In today’s post I examine the misconceptions of a modern job search through the eyes of a recent client. I interview Luke, a Spring 2018 graduate, who was seeking his first full-time professional position when he began working with me. I love working with young professionals who are just entering the workforce. It provides me the opportunity to coach and educate them on job search tactics and approaches that will increase their chances for success in a crowded candidate marketplace. Often there is an incorrect view of what it takes to carry out a successful job search. In my work with clients, I’m able to learn what steps they’ve taken to date, what results (or lack of results) they’re seeing and how we can redirect their efforts for a positive outcome. Together, we dismantle the approach that hasn’t been working and rebuild it with a smart strategy that gets them to where they want to be.
Luke earned his Bachelor of Science degree in April 2018. By the time he started working with me in October 2018, he had been applying to five to 10 jobs a week for almost four months. He describes this period as disappointing as he was having little to no success in getting interviews with the companies that were of most interest to him. Instead, for the handful of jobs he did receive contact, they were for jobs that were at best his second choice, and often, his third choice. Overall, Luke wasn’t getting as many interviews as he anticipated coming out of college and he was confused as to why that was. It was at this point that we began our work together.
Q & A with Luke
As a starting point, we worked together on your resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile. We transformed your resume in content, style and visual layout – all while keeping the readers of your resume in mind (Recruiters and Hiring Managers). What was your takeaway from that process?
I thought by filling out my resume with THE MOST content it would best represent me. I focused on trying to have as much varying content as possible to try and show that I was versatile. However, I learned that it’s best to figure out what Hiring Managers are looking for, how my experience can address their needs and expand upon that while telling a compelling story, as opposed to listing all experiences. Some of the content on my original resume was not relevant and took up the most space. On the flip side, the most important content took up the least space. This imbalance was corrected when we worked together on my revised resume. It turns out I was overlooking a lot of the experiences that are important for the job I was applying for and, instead, advertising some things Recruiters and Hiring Managers don’t care to see.
Once your “marketing” documents were in order, we started exploring the power of networking with the goal of making human inroads into companies you wanted to pursue. How did your view of networking change and evolve from when we first started working together? Describe your understanding of networking then versus now.
I realized networking is crucial to the job search process. Before, I thought networking was just reaching out to direct contacts to further each other’s goals. Though I know that is still very important, I now realize that developing even the smallest of rapport with people can go a long way. I’ve also been emboldened to reach out to people I previously would have considered “outside” of my network. I don’t hesitate to reach out now to people I’ve only met once or twice or to ask my immediate contacts if they know someone I could contact about certain things. Just by changing my definition of a network and networking overall has opened doors. It also creates more opportunity to grow further and in a direction that could meet my future goals as well as hopefully helping other people out in the process. It was through my own network that an introduction was made to a Hiring Manager in a target company for an informational interview. Fast forward to now, and several rounds of formal interviews later with that company, I’m in week two of my new job reporting to that very same Hiring Manager!
Following your informational interview with the Hiring Manager, you were invited to participate in a formal phone screen with the company Recruiter. Talk about how we prepared for that conversation.
After giving you information about my conversation with the Hiring Manager, you were able to outline the most likely structure of the upcoming phone screening. You helped me understand what the next screening process would be, what the purpose was, what to expect and how to approach the screening. You helped me understand how to speak to the content of my resume and the likely questions I would be asked.
After you successfully completed the Recruiter phone screen, you were invited onsite for a formal interview. In preparation for this, we revisited and dissected the job description to really get an understanding of what the company was looking for and to prepare your “pitch” on how you were able to meet their needs. Describe the approach we took in digging into the job description.
After going through the job description and identifying the qualifications and requirements the company was seeking, you had me think critically about past work experiences to see how we could fit them into the requirements in the job description. I hadn’t really given some of my experiences much thought and didn’t know how I could ever explain them in a way to reflect how they related to the skills and behaviors the company was looking for. You helped me identify a process I could go through to make sure I had examples that would shed light into showing I was a good fit for the position. It was in the process I learned about behavioral-based interviewing and having solid stories to tell, based on past work experiences which help the interviewer understand how I’ve behaved in similar or related scenarios in the past. You helped me identify accomplishments that I originally considered insignificant or irrelevant. In reality, some of these examples allowed me to speak really effectively to my ability to perform the job I was applying for.
The onsite interview was the culmination of all the preparation and steps up to this point. You were invited to interview in person with five employees of the company ranging from individual contributors to the CEO. Talk about how we formulated a plan to best prepare for this several-hour block of interviews.
Prior to working with you I was having some trouble with the interview process. I would get into interviews feeling I wasn’t able to speak about myself and what I had to offer as well as I knew I could, and we worked on this together. Once I had a confirmed interview, you helped me develop a technique to figure out information about my interviewers and how to best interact with each one in conversation. Using LinkedIn and the company’s website which contained team bios, we were able to figure out the professional history of many of them as well as their tenure at the company, which helped me formulate some questions I could ask them about the company and their experience choosing to work there. I was also able to find out some common bonds like where they went to school and companies that they worked for previously where I knew people. By identifying their positions in the company, I was better able to understand what kind of approach they may have to the interview, their stake in the position that I was interviewing for and how my role in the company would connect to or intersect with their roles. Furthermore, you helped me identify people in my own network who may know the interviewers or others in the company. This allowed me to develop some rapport with the people I was meeting that could better my chances of landing the job. I was naturally a bit nervous about several back-to-back interviews, but the work we did ahead of time made me feel that I was having productive conversations with the interview team members and set me up to successfully share with them what you described as my “personal value proposition.”
Once you completed all the interview steps (and throughout the interview process, for that matter) we discussed follow-up communication and thank-you correspondence. Describe any revelations about this protocol.
This was an etiquette I thought I was familiar with, but it turns out there were times I should have been following up and didn’t and when I didn’t need to follow up, I did. I followed up with everyone after any meeting or any conversation. I also maintained contact with the Hiring Manager throughout the process to ensure he knew how I was gauging the opportunity. I made sure to reiterate my qualifications and thank each of them for their time. I also followed up with others I had connected with in the company that were not part of the interview team as well as people who helped me with some insight on my interviewers. I realize keeping communication alive allowed me to be visible and make it evident how very interested I was in joining the team if given the opportunity.
Luke demonstrated a willingness to adopt a new way of expending his efforts in job searching through our work together. From his initial approach of submitting a high volume of online applications to eventually capitalizing on an introduction that was made for him and maximizing that opportunity, he shifted from a method where he couldn’t take a proactive stand to making the most of a valuable human contact. He then continued to convey his personal brand throughout the extensive interview process that was punctuated by preparedness, professionalism, a well-crafted pitch, thoughtful interactions and sincere and ongoing follow-up communication. Luke, like other professionals I work with, can take this approach and apply it to future job searches. That is always my goal. If you understand the essential building blocks and rely on them repeatedly and with consistency, you will eventually get the results you’re seeking.