How to get a job

Purpose of this document is to help people increase their understanding of the flow of getting a job and the crucial pieces of the puzzle to get a good one.

Why should you trust me? Well you should not. Blindly trusting anyone is a risky proposition. You should take the time to read what I have here and use your experience and knowledge to adjust everything to your specific case.

Other than that I have been hiring people since 2012 which at the moment of writing this is 8 years ago. I don’t have hard numbers but my guesstimate is that I have seen CVs in the thousands, did probably about 500 phone screens and 200 interviews (some alone some as part of a panel) and hired 50ish people. So I have some experience, but that does not mean anything about how good am I at being interviewed?

I did get hired 3 times as a people manager and with the last one I was interviewed by what feels like the whole of Red Hat ūüôā¬†

Full disclosure, this page will only get you to about 80% of what I would call being completely ready. It is not that I do not want to share something but that the remaining 20% require 2-way communication and time spent together. That is something you could get by going to interviews and seeing what happens. But interviewers are very skimpy on the details when providing feedback unless you get the job and start working there. With a lot of the interviews today being remote you could actually record yourself and review it yourself or ask a friend to do it. Also that is something that I will probably consider doing for a fee in the future.

 

What I would like to cover:

  • Deciding you want a new job
  • Pre-CV preparation
  • CV building
  • Feedback collection
  • Interview preparation
  • Job searching
  • Job applications
  • Reading a job description
  • Communicating with companies
  • Compensation negotiation
  • Other negotiation

 

Deciding you want a new job

Sometimes we decide, sometimes the decisions are made for us. It is not the same how you got there and it is not the same weather you have the time bomb of being unemployed on your back. 

What could be some of the reasons to look for a job:

  • I would like to earn more money
  • I would like to advance my career
  • I am not satisfied with my current company/team/manager/job
  • I am moving to a different country/city for personal reasons

By deciding where your situation falls you will also be creating a story for your future prospective employer.

Be very careful how people will see you when talking about your reasons. Lets do a couple of examples of good and bad responses and some reasoning behind whey they are such.

 

What is better?

Interviewer: So tell me why are you looking for a new job?

You: Oh I just want more money!

or

Interviewer: So tell me why are you looking for a new job?

You: Per my research I seem to be underpaid compared to market rate. I have discussed my compensation with my current manager. He does not see the possibility of significant increases to bring me up to par in the near future possible.

Lets disect the messages a bit.

The first example is very short answer and you are allowing the interviewer to think about your exact motivation and perhaps deduce something wrongly. And if stated as such and I have heard it in interviews it really decreases your atractiveness as a long term employee as you would be expected to leave for the next small jump in salary quickly.

The second example shows multiple qualities of the candidate:

  • Per my research I seem to be underpaid compared to market rate. – You have taken the time to understand your compensation and the market rate. Definite positive as it shows proactivness and attention to detail¬†
  • I have discussed my compensation with my current manager. – Some people have a really hard time asking for a raise, or think that the manager should know when they really need a raise. Asking for a raise (and that is a part of a different conversation) is a normal part of being an employee. Definite positive, you are able to communicate your issues to your manager and work on a long term solution.
  • He does not see the possibility of significant increases to bring me up to par in the near future possible. – You have shown willingness to work on it but the reality is that it will not be possible. This could though invite a question of why would it not be possible so be prepared.

 

Interviewer: So tell me why are you looking for a new job?

You: I would like to advance my career

or

Interviewer: So tell me why are you looking for a new job?

You: At this moment I feel the opportunities that are available in my current company are not going to allow me to grow as an expert in my chosen field.

or

You: I would like to be in a position that widens my area of expertise and allows me to better understand the whole picture of the business.

 

The first example is not a bad answer but you are making your interviewer to work too hard. Now he has to ask you additional questions and he might ask something that you do not have the right answer for. Always try to lead the conversation in the direction where you feel you have an advantage and can showcase your skills.

The second example:

  • In the first option you are already specifying what is your interest. You want to be in the field you are in and be an expert. You show that you have looked internally and could also add some details on company direction, availability of positions in your location etc.¬†
  • In the second option I am assuming you are applying to a position that is not your main job today. There are common paths in different industries where people switch over to a new one. One of the examples in IT would be engineers moving over to a project management track. Moving to a different company while switching paths is a tough thing to do, but they invited you for an interview so they must believe you were at least worth a conversation.¬†

Interviewer: So tell me why are you looking for a new job?

You: I am not satisfied with my current company/team/manager/job.

or

Interviewer: So tell me why are you looking for a new job?

You: 

 

 

Pre-CV preparation

Why is there a section like this? Because to build your CV the right way you have to think about what you want to achieve. 

Things to think about:

  • Type of job I want
  • Seniority of job I want
  • My skills
  • My experience at work
  • What do they say the job requires
  • What does the job actually require
  • How much detail do I want to put in the CV

A really good CV is not built in one day, and there is usualy something to add, remove or alter. You should be constantly looking at your CV and at the job descriptions that are interesting to you. Look at ads and  see if they are asking for something that you are able to do but is not on your CV. 

 

CV building

There is no perfect CV and you will have to see  what works for your industry, but there are the classic rules that you can and should use.

You should always look to the people who have invested a lot of time and money into something and take advantage of it. If you go to LinkedIn and look at the page structure that they have, there must have been a reason why they built it that way. And Microsoft paid $26B for them so they must know something about CVs. 

If we autopsy LinkedIn structure of a CV of a not so random guy here. 

The first section is a picture and a summary. This is where you get people interested. An average HR/TA/Recruiter will give your CV probably up to 2 minutes and already have in their head should they forward it. If the hiring manager is looking at all CVs and trust me some of us do, you might get 3-4 minutes. That is why you need to hit the triger words that people have in their heads for a specific position. The picture thing is tricky. On LinkedIn, which you absolutely must have completely identical to your CV (unless you look at the next paragraph), I think a picture is a must. The culture of LinkedIn is such that people have pictures. On a CV though I prefer not to have a picture. Not having a picture on your CV that you submit is a risk management proposition. From experience there is very little possible positive impact from a picture and it usually has no relation to the job. Yes usually as you actually might be a customer facing person that requires good looks as part of the job. 

Second part is the jobs that you have done or are doing. Reverse order, meaning newest one first. As you go down the list you can start shortening the descriptions especially in the document version. This means the LinkedIn and the document will not be exactly the same. I have the last 10 or so years on my CV and keep a link to my LinkedIn there so that people who need more info can go and get it. 

Anatomy of a job in your CV is also very important. You do not really want to put a whole job description there, it is a lot of unnecessary information that is just going to tire someone out and they might miss the trully important parts. At the start 2-3 achievements in the position are a great thing to have, it shows that you were active and had impact on the team. Then you can give a description of the position and the job you had to do. If the typical reader is going to know what you mean by using a shorthand or industry standard terminology please use it. If you can write something in 10 words instead of 20, please do.

 

Feedback collection

This is not just a “get references” kind of thing. Talk to your current and ex colleagues and talk about the jobs you were doing. If you are willing ask them for opinions on what you have written in the CV. Also roam LinkedIn and start bookmarking really good position descriptions of what you have also done and compare to what you have put in. This will allow you to mix and match and borrow ideas of how to represent the work in the best way possible. Over time I probably bookmarked LinkedIn profiles in the hundreds as I was trying to get the right language and sentances to present my experience.

When you are happy with your LinkedIn profile make sure to send requests for recommendations. It is a certainty that people from the company you are applying to jump there to see if there is something. Its not a negative if you have no recommendations as a lot of people do not ask and its rare that someone proactively writes one. But it sure is positive if you have multiple and make sure to read them extra carefully to understand how you are seen by your colleagues.

 

Interview preparation

One might think that it is to early to prepare for an interview before having one scheduled. Well it is never too early. Preparing for an interview also influences your CV. As you start working on the story of your career, and yes thats a thing, you will want to try and tweak your CV to have a better flow.

Then you have to start thinking hey what are they actually going to ask me?

Lets think about the types of questions that people usually get asked on interviews.

  • Introductory/General type of questions eg. (why do you want to work for us, tell us about yourself, why are you looking to change your company…) – these are questions you want to go through as fast as possible as they rarely give you an upper hand compared to other candidates as all will have similar answers. You need to go through your whole career in 2 minutes (yes 120 seconds).
  • Job specific questions eg. (can you tell me more about role XYZ, what was your exact role in activities XYZ, what were the most important things you achieved) – these you should be able to start answering really quickly and to the point. There is a balance you need to hit about too much or too few things to say, always pay attention to the interviewer and if they are getting ready to ask a sub-question or a new one. Be direct in what YOU did, a lot of the candidates use WE a lot and it just invites doubt and additional questions.
  • Behavioral type questions eg. (tell me about a time where you had to disagree with your manager, tell me about your most frustrating work relationship, tell me what achievement were you most proud of in your career) – Its OK to pause at these types of questions. If the interviewer does not remind you, there is no single right answer, it is an attempt to gauge your style of work and your experience in handling some tough situations. It is also OK to mention a time where you felt you failed and then point out what you are/will be doing differently in the same situation.

There are multiple types of interviews that you should be aware of:

  • HR (human resources) / TA (tallent acquisition) / Screening – These could be done by the HR/TA or by the hiring manager. These usually do not go into as much detail about what you have done but want to cover that your experience does actually match the position advertised. If it is the hiring manager it is a general screen to put a face to the name and get a feel for team fit and what the manager is looking for, in my case its a 30min general conversation.
  • Technical panels – one or more technical people from the team hiring or adjecent teams that could work with you. Some of the questions might be outside of your area of expertise, it is OK to say “I don’t know” and make a logical estimation (or not). Engineers are usualy more precise and like shorter answers. You might get some non-technical questions as they look to find out more about you as a person and how you would fit into the team. Be yourself!
  • Non technical panel – usually managers, project managers and all sort of different folk that might be more or less invested into the interview. Expect general and behavioral questions. Do not get thrown off if they start dragging you onto thin ice, that is their job and they might want to see how you do under pressure.

Depending on the company policy, location of the job compared to your current one and other factors (like the current virus raging through the globe) these might be in person or remote. It used to be pretty normal to have an HR/TA screen followed by a hiring manager screen remotely and a single day in person interview in the office (which actually can take from 2-5 hours with different people).

What do you need to know when being interviewed?

  • Company information – understand both global and local situation of the company, whats the business and what does the local organiation do for the most part
  • Hiring team information – some of the information should be in the job description but that assumes it was well and thoroughly written, which is not always the case. Feel free to ask information and find out where the team sits in the hierarchy, relation to other teams and what are the biggest challanges
  • Why they might be talking to you – weirdly enough you might be invited to an interview for a position that does not really align with your experience and even get hired (happened to me in DT/T-Mobile). As my interviewer and future boss told me “One thing is how we would like the perfect candidate to be like, another what we can find.” On the other hand you might be the perfect candidate but their position is to collect CVs and they never tell you that and you keep wondering why they have not called… I could keep on rambling but will stop here

 

Job searching

So you got your CV prepared, you feel good about the process of the interviews and have armed yoursef with confidence. So how do you approach searching for a job?

Well the first thing is deciding on some things:

  • Am I ok to stay where I am until I find a great opportunity – I will paraphrase a saying that I read somewhere a long time ago “The best time to look for a new job is when you are absolutely happy at your current job.”. Now why would you be looking for a job when you are happy you might say? Looking around does not mean that you have to change your job, but if somewhere out there is a better opportunity for you compared to where you are now you might take it. Equally enough the worst time to be looking for a job is when you do not have one or you are very unhappy. This usually means that you will compromise on some things that you would not if you had a comfortable situation. And lets be clear taking a job you are not really excited about is almost never going to turn out well.
  • How much time do I have to commit to the search – Searching for the right job takes time, a lot of time. Finding the companies that fit the culture you want to be in, finding connections that might refer you instead of just applying directly, searching the job descriptions and understanding them. This all takes time and for a lot of people it is a painful experience. And on top needing to actually interview like a billion times through HR/TA, recruiters, screens just to find out on your 3rd round interview that they are looking for something else than whats in the job description.
  • Am I willing to apply for a variety of positions – Do I have a clear career path that I want to take be it in a technical¬† niche or a not technical type role? If not, what paths would I be OK working in? Do I actually have a clear path but I am not currently on it (think engineer moving to project management)?
  • Will I apply for positions that seem to be above my paygrade – It can happen, trust me, I got hired into my first people management position while I was “just” a team lead in my previous job. Its not easy, takes a lot of time and many applications and interviews but it can happen (please see the first three bullets :)). There is a saying “You will miss 100% of the shots that you do not take.” and thats a fair statement. Chance of you making really big career jumps based are not great but they exist. Think not just about the exact state but also of relative state. If you are in a senior position but have on your shoulders unusually high level of responsibility, that actually might be more what other companies see as a principal position. So you applying for a “jump” is not that unimaginable.

Always keep in mind cumulative impact of investement. What ever time that you invest in putting yourself in a great career situation it will be paying off every day, every month and every year. Your 5% jump in salary comes in every month, your ability to visible in a great team opens new doors, your exposure to cutting edge technology makes you even more valuable tomorrow. That is why time invested in searching and getting the right job is always worth it.

 

 

Job applications

You have a plan, you have your list of companies and types of positions and you have your CV. And then you start putting in the work.

  • Should I change my CV to fit the company or job description? – I personally do not. It is too much work for not enough benefit. If you are very clear on who you are up to this point and what you are looking for then there is very little reason to take the time and redo your CV for each specific job. Now if you are applying for different types of positions (eg. PM and Engineer) you could have 2 different CVs each focusing a little bit more on the area you will be applying to.
  • Why you really want to be reffered! – Being referred is often a win-win situation. The referrer usually gets a bonus from the company if someone they refer gets hired and stays 6months or so while the referred one gets somewhat more attention to their CV. Depending on your relationship with your contact you might even ask them to prod the HR/TA to take a look at your profile or get some additional information. It happenes that positions are on-hold, filled, impossible to fill or such and it helps to know.
  • Applying to multiple positions in the same company? – If you are being real picky companies will not usually have more than 1 positions that totally suits you. Don’t think there is a positive or a negative in applying for multiple positions if they are a fit.
  • Repeat applications for the same position? – From what I have seen its a waste of time mostly. But let me know if it works for you would be happy to be proven wrong.

 

Reading a job description

 

 

Communicating with companies

 

 

Compensation negotiation

 

 

Other negotiation