My step-by-step guide to the job hunt
With positive responses to My step-by-step guide to writing a resume, I’ve had some requests to do the same for the broader job hunt. So here we go!
Decide what you want
A job hunt with focus tends to be more successful than an unfocused one. Think about shooting someone at a distance with a shot gun or a sniper rifle. You have a broader range with a shot gun, but a pellet might not land you anything. Versus if you were to hit with a sniper rifle, then you’re bound to land something. (Sorry about the violent metaphor to the pacifists but I haven’t been able to find another good analogy).
If you can do many things, pick one role to start with on your job hunt. That doesn’t mean you won’t go after the others, but focusing on one to start will yield you better results.
When searching, think about the title vs role vs domain. Most people don’t think about distinguishing from the three so let’s take a minute to do so at a high level:
- Title: what appears on your business card or what exists officially on HR records
- Role: what you do day-to-day
- Domain: where you do it
Many titles are not indicative of the duties done. You can stick analyst, coordinator and even manager on about any job. And a lot of job titles can be word-smithed to appeal to different people. Janitor, custodian, and sanitation maintenance engineer could be considered the same job. So although it is good to have alerts based on title, it may not be enough.
What you really want to get to is the role. Which is really made up of the day-to-day responsibilities and expectations. An office manager could make sure the supply room is stocked, take phone calls and have reception duties. Or they could manage a team of 10 people in an office environment that does that and more for them. So think about having alerts based on key responsibilities and duties.
The domain is typically the industry or functional area that you want to do it in. When a student tells me that they want to get into banking, I typically ask what does that even mean? Banks may employ thousands of people from security, to customer service representatives, to investment bankers, to the executive team and everyone in between. Or they say, they want to get into accounting. Well which companies do accounting? All of them. Which companies do finance? marketing? technology? Again, all of them. Now not to all the same degree. Accounting at a bank or a manufacturing company is different than at the Big 4 accounting firms, but it’s accounting. So although you might start with alerts based on the domain (i.e. accounting), again, think about having alerts based on key responsibilities and duties (i.e. creating reports, managing stakeholders, etc.).
From that research, make a list of the companies that you want to work for. Remember to think outside of your domain.
Start your searching and set your alerts
Go to your favourite job board and start searching. Here are some that you can consider (a bit of a Canadian focused, but you can search for others):
- http://talentegg.ca (for those looking for entry level roles; great for students and new grads)
- http://charityvillage.ca (for those looking to get into NGOs: Not-for-profit Government Organizations)
- If you’re a student: your career centre job board (any reputable school would have one and you have access to it, so go to the career centre and get access to it)
Create alerts for the ones that resonate with you. When you get the alerts in your email, make a note on the ones that resonate with you. Put a reminder every week initially and then every month to update the alerts and searches. Plus start appending to your list of companies that you want to work for.
Make sure you hit at least 80% of the job description requirements
For the job postings you find, you’ll want to hit at least 80% of the requirements to be competitive. And for the remaining 20%, you’ll ideally have other experience or skills that compensate for the gap. That’s right, you don’t have to meet 100%. Why? Well when a hiring manager is asked by the recruiter what they want in a candidate they do their best to put in their filter criteria. Let’s say they want someone with 5 years of experience managing 5 accounts at $5 million. But that’s not absolute. What if they find someone with 4 years of experience managing 10 accounts at $10 million? Wouldn’t that person be a good candidate? Or perhaps someone with 10 years of experience only managing 3 accounts of $10 million? You get the picture.
And if you’re below 80% then you’ll probably not be competitive enough in the process so it’s probably not worth your or their time.
Create an awesome resume and cover letter for the application
Yes you should have a cover letter if you have the option. It’s true that some recruiters don’t read them. But do you want to take the chance that your application is being reviewed by “some recruiter” or by the recruiter that values cover letters. To me cover letters are an indicator that you are making an effort. And when you make an effort, it might seem like you actually want the job. And wouldn’t I want to hire someone that actually wants the job, vs someone that’s just doing the minimum. Your choice.
I’ll write a cover letter guide at some point so stay tuned for that.
Be diligent and consistent
If you’re a full time job seeker then you want to treat your job hunt like a full-time job. To me, that means 8 job applications a day. You should be able to crank out an application in under an hour (maybe not at first, and read theCareer Document part of the resume guide on how to do it). So for a typical 8 hour work day, that’s where 8 job applications comes from. The “under an hour” is where you spend time on the other job hunt activities we’ll get to (practising interviews and BMC/networking).
What if out of all of the job alert emails, there aren’t 8 jobs that you should to apply to? well then replace that with a network connection.
If you’re in school or working or otherwise not full-time on the job hunt, then adjust the targets appropriately.
Update your LinkedIn and appropriate social media
For high level summary:
- Have a professional looking picture
- Have a compelling header which demonstrates the value you provide (not just student at X or your job title)
- Content that has keywords that would appear in recruiter searches (think of the job postings you’ve seen)
- Be active (where possible)
OPTIONAL: Find yourself a headhunter/recruiter?
An optional step. It’s worth while to demystify the terms first as there are multiple types of recruiters. They fall into 3 main buckets.
- Employee of the company: large companies will have dedicated people in HR to be recruiters. Some for campus vs experience. They are often the gate keepers into the organization.
- Contracted by the company on fixed compensation: for companies that don’t do enough recruiting to have a dedicated team or require recruiting for a specialized role, they may employ a company on retainer at a fixed rate (basically a salary) to do the recruiting. They’ll often have them help wit other HR functions as well.
- Contracted by the company on commission: these agencies or individuals are who are paid a percentage of salary (or sometimes fixed amount) for every individual they are able to get hired into a role. So when I refer recruiter, this is what I am referring to)
Keep in mind that the jobs of all recruiters is NOT to find you a job. It’s to fill a role. Just like most things in life, not all recruiters are created equal. So you’ll want to understand motivations. There are very good recruiters out there who want to place you in amazing opportunities. There are others that need to meet there quotas and want to make a buck.
So with all that in mind, it’s up to you if you want to enlist the help of a recruiter. I personally would appreciate the help from someone else, especially if it’s not costing me anyting. Though I’m a big fan of networking and Building Meaningful Connections which help the jobs come to me.
Practice interview questions
You may or may not be getting interviews already, and you should be practising your responses to interview questions right now.
I recommend 8 practice interview questions a day.
I’ll write a step-by-step interview prep guide at some point as well so stay tuned.
Network NOT to get a job
This will likely be the hardest part of the job hunt. BMC Building Meaningful Connections is about networking NOT to get a job. Instead to be curious, interested and to add value. And when you do the jobs start coming to you.
Connect with 8 strategic new connections and 8 reconnects per day. PLUS register and attend a networking event once a week. You can drop-off the reconnects once you’ve reconnected with everyone you can think of.
And my more comprehensive online course on the art & science of networking.
Track them apps!
You’ll be cranking out applications and will want a way to keep track of them.
- Download the posting WHY? If you just link to the posting then when you get that interview and click the link to look as a reference, then they might have taken down the posting
- Put the name of the company, role and date applied in an Excel, google sheet or something
- Record which version of your resume you used
- Track interactions and once there’s a positive response, don’t let more than 2 weeks go by without follow up (unless they tell you that there won’t be any updates for longer
A typical job hunt can take 2–6 months. When a job is posted, the company will often have it open for a month. They might take a few weeks to get through initial interviews, then a few more weeks to do later stage interviews, and after all approvals are done, it’s 2–6 months before you get an offer (assuming you’re successful at all stages in the process). The process can be quicker, especially if it’s through BMC.
You’re on your way to getting a job!
- 8 applications / day
- 8 practice interview questions / day
- 8 strategic new connections / day
- 8 re-connections / day
- 1 networking event / week
And that’s with an 8 hour day. If you are really serious about the job hunt, there are 8 other hours to leverage (or whatever you can manage based on other commitments, plus you should get your 8 hours or so sleep).
Keep at it! Best of luck and feel free to reach out if I can be of help!
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FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions
What if I have done my 8 applications, 8 practice interview questions and 8 connections, and I still have extra time, where should I spend it?
BMC: In my opinion, spending time on relationships is hands-down the best way to get a job.
Take a look at a post on the lottery vs the hustle for a metaphor on online applications vs BMC
How many interviews should I be expecting based on my applications?
You should expect 5–10% of your applications to land you an interview. That means that if you send 10-20 applications, you should expect 1 interview. Which also means that if you haven’t applied to 20 jobs, then you might not get an interview. I heard a speaker say that they had 4 job offers, from 16 interviews, from over 800 job applications. So that tells me his resume could have been better (or he could have had better relationships). And that probably tells you that you need to get your numbers up.
If you’re not in that range, then either you’re not doing enough volume, or the quality of your resume isn’t good enough (go back to the resume guide, or reach out to me if you really need help firstname.lastname@example.org).
How many offers should I be expecting from my applications?
Getting an offer from the interview depends on how well you practised and fit the role vs the other candidates plus a lot of factors not under your control. As long as you feel you put forward your best effort in the interview. And make sure you debrief with yourself to reflect and learn from your interview experience.
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