answers and my core understanding about the job market, and see first-hand what I knew and what I didn’t. The results were mixed. Some of the beliefs that I previously held firmly were shaken to the core. Other philosophies I hold, I was glad to see, were proven to be well-founded.
What I thought I knew:
- There’s no such thing as too passionate. False. The most surprising piece of feedback I have ever received from a hiring manager was garnered well after I had been through the interview process and gotten down to the final two candidates. One of the reasons that I wasn’t chosen, I was informed, was that I came across as too eager for the job. My follow-up was too punctual, too carefully witty, too much of a sales job, and frankly came across as kind of stalker-y. It wasn’t like I was emailing every other day; I corresponded only when I was told I’d hear about next steps. My failing was that instead of a few sentences on how I was still interested and hoped to hear from them soon, I crafted treatises about the great things I would do in the role, the team I would create, how I would improve the company culture, the productivity, and basically transform the company into pure heaven. The lesson here? Less, apparently, is more.
- You can’t get a job by applying to postings. False. When I first decided it was time to start looking, I did what I have been telling people to do for years. I started working my network, which is quite robust in my industry and my function. I asked for and took informational interviews, got great referrals for open and posted positions within companies, participated in groups (both virtual and actual), asked for leads shamelessly, and everything else I could think of. But the single most successful avenue for me was none other than the blind job application. I submitted resumes to probably 25 posted positions over the course of my search, and out of those 25 submissions I was granted interviews with 12 companies. I’m no math whiz, but those seem like pretty good numbers to me. Some of the interviews were in my industry, some were in others. All called me after seeing my resume in response to their posted jobs. In fact, the position that I ended up accepting was a completely cold application to a job listing on Linkedin. The lesson? Networking is great, but don’t be fooled: when a company posts a job, odds are that they’re actually looking at who’s applying.
- Silence is deadly. False. In more than one of my interview processes, there were times that a company I felt was very interested would go completely radio silent on me. No calls, no emails, no responses to my emails, for weeks at a time. My assumption was that this meant they were no longer interested; they had found someone they liked better or were putting the position on hold – or something else that meant I wasn’t getting that job. So after what seemed like long enough, I dismissed these as dead ends. I stopped emailing and took them off my list of potential employers, figuring they weren’t going to call again. Wrong. After I had lost hope in more than a few opportunities, and even after I had accepted the position I now hold, companies I had all but forgotten about would reappear out of nowhere, asking if I was free to come back in next Wednesday to meet so-and-so. In one case, I received a call about 12 hours after submitting my resume, had a phone interview with the hiring manager, then nothing for a month. Finally I got a call from the hiring manager saying he was going to be in town the following week and was I available to meet. Not anymore. But as aggravating as it sometimes was, it was great to know that it really wasn’t me; it was them.
But how does it end? Did HR Dave decide to hang up his HR Dave-ness? Was he so wrong about everything that he ruined his career, lost his friends and joined the circus? Does he really think this melodrama is entertaining?
Want to see how it all goes? Click here for part two of this piece, where I say “I told you so.”
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