Ten Extremely Basic Job Hunting Tips

My mom is looking for a new position for the first time in ten years because her company’s sole client has been taken over by another firm. She asked me before if I have any tips on finding a job, and I decided to list what I learned in the past few years here in the Silicon Valley:

1. Clearly Identify Your Target Job — I think this is the most difficult part of many people’s job search. Some people are changing jobs because they hate what they’re doing, and may be looking for something completely different. Some people are looking for the same job, but with different types of benefits and hours. The idea is that the job seeker needs to clearly identify the endgame for his or her job search and build a profile of the ideal job. A person can only aim when a target is clearly painted and it is a total waste of time and effort to find a job you don’t really want.

2. Network with People You Know — After you work for a few years you will probably end up with quite a few ex-coworkers. You may not know all of them very well, but there has to be a few that you are on friendly terms with. Generally I ask for the contact information of coworkers I like when they leave my company. Recently a lot of them have been connecting with me on LinkedIn or Facebook. For the people that do not use these services I record their contact information in a text file. It’s very likely that some ex-coworkers are willing to forward your resume to HR, because a lot of companies have internal referral bonuses for successful hires. The world is a very small place, and I think the first place to look for a job is through people you know. Friends and relatives are also great resources for possible jobs. You can just send out a general email to all your friends and relatives and ask if there are any available positions that would fit you. I think it is to your advantage to tap your relationships unless you don’t want your friends and relatives to know that you’re looking for a job.

3. Ignore the Bad Mercenary Recruiters — I have found that most headhunting firms that cold call me end up wasting my time. They often overstate the salary of the job they’re recruiting for and they’re more like salesmen that are trying to sell whatever person they can for a commission. Most of these “bad” recruiters don’t read your resume and do not match you to a company’s needs very well. For example, there was one day when I got three calls from three different recruiters trying to pitch the same position which I knew I was not a good candidate for. Though, many companies do hire their own internal recruiters and they are the HR department of the company. Those calls lead usually lead to fruitful interviews. So it is very important to identify where a recruiter is coming from. It is as simple as asking, “are you part of the company you’re recruiting for, or are you a recruitment firm?” There are very good independent recruiters and I have known a couple, but they really work on finding you a job that matches your needs and the jobs they present to you should already be something you’re interested in.

4. Plan Interviews Close to Each Other — I think it’s generally good to group your interviews around the same days if it is possible. The reason is that if you interview at multiple companies on approximately the same day you’re likely to receive their responses at approximately the same time. Another reason is that you may be able to use less vacation days from your current job if you schedule multiple interviews on the same day. When you get responses back around the same time you are able to make more strategic decisions on what to do next.

5. Search for All Possible Titles of Your Desired Job — When you look for a job online you usually use some job search engine and type in your desired job title. Make sure to try all possible variations of your job title. For example, my current job title is Release Engineer. Some companies also title my position SCM Engineer, Configuration Engineer, Build Engineer, Software Engineer in Release, Build Release QA Engineer, and some other names. The point is that you can’t just search for one job title because you may miss out on some positions that is a good match to your skills. Brainstorm a list of titles you may be called and start searching there.

6. Prepare References — Make sure you have at least two to three people that will vouch for your work ethics. If you’re pretty new to the workforce you should still secure a couple people that will speak on your behalf. You should inform these people that your job search may burden them with writing a recommendation or answering a few questions. This is courtesy, and most companies still ask for human references no matter how good you look on paper or how smooth you were in the interview.

7. Research the Company You Are Interested In — It amazes me how many people I have interviewed had absolutely no interest in the companies that are supposed to hire them. If you are interested in a company you should find out some basics such as its location, its products, and its working environment. Such information can be obtained during an interview but a little preemptive research is always good. You may find out that a company is not really a good place to work or that its products are totally unappealing to you. If that’s the case then there is no point in applying and interviewing. If after your preliminary research you are still interested then you would have more to talk about with the interviewees. It is a win-win situation for you to do your due diligence.

8. Update Your Resume — It is a good idea to update your resume every six months even if you haven’t changed jobs. There may be new projects that you have done and new technologies you have learned, and your resume is a good place to keep record. Another reason is that when you update your resume in a website like Hotjobs or Monster employers tend to pick up on the update and contact you if they are interested. Make sure that you block your current employer in these services so that they don’t know you’re looking.

9. Prepare for Your Interview — This is a must. You can prepare for your interview any way you are comfortable with, but you must do it. Your preparation could be as simple as reviewing your resume and remembering what you wrote. I say this because I have had interviewees who wrote a lot of things on their resumes they did not know anything about. Since tips for interviewing would take up an entire book I will not elaborate here. However, I have written an article on some horrible interviews I have endured.

10. Don’t Look Back — There may be rejections along the path of your job search, but the key is to just forget about it and don’t look back. There is no time to waste on being depressed about not getting a certain job. The same applies to your old employer when you do find a great offer. If you were jaded enough to search for a job in the first place then it’s probably best not to look back and go on to your new place.

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