2018-12-30

Tips for landing a new job

I guess most of us went down that road at some point and understand, that beside the diplomatic and official answer, there are plenty of reasons for leaving the current company, e.g., expectations were not met, promises were broken, no further growth for your career, supervisors, and and and ;).

But this post ain’t about why I left my company or why you should leave yours. It is about how I managed to get my new job and the experience I made during that period.

#1 Keep going until the end

If you – for whatever reason – have made the decision to change your job like I did, the most important thing that you should make yourself aware of is, that it will be a very stressful and long-lasting process. The higher your current position is, the harder it will be to find a company that will match your expectation and you can meet their needs in return. It’s logical! Usually, the same market is shared by just a couple of companies and for them to stand the test of time, they must have found their more or less unique reasons to exist (particular clients, innovative products or unique services, technology and so on). So, it is rather the exception, that another company will offer a position, that 100% match your current skill set. In addition, the working environment, the team experience, the company policy and mentality are different from what you may use to be.

To make it short, the more experience you bring in, the harder it will be to find a job that fits you and also fits your salary expectation because you are used to a different ecosystem. And what, you are used to, has to match your new company. Another key problem is that the number of job offers for the experienced are less in comparison to graduates, e.g., you only need one CEO for a company and you may need only 1 manager for 10-20 people.

In my case, I have spent the last 5 years helping Fortune Global 500 companies in various digital transformation projects with hundreds of people involved. In one of them, I led the entire development team of 22 developers and was responsible for the deliverable of the release. In another project, I was responsible for the solution architect and the first man on the front. Although the number of years in each role is not 5 or 7, I was still able to deliver in tough project situation with exceed expectations, each and every time with our clients being satisfied.

In the beginning, I was very uncertain about how my next challenge should look like. I always see myself as a generalist and I kept myself such as for years but it appeared to me that the job market seems to look for specialists, especially with my salary expectation. With this uncertainty, I went through a couple of big and small companies and applied for positions I saw myself somehow fitting. And I did this every 1 – 3 weeks again for the next 4 months until I found my current job. It was a constant mixture of, searching, applying while attending interviews (phone or in person).

In total, I sent around 30 applications. Needless to say, at some point, it was very difficult to keep going when you constantly received declines or offers that is below what had been discussed. In some cases, recruiters even tried to talked me down. In other cases, I received a yes and afterwards, they declined when hearing the salary expectations. But instead of giving an honest feedback or trying to negotiate, they just told me some reasons, that contradicted with what they said in the interview. And you have to think about, that it lasted 4 months.

So, keep going was no easy option but I did it and it turns out to be the right choice because I finally found what I was looking for and this feeling is so indescribable great when you got there after you went through the ups and downs.

So, be prepared, that it will take quite some time until you find a new position that fits you. It will be a stressful period but it will pay out if you keep going and don’t settle until you find what you are looking for. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day!

To the supporters

Of course, I had support from my family and some very good friends that help me keep going. In addition, some colleagues, that had the same experiences, gave me good advice and helped me to keep going. From what I learned, it was actually more the common case than the exception. A special thanks to everyone!

For those, that currently supports others. Please keep in mind, the one going through it is under heavy stress and a big problem is, that usually the more it lasts, the more you tend to lose faith. And it is a terrible idea to give feedback at this point even if you just want to help. Yes, nobody is perfect and we all need to constantly improve but this is not the time to say that. When you start to lose faith, you need others having faith in you because everyone has a limit on how much the mind can take.

Of course, you should say your honest feedback to help your friend grow but save it when it is required. E.g. when he just failed an interview. Then give the advice when he is preparing for the next interview.

#2 Follow a progressive approach

Looking back, it was a quite good strategy to apply in rounds, which means, that I sent a couple of applications every 1 – 3 weeks. Because I could adapt my CV according to the feedback I received. At the end of the application period, I ended up with having 8 versions of the CV.

Also, I found it beneficial to have time to think about the last interviews and to have time to refine your stories and your answer for questions. Usually, they aren’t that different from company to company.

You should create a list of companies, that you want to apply for and keep the most interested ones at the end of the list. Start with a reasonable salary demand and increase it after each round. Don’t do the opposite, you will be rejected and it is not a nice feeling to work with.

#3 Consistency in your CV

I had a supervisor in a project, he pre-selected candidates by the format of their CVs. If you send him a CV, that is inconsistent you’re out. Meaning, some lines are in 10pt, some lines are in 11pt. Good-bye! Well this is quite extreme but he got a point. Because breaking consistency means, that you are not able to keep structure in a comparable most simple document, your CV. How do you want to maintain consistency and structure in a 500 pages document?

Applying for a job is a critical step in our life. And because it is so crucial, your future company expects that you put a good effort and care in it. Would you hire someone who gives you a CV that looks like a 30 minutes job? Rather not, isn’t it?

Demonstrate, that you put efforts and thoughts into it. E.g., a CV should be written in 12 points Times New Roman font. You like Calibri more, fine. But why is the description from this position in bold? And the other is in italic? Why did you provide the number of employees for the second company but skip it for the current and the second one?

Think about a certain style and design in your CV and stick to them, nothing is as bad as having patched CV, that looks like you copied in from various sources, each part was written from a different person or you wrote each part in a different year. You are a professional, you can be creative but you must be consistent and structured.

And by the way, if you think that breaking the consistency is necessary to disguise something. Guess what, the recruiters will find it out and they won’t be amused by that. E.g., A acquaintance of mine, who asked me to forward his CV. After reviewing it, I told him, that he is not consistent in his language levels beside the styles, the fonts, the structure and many other things. And he explained to me, that this is an important language that he is quite weak at it. So, he tried to use another leveling to disguise it. I told him that the recruiter will understand that but did forward as he had insisted. Well, they did find out.

#4 Convince by diving deep

In most cases, the first interview is rather for the recruiters to get a first impression, to check if your CV is correct and you did not lie about your language skills. In some cases, they also clarify some fundamental basics such as travel expectation, relocation and things like that. For this kind of interview, it’s rather hard to fail I guess unless you lied in the CV ;). Commonly, they don’t ask you about your salary expectation in the first interview for various reasons. E.g., they want you to be more interested before going into a negotiation, they need to find out which role you fit, and so on. But there are companies, where the first interview is also the only one.

The second interview usually consists of

  1. a short explanation of the company, the interviewer and in some cases the role,
  2. a short explanation of you and your background in regards to the role,
  3. detail questions to rate your skill level,
  4. and lastly an open discussion where you ask questions

Try to answer using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Actions and Results) whenever possible. By briefly describing the situation and tasks, you will give the interviewer the chance to understand the challenge that you have faced. Your actions and results show the impact and your abilities.

If you got the feeling that you haven’t convinced your interviewer, try to dive deeper. Even if you got the feeling that you convinced him/her, it wouldn’t harm to convince him/her even more. Start by asking about current projects and future projects of the role you apply for. Think about how you would have done it and challenge their decisions. This is a move, that will bring you many advantages at the same time:

  1. If you are able to talk on the same level with the (technical) interviewer, it proves that you are technically fit for the team.
  2. It shows that you are interested and people usually love to share technical details to get some new ideas. And (hopefully) they are proud of what they do.
  3. you get to know about what you will do for at least the next few months.
  4. you also understand how decisions are made in your future team.

Honestly, I think this is one of the most powerful technique to use in an interview. But it requires, that you do master your craftsmanship!

Depending on the company, the interviewers do not have much time to prepare the interview. They may have just a set of questions or they have just an idea about how to evaluate you. And if you don’t play by the rules for whatever reasons, you get declined quite easily and quickly. So, by diving deep, you will create yourself a second chance for yourself where you and your interviewer talk more openly.

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