27 6 / 2012
The Benefits of Brutal Honesty
I’ve always been a big proponent of brutal honesty—in my personal life and in business. And I think my job hunt should be no different. I think above all else, honesty can get you a job, even if it seems counter-intuitive.
As I type this, I’m in a position of talking with two companies, each on their own timelines, who are highly interested in hiring me. I have no offer from either, but their word that it’s heading that way. And so, I have recently come to the realization that instead of leading them both on, or trying to use it later to my advantage when actual salaries and offer letters emerge, I have told both of them that the other exists.
By sharing these moments of honesty in initial discussions, the relationship building can begin before I’m even hired.
Now, let me explain why I would do something that seems so against common sense and self-interest. For one, it sets the expectation that I am actively looking—not just for anything—for the right thing. And if delays arise in the hiring process, which is the case for both of these employers, then we all have a better idea of the timeline and what to expect. It makes me look like a valuable resource worth respecting and it also shows that I respect them, too. This eliminates surprises and the hiring game, where some potential new hires attempt to pit companies against each other. If I inform all parties that I am actively looking and the existence of pending offers, it makes us all take each other that much more seriously and we’ll better appreciate each others’ time. As a potential hire, I start off knowing that I’m not the only one, and I feel that by sharing in a non-threatening way that I also have options, there seems to be less friction and more openness during the process. By sharing these moments of honesty in initial discussions, the relationship building can begin before I’m even hired. And if the final decision comes out and another direction was taken by either of us, then the door would be open for networking, interview feedback, and possibly future opportunities.
Congratulations, you got the job you never wanted! Hooray! Nobody really wants this to happen.
The argument against brutal honesty has never sat well with me. I think that people, in general, want to know the truth, even if they initially have negative reactions to hearing the truth. I believe that the truth often gets hidden or omitted because of some misguided concepts of political correctness or professionalism (both of which I am also a big fan of, in the right circumstances). And I think during a job hunt, not telling the truth in regards to what you’re looking for and what you’re expecting from employers helps no one. Congratulations, you got the job you never wanted! Hooray! Nobody really wants this to happen. The most meaningful interactions I’ve had during my job hunt have been the ones where we’ve both put it all out there and kept it as genuine and transparent as possible. The conversation goes so much more smoothly when both parties know that they can just be themselves and don’t have to constantly edit (don’t mention the other candidates, he might be offended! -or- I better not tell them I have this other offer, they’ll stop interviewing me!). I breathed a sigh of relief when I opened up about my other opportunities, and I think the recruiters for both companies appreciate cutting through the noise as much as possible, too.
Update: One of the opportunities got back to me—they’re going with a more junior candidate who was referred by a partner. I did received feedback that the interview went great and I was the most experienced candidate, but that they changed the scope of the position and decided on a junior level candidate instead. We’re going to keep in touch.
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30 5 / 2012
The Time Machine
On April 17, 2012, I decided I wasn’t waiting anymore. I started looking for a new job and life in San Francisco. About a week before, I received a birthday present from a friend–a Time Machine. No, not that kind of time machine–it’s a kinetic display clock that increments time by shifting around chrome ball bearings to minutes and hours.
For over a month, it sat on my desk at work without a power source. I really had no excuse to leave it sitting there neglected; it accepts C batteries or 6 volt DC. I was finding myself rationalizing the reasons why I shouldn’t waste my time turning it on. “Why haven’t you bought batteries,” my coworkers would ask. “I could have a job anytime now,” I’d think to myself.
One of my work friends who knows about my job search wrote, “LAME,” on a Post-It Note and stuck it on the Time Machine so passersby could see my shame. I’d tell my lunchtime confidant, “but, I’ll be gone soon!” Every few days he’d check on the Time Machine and tease me about the neglected state of my desk gadget.
I couldn’t avoid the obvious correlations to my own life. I’ve been ignoring the here and now. My work hasn’t been affected; I’ve always been praised for being a top performer, but the only thing I seem to be focused on is my current job and finding my next one. When I go home, I’m usually in the living room on my laptop looking for leads as I “watch” (more like listen) to my favorite TV shows. I’m constantly missing visual cues on Mad Men and Community.
I took Memorial Day weekend off from the job search to enjoy a much-needed vacation from all obligations. Reading résumé tips, networking on LinkedIn, and researching new opportunities can’t happen every day. In fact, I should probably pick a day each week to relax and not focus on the job search at all. It will come in time.
I did finally get around to putting batteries in the Time Machine. And while there is no actual time machine that will magically transport me to my next destination, I’m perfectly content to give myself an occasional break to watch the time pass by.
15 5 / 2012
Applying en masse
This last weekend was a major push for me. Over the last few months, I’ve worked, reworked, started over, redesigned and repackaged more versions of my résumé than I care to count (if I was doing version control I’d probably be on v8.9.27).
I’m quickly learning the art of the cover letter. Should I always include one? I’ve always assumed that I should, but I think there’s a possibility that including one has hurt me at times. I’m thinking from the perspective of a busy recruiter. What if a recruiter only spends a minute looking at my application documents and spends most of it on my cover letter? That time is probably better spent going over my qualifications. Some jobs I have applied to are a great match to my experience—if I apply and I have the skills, I probably shouldn’t have included a cover letter. Some jobs are a stretch—I hadn’t served in the exact role for which I was applying, but am qualified based on overlapping/related experience—those jobs need a cover letter (or a streamlined résumé, or both). Some companies explicitly state that they want a cover letter (I also include one in the body of an email if I’m applying that way), but I’d appreciate companies letting me know up front that they won’t read my cover letter (it’d be a huge time saver!). Facebook only allows for one file upload with each application, so I’ve submitted for jobs differently: submitting for a job with a combined document (cover letter and résumé) and, for another job, skipping the cover letter entirely, allowing my experience to speak for itself.
My cover letter, when I do send it, is in this format:
<Greeting that also mentions job position>
<Bulleted list of my applicable experience>
<Some personal qualities that make me a good fit for this position>
<Exit that sounds pleasant and is a call to action; essentially asking them to read my résumé for more information and let’s talk soon>
<Full Name & Contact Info>
I admire one company that only allowed what they called an optional “cover blurb” limited to 140 characters. You’d think this would be difficult, but I found this to be absolutely freeing! They further impressed me by saying that “All applications receive a response.” This was refreshing since I have been utterly ignored by some companies (even a swift rejection is better than no response at all). It felt good to empty my application queue—it gives me a sense of accomplishment.
I’m only applying to jobs I’d actually accept (as long as offered with a healthy work environment/culture and competitive salary/benefits). I’m hoping one of these opportunities comes through, but I can’t stop looking yet. I’ll be using Huntsy, Path.To, and SF Craigslist more than ever.
04 5 / 2012
Advice on Job Rejections
Rejections are a necessary part of the job search process. I don’t know if I would have been ready if I was offered a job on day one of my job search (totally ready now, though). Ultimately, I think the struggle is a good thing. Friends and loved ones have offered the following advice:
"An acknowledgement of fit"
Someone told me he calls a rejection “an acknowledgement of fit.” There is a more primal part of me that feels slighted, but my higher thinking kicks in and I have to admit that if they don’t think I’m a good fit, they may be on to something! The last thing that either of us wants is for me to arrive on my first day ready to work and it’s not what either of us expected.
"A salesman views each rejection as getting that much closer to a sale.”
Yet another suggestion was to view my job search like a salesman. A good salesman receives dozens of rejections before an eventual sale. Unlike most people though, a good salesman views each rejection as a potential opportunity; this energizes the salesman. A rejection now can mean that the next sale could be around the corner.
"View everything as eventual."
I was talking to a friend about some recent job rejections (some coming within 24 hours – efficient!) and his advice, apparently from a self-help tape was, “view everything as eventual.” Celebrities and CEOs often express that they knew they were going to be successful. Barring them having some sort of crystal ball, the only way they became successful was to work towards a goal and believe that it would happen. The power of seeing yourself there is a powerful incentive, and some days that’s all I have—the knowledge that if I keep working, I will make it there eventually.
My Advice: Send a thank you note because they may hire you in the future!
30 4 / 2012
YONOJ: You Only Need One Job
That’s what I keep telling myself. I’ve been submitting plenty of résumés, but nothing has come up… yet. You only need one job—YONOJ. I’ll make time for YOLO once this job search is over. The hunt continues!
I use LinkedIn to network with recruiters and connect with professional colleagues (who may have connections when they move on to new opportunities). I’ve become a fan of the recommendations feature lately. It feels great to give them and when you get an awesome one, it can really set you apart from other job candidates.
Path.To matches you to jobs based on your social network information (including LinkedIn), skills, and work environment preferences. It’s incredibly simple to use and it’s provided me leads that I haven’t found anywhere else! The only thing I’d change is allowing attachments when applying to jobs. I’ve spent a lot of time formatting my résumé and I’m unable to share it with the employer unless I click the “Apply via Company Website” button.
Craigslist is still a favorite. Easy to navigate, the search works perfectly (I use boolean operators to refine my search), and it’s an easy transaction… I find a job that interests me, I click the email link (usually, not always available), attach my cover letter (or compose it in email) and résumé and I’m done! No registration, no login, no job cart! Definitely not as customized to my preferences as Path.To, but enjoyable nonetheless.
And of course, my Huntsy account is ON FIRE tracking all of these jobs. It’s been a lifesaver. I can’t think of a time where I’ve had time to apply for a job the same time that I’ve seen it, so I’ve been using the +Huntsy bookmarklet incessantly. I enjoy the positive encouragement as I complete my daily to-dos. I can watch my progress move from red, to yellow, to green.