Remember when you used to jump on Indeed.com to find a list of jobs that barely met your search criteria and spent hours on cover letters for applications at companies that never responded? Not even a rejection email! Yeah, I remember that too.
For humans, the ultimate scarce resource is time, and we need to stop wasting our precious time using a 20th-century job search method that consistently leads to dead ends.
Guess what percentage of job applicants actually get a job interview. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Yup. Is 2% what you want to bank your career on? Me neither. Yet that is what we’ve been doing for years.
Good news though! There’s a better way. Instead of sending out job applications en masse to jobs that look like they could fit the bill, start with a more thoughtful, targeted approach. Think about what’s important to you in a job. Is it the mission of the company? The culture? Work-life balance? Interviews should be as much you interviewing the company as it is the company interviewing you. It’s tough to figure out whether a job will be a good fit for your unique blend of requirements without talking to anyone at the company. How do you do that if you never get to speak to anyone until after you receive an interview invitation? And how do you get an interview invitation? Submit your résumé and hope for that 2% chance you get a response. That doesn’t sound like a human or equitable interaction to me.
Instead, flip this whole process on its head. You interview your target company for whether they get to hire you. Now you’re talking to someone face-to-face (at least on Zoom).
For young job seekers or career switchers without a lot of industry knowledge or connections, starting out your job search by trying to grow and engage your network will be hard. However, it’s ultimately even harder to get a job by throwing your hat into the ring with hundreds (or sometimes even thousands) of qualified candidates. Sure, you can add a colorful header to your résumé or send a small potted plant with your cover letter attached (and a $20 bill) to the HR department to stand out...or how about...I know this sounds crazy...find someone at the company to become an advocate for you.
For some reason, we’ve been conditioned to believe that standing out with fancy résumés and cover letters are what will get us a job. The truth is, putting in the effort to talk to kind, helpful people at companies will end up being less work, taking less time, and being demonstrably more effective, even if you don’t start off with a big network. The truth is, even if you have a big network, chances are that you don’t have any connections at the new startup with 25 people that you’re interested in, or the big company across the country that you’d be willing to move for. No matter what our network size, we’re going to have to put ourselves out there and reach out to someone we’ve never spoken to before when we’re looking for a new job.
It is perfectly fine to still apply for some interesting jobs while you try to network into others. I wouldn’t recommend trying to network then still go apply to the job because that can undermine your message. Remember, you’re interviewing the company just as much as they’re interviewing you. If you ask someone questions about their company culture, whether they’ve grown in their role, and whether they would recommend the company...then you tell them you’ve already applied, the person will think you didn’t care about their opinion.
However, if you see a job that looks interesting and you want to test the waters, shoot for it! Realize that you have a small chance of getting an interview, but putting in an application can’t hurt you either as long as you are focusing on making connections, networking, and having conversations for the jobs/companies that you really want.
Great, I’m glad I convinced you! It’s what works for the most successful professionals, and it will work for you too.
What’s next? The hard work. Check out our next blog post to hear more about the next step – where and when to start networking for your job search. And if you need some help or guidance on advancing your career, sign up for free for Stint.
*Workopolis, 11/16/2016, Why only 2% of applicants actually get interviews