Thursday, July 11, 2013

How to apply for jobs

If I ever run a business, I will make sure the HR department is organized such that applying for a job is relatively a pleasure. Every applicant will get a response about his/her status and the decision that was made. Because that is definitely not the norm, and it's a shame.

I'm not the expert on getting jobs, but I have several years worth and hundreds of job applications under my belt since finishing graduate school in 2007. Unemployment (or underemployment) is among the most mentally and emotionally frustrating experiences a man can face. There are no shortage of websites with advice, particularly from HR people, many of which are contradictory. This is just my own advice on how to apply for jobs and maintain your sanity:

  • Applying for jobs is like taking a class or exercising-- it's work, and I approach it like that. Just like you should have at least 20 minutes of moderate exercise each day, I aim to apply for a certain number of jobs each day-- or spend a certain number of minutes researching a specific job I want to apply for. 
  • Use an aggregator like Indeed.com to send you daily updates of jobs matching key words and geographic locations you specify. That will help motivate you to #1 to check some of those jobs off the list.  Indeed.com isn't looking at Craigslist and a few other sites, so also use another aggregator like Proven.com. If a specific company allows you to sign up for email updates or RSS updates of their jobs, by all means do so.
  • Keep track of your cover letters using Google Docs or something else since they're likely to be similar. This will give you easily-editable templates you can modify for the next application. Just proofread carefully! (You should also keep track of the jobs you're applying for on a spreadsheet, noting what, when, contact info, and when you hear a response.)
  • It's recommended that you edit your résumé to match the specific job you're applying to. This may mean you have a dozen résumés on your hard drive. I find that frustrating, personally.
  • Many of the large companies outsource to automated systems, like Taleo, which are pains and hassles. Taleo Talent Exchange is supposed to let you create one job profile from which you can "easily" apply to multiple large firms utilizing the system. However, I find that many companies have different versions of Taleo and often when I try to connect the specific job application to my Taleo account, I get an error screen and have to start again. This is frustrating, and job-seekers' frustrations with this system are well-documented. Nothing irks me more than to see the "perfect" job description and to be unable to apply without having to spend hours with this frustrating system. I have the time, then I take the time; otherwise, I pass.
  • Connect personally with someone on the hiring end (ie: avoid relying on portals like the above). Utilize LinkedIn.com for this. I've read where HR people at large corporations say hiring is done on LinkedIn rather than their jobs portal (frustrating, right?). If you see the hiring contact listed in the job description, contact him/her out on LinkedIn. That will give you an immediate, personal connection to the person responsible. This recently got me to second base with a company. You can also find your would-be coworkers on LinkedIn and learn about the position.
75% of hires are internal hires, so if you're switching companies you have a high bar to prove that you fit into that particular organization.  It's recommended to do research of a particular job, to include hints in the cover letter that you've done your homework. That might be easy for large corporations where their values and quarterly report are available online. For smaller ones, the only way to know about the company is to ask people that work there. If you're shotgunning for a particular field or geographic location, which may not be close by (like me), then it's much harder to do deep research into each application.

I'll have a future post on what else to do to stay sane.

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