Looking for a job in the modern era can be kind of tough. There are a variety of reasons for this:
- Many hiring processes are broken
- Recruiting “strategies” tend to actually alienate the best candidates
- There isn’t much communication between the hiring manager and HR, so the whole thing is pretty low-context
- The company side is probably very concerned with headcount, i.e. “filling the seat,” so decisions can be rushed (even though it feels like forever on the candidate side)
That’s just a partial smattering of the issues with looking for a job. I didn’t even really touch on the job-hopping stigma, whereby you need to hop jobs to make more money, but the process of hopping jobs makes you look bad to HR departments. D’oh!
I can’t promise to necessarily “hack” the process of looking for a job for you, but I can help you out a little bit in terms of understanding the disconnects.
Looking for a job: The company-side disconnect
Liz Ryan defined this disconnect well once:
I hope you don’t make your customers and prospects create their own records in Salesforce! You value your customers too much to make them unpaid clerical help, and you need to value job applicants that much or more.
That right there is the disconnect. The sheer fact that Applicant Tracking Systems exist — that we have to go through 18 screens and input all this repetitive crap about ourselves — means that the true “decision-makers” of a company could care less about hiring. If a customer had to on-board that way, they’d all bounce. Execs would be livid. And yet, it’s fine for people whose salary you will soon pay.
That’s the disconnect. It’s around caring.
How would a job-seeker reduce this disconnect?
You care less too. Here’s what you do:
- Network through LinkedIn, past jobs, professors, your parents, your parents’ friends, etc.
- Find a few places you have a potential “strong in” and focus there first
- Also find a few places that seem cool for what you want to do but you lack an “in”
- For those places, look at their various resources and frame up an awesome letter about how you could help them solve some issues
- Combine that with the “strong in” places and that’s the crux of your job search
- Now do about 100/week “Indeed Easy Apply” and “LinkedIn Easy Apply”
- Zero fucks given
You need to think on looking for a job this way because honestly, the company-side doesn’t care. So you should care even less. You need a job and I get that, but something off LinkedIn Easy Apply that pays you for three years is better than running yourself through an emotional gauntlet over a bunch of mostly-uncontrollable factors. Jobs are means to an end. Career arcs are journeys. We get there, even if it takes a long-ass time.
Looking for a job: The candidate-side disconnect
Near the top of a new Wharton article called “The Biggest Mistakes Job Seekers Make Today” is this gem:
One of the things that seems to be taking up a lot of people’s time and not getting as much in the way of results as they would like is personal branding. People are putting in a lot of time in to making sure that their online presence reflects what they see as their authentic self, and on the hiring side, nobody seemed to care about personal branding. But personal branding, as you know, takes a lot of time.
Literal LOL right there. People spending days/weeks cultivating and managing their Instagram and Medium channels. You think some HR flack could care less? Or even the hiring manager? Personal branding is important, don’t get me wrong — hit this target — but it doesn’t matter as much as we think in hiring.
But don’t employers look at your social / digital footprint?
Of course, although it’s dubious how much true “social recruiting” is really happening. Oftentimes when people look at that stuff, it’s vetting. They want to make sure there are no dubious drunk pics, etc. It’s not necessarily a check of your “personal branding.”
Let me try to explain this as clearly as possible. I may get off-task.
- Most offices, and definitely most hiring processes, are managed by “sense of urgency.” That means there’s a lot of yelling about “I need this now!” and everyone is responding to that instead of contextualizing anything.
- In such an environment, it really doesn’t even matter how impressive your background is. Kinda what matters is (a) are you available now? and (b) do the right people seem to think you’d work out?
- We could make this process more scientific, of course — People Analytics? — but we don’t, because we don’t care.
- It would be easier to vet if we had legitimate interview questions, as opposed to the drivel we currently have.
So a rushed process (that feels as if it’s taking forever) rooted in small talk and supposedly urgent need is going to get you hired. It’s not necessarily your “personal brand,” no.
What should candidates do instead of personal branding, then?
- Work connections
- Frame yourself as coming in immediately to help
- Be professional and respectful at every turn
- Smile and nod when you get to the hiring manager
- Realize that even if this doesn’t seem like a great fit, the business model will pivot in 10 months and you might be in a great job
- Try to see if the job role legitimately makes sense and seems to need to exist
Anything else you’d add on how to understand the disconnects when looking for a job?