Jobhunting Notes

I first started building these notes to help some employees I could no longer keep, and we've kept updating this over the years; I hope you find these methods as useful as others have.

Here is the general advice:
  1. I presented a career management seminar in late 2012, the video is probably worth watching for you.  In followup to the video, Google has now admitted that their popularized stunt interviews are completely useless.  Google's Project Oxygen is also worth a read if you're a leader of people.
  2. If you're employed, then your jobhunt should focus on your dream job, don't quit something stable for more of the same unless you're switching for a 15-30% gain.  If you're unemployed, your focus should be to get back in the game before levelling up.  http://lifehacker.com/5781477/ has some good advice for the recently unemployed, as does http://liveyourlegend.net/what-to-do-when-you-get-fired-or-quit-purpose-finding-101/ and http://www.bonvivantonline.com/2011/11/15/what-to-do-after-getting-fired/
  3. http://www.linkedin.com is a very useful professional networking tool.  I recommend filling out as much information in it as possible, and using it to search for past classmates and colleagues that may be useful in your search.  Also spend some time learning how it can be used to jobhunt. Sign up and complete your profile, then look for coworkers to link with.  Do this before you exit your current role.  (Some advice here: http://www.labnol.org/internet/linkedin-tips-for-job-seekers/7249/ and here: http://lancehaun.com/how-to-captivate-and-impress-with-your-linkedin-profile/)  Note that you'll probably want to turn off activity broadcasts if you're doing heavy profile editing (http://lifehacker.com/the-most-important-setting-to-change-in-linkedin-before-1537070655).  Read the forums, and answer people's questions -- good answers build karma that makes you more attractive to recruiters.  See how recruiters use LinkedIn here: http://talent.linkedin.com/success-toolkit/Webcast
  4. Two commercial services exist to get you prompt access to job postings by finding all the postings across thousands of sites and aggregating them together -- http://www.petersnewjobs.com/free-trial.html is a service (Toronto and Ottawa) that provides you with a daily mail about newly available open positions, and http://www.careeraim.com/FeaturesComparison.aspx maintains a database of all the jobs they find in a web-searchable database.  I recommend trying out at least the PNJ free trial for four weeks.  Two free and lower-quality alternatives are described at http://www.cheezhead.com/2009/05/28/jc-find-a-job-without-having-to-look/ and http://newjoblist.com/
  5. You're more likely to find a job by networking through the hidden job market, so get over your fears and stop thinking it's disingenuous.  Start here:  http://www.quintcareers.com/informational_interviewing.html and remember that most of the "traditional" advice is wrong: http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2012/12/21/is-traditional-advice-killing-your-job-search/This is very important -- once you've been jobhunting for 2-3 weeks and you've sorted out your resume basics and your daily checklist (See "Routine" below), then you should be spending 70-80% of your jobhunting time on this hidden job market. No more than 20-30% of your time should be spent on searching and applying.
  6. Think about other professionals that you know, and consider dropping them a note to let them know that you're pursuing new opportunities.  When you meet with people, you won't always have a resume to give them.  Create a webpage with an easy-to-remember URL, so that you can just give them the URL.  They can pass this URL around to their own contacts by instant messenger quite easily.  Make sure that your webpage contains your resume, contact information, a link to your LinkedIn profile, etc.  Refer to http://sites.google.com/site/RobertRussell for an example.  I use Google Sites for free hosting, refer to their getting started guide if you'd like to be as cool as I am.  The lazy way to get a link is to get one like http://ca.linkedin.com/in/robertrussell from LinkedIn -- get started at https://help.linkedin.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/87
  7. Karma is real.  Helping other people find work is a great way to stay in the conversations.  I get recruiter calls all the time, asking me if I know anyone from my network that's looking - because they're not allowed to advertise a secret position.  Let your former managers and your references know that you're on the market - preferably over a coffee while you catch up on their careers and discuss industry trends.
  8. For crying out loud, stop using your hotmail address for jobhunting.  http://lifehacker.com/5447335/know-what-your-email-address-says-about-you -- and if you're worried about losing contact with people that know you by your hotmail address, that's not really an issue at all: http://www.howtogeek.com/80104/how-to-send-and-receive-hotmail-from-your-gmail-account-2/ -- if you'd like your own domain for email and website, I recommend the "DNS Hosting" package from https://web.easydns.com/Pricing/ to direct web users to your LinkedIn profile, and emails to your gmail account.
  9. When applying for a job on a website, you usually have to upload your resume and submit your application online.  The company's computers then use "artificial" "intelligence" to come up with the best resumes for humans to review - so most people's applications will never get seen by a human at all.  A dirty sneaky trick to get around this is to create a single large Word document as your "Application package" that contains your cover letter as page 1, then your resume, followed by the job posting itself as an appendix.  Maybe also include some testimonials or portfolio/sample work, maybe also a skills matrix and other stuff so that your file contains as many keywords as possible.  Because the job posting is included as an appendix, the company's computers will find all of the keywords in your document, and score your application higher in the search results.  Yes, it's a dirty trick, but companies that do this are cheating and dehumanizing the process anyhow, so they deserve it.
 


Routine:

Many of your jobhunting tasks are routine, and you'll start to slip on some of them if you don't have a written checklist of daily, weekly and monthly tasks.  The tasks should not only help you find a job, but more importantly, should continue to position yourself as the first person that a hiring manager will think of, or will find, before they start advertising a role.  Check out similar advice from the Globe and Mail.  

Here are some things to consider including in your daily, weekly and monthly checklists.  Your daily checklist should take no more than an hour if you're working efficiently. - and you should try to spend more than an hour each day on the stuff in the weekly and monthly checklists.
  • Daily, check the PNJ mailout (#4 above) - Do this at a specific, scheduled time every day, I don't recommend doing it whenever the mail comes in.
  • Daily, just after midnight, update your resume on Monster.com and Workopolis.com, since they will both rank your resume higher in the search results if it has been recently updated.  
    • I get lots of recruiter calls between 8-10am, and I was at the top of their search results because my resume was "updated today."
    • I recommend updating your resumes on those sites every 1-2 days, or at least every Sunday afternoon (weekly checklist), so that you're always the first one recruiters see at the top of their search results.  
    • Also, the more information you can provide them about your skills, the more likely you are to come up in search results -- don't just upload your Word Doc and expect that to be it -- your uploaded resume file should be a generic cover letter, then your resume, then a two page "skills matrix appendix" listing every technology you ever used.  You'll still have a two-page resume, but the 5-page file will win more recruiter keyword searches.
    • There is no need to search these sites for new jobs, the PNJ mailing list will take care of that for you.
  • Daily, review the new items in your RSS feeds (see jobhunting by RSS below).
  • Daily, get some sunshine and exercise.  This is a lot more important to include on your checklist than you think it is.
  • Daily, log in to LinkedIn.  Your daily LinkedIn tasks will be a little different depending on which day of the week it is.
  • Weekly, you should have a goal to meet new people.  When I was funemployed, my goal was 5 new people added to my network each week, but it's much lower while I'm working.  Every week, you should be finding new people to meet 1:1 and setting up meetings with them.
    • Search LinkedIn for people that know someone in common with you, and ask that mutual contact to introduce you.
    • Look for people with similar backgrounds to yours, similar industries to your target jobs, etc.
    • Even if all you get is a phone chat, you'll still make an impression, and you'll have someone to contact if you see their employer posting jobs.
  • Weekly, find a job fair or networking opportunity to go to every week.  
    • PNJ has good calendars for Toronto and OttawaBlogTO also has a good calendar for Toronto
    • While there, have a good stack of business cards with your resume URL or LinkedIn URL
    • Most importantly, this is practice approaching and talking to strangers.  Practice and work on your elevator pitches.
  • Weekly, review your sent-mail and calendar items from the past week, and make sure that you're on track to keep all the promises that you made.
  • Monthly, read through your list of LinkedIn contacts and make a list of people that you haven't had any contact with recently, and put together a plan for refreshing those relationships this month.
    • This is your army of people helping you look for work, so it's important to keep them up to date, and keep yourself in their minds.
    • For super important people, set up a coffee date that month to catch up with them in person.
    • For less important people, just keep a little list with you for the month, and keep your eyes open for conversation topics to email or call them about.
      • Perfect example: "Hey, Rob!  You're always talking about LinkedIn. Could I ask your thoughts on this article?" - That kind of email or facebook message can be very effective at reminding people that you're actively jobhunting, so that as they come across opportunities, you'll be one of the first people they think of.
    • Over time, you'll probably start categorizing people in to categories of how often you'll want to ping them to keep the networking relationship fresh.  
      • If the person is on your list of references, aim for no less frequent than once every 3 months.
      • If the person has retired and moved to Florida, well then, once a year should be plenty.
  • Monthly, customize your daily, weekly and monthly checklists to make them better.  Are you getting value from all the tasks you're doing? Can you make them better?
Additional reading - Resumes:
Additional reading - Networking:
Additional reading - Interviewing:

Additional reading - Jobhunting:

Additional reading - LinkedIn:

Hiring for yourself:

I often get asked for advice from managers looking to build or augment a team, asking me how to recruit.  So, here's some of that general advice:
  • Most importantly, note that I'm not talking about "hiring the best," that discussion is usually a waste of time.  A good leader is looking to build and develop a team.
  • Here, it's important that you play the long game, and start with your own professional development.  If you're in charge of hiring, but have no training in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, Behavioural Interviewing, or Performance Management, then there's a good chance that you're falling victim to the Peter Principle. Seek out that training, and recognize that leading a team is a skill you must learn and develop.  If you got promoted for being the best programmer, well, you'd better learn how to be a boss if you ever want to get promoted again.  Don't just take a 1-day crash course from your internal HR team, though - your best bet is university night school.
  • Define what it is that you want -- your best bet is to look at the existing team members that did best on their 1, 2 or 5yr performance evaluations.  What traits do they have that make them good team players in your environment?  How do you seek out those traits?  (You'll usually end up looking more at time management, communication skills, collaboration and empathy - it's not usually technical skills that set your rock stars apart from the rest of the team)
  • Your natural instincts are telling you that you're the best person for the job, so you need someone just like you, but with a little less experience so you can delegate to them and coach them to be more like you.  This is how so many companies end up with a team of all white men that went to the same schools and play golf together and that's really creepy so don't do it.  Good teams have diversity of perspectives, and a team full of people just like you will be bad.
  • Additional reading:

Jobhunting by RSS:
Reminder - You are not your audience


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