What they won’t tell you about job hunting!
Previously I wrote several articles on job hunting and career advancement but today I would like to share with you a couple of new insights that I have gathered over the past few months that particularly address HOW NOT TO FALL INTO THE TRAPS of so-called job hunting tips. You probably know many of these already, or you may be doing exactly the opposite of these, but it’s okay. These ideas should become common sense to you after you finish reading this piece, so bear with me.
Recruiters are only helpful when they need you, not when you need them!
The No.1 myth about job hunting is that “headhunters are angels and they will help you to land your next dream job”. Not exactly. First you need to understand how they actually profit from their job. They don’t earn any money from you directly but if the firm decides to hire you then they get paid by the firm. Which means, they will ONLY WANT TO HELP YOU if they think (or better yet, are certain) that you have a very good chance of getting the job! So if you are desperately in need of a job or you don’t necessarily have a strong profile or you behave as if you are hesitant, insecure, and not-that-confident, then the recruiters have absolutely no incentive to help you get connected (it’s sad but that’s the hard truth). This is exactly why you will ALWAYS get the most headhunter calls when you are still at your CURRENT JOB. If you already have a job, which means you are hirable, it immediately makes you more attractive. Does that make sense?
So if you have quitted your previous job or that you just graduated from b-school, you should honestly focus your time, as much as you can, away from recruiters. The only exception is that, i.e. on your LinkedIn profile you have already exhibited a proven strong track record of consistent top performance at multiple big firms, then whether or not you are currently employed is less of an issue.
That being said, you should always maintain good relationships with recruiters. And remember, they may not always be the best approach to land your next job but they are still a valuable resource with good information. And you never know, maybe they will be the ones who ring your phone next when you do get a job 🙂
Your friends are not your best bet when you want an internal referral!
A friend referral is always tricky. I mean he/she can be a really close friend. Does that mean they want to work with you? Not necessarily (think about whether you really want to become roommates with your best friend, it’s the same idea). But that’s not my point here. My point is, as a young professional yourself, most of your friend will probably be around your same age, say, mid-late 20s. And what positions would a mid-late 20s person have at a given firm? Analyst/Associate, and maybe a VP (maximum). What does this mean?
Your friends are not really in a HIRING POSITION! The secret of internal referral is that the chance of whether or not you get hired is almost directly proportional to the title of the person who is referring you. Just think about it, for a same position which requires exactly the same skills, the HR professional is debating between two candidates both very qualified, and the only difference is that one is recommended by a MD, and the other by an Analyst. OBVIOUSLY, they will pick the one referred to by a MD. Why? Because the goal of HR is to ensure the well-being of the company, and the well-being of senior executives of the company is always more important simply because they have much a bigger say in terms of the direction of the business. The MD may even have an input on how the HR person get paid!
So what does this tell you? Instead of reaching out only to your friends in the similar age group (you can still do, but as a supplement), you should try as much as you can to leverage broader networks and associations and conferences to meet with INDUSTRY LEADERS and SENIOR EXECUTIVES. How you eventually convince them to say good things about you is another story but at least you have much a better chance of getting in the door once someone higher up endorse you.
90% of your inquiries/applications ending up in rejections or no-responses is the norm and should be expected!
Everyone gets rejections. Even the smartest most talented or most established ones. When I was applying for colleges I was so happy and I feel lucky until today that I got into Yale, and the fact that Yale will give out admissions to almost 1800 students in order to fill a class of around 1200 stunned me. How would you choose NOT to go to Yale if you get in! The fact is: there are Harvard,Princeton, MIT, Stanford, etc, etc. If Yale, as a globally renowned institution, is only expecting a response rate of roughly 2/3, then I guess it isNORMALfor you to send out 100 emails but only get 10 responses! I quoted 90% as an example, but I just want to point out there is a HUGE difference between: sending out 100 emails and getting 10 responses vs. sending out 10 emails and getting 1 response!
And let’s talk about rejection letters for a second. What do you do when you see an email with “I don’t have a position for you now”? Do you simply sigh and move the email to your trashcan? Do you write an email back to express appreciation regardless? Do you ask for feedbacks? Do you mention something like “I understand there is no position available at the moment, but I am very passionate about this industry and really interested in your firm. Please kindly keep me posted if anything opens up in the near future.” Or, do you ask for “an opportunity to get coffee or a quick 15-min phone call just to learn more about what they do” so you will actually be better prepared when the position does open up?
Yes, I know, it’s a rejection. It never feels good to receive a rejection. But that’s not the end of the story. There are many things you can do from there. It’s your call.
It doesn’t matter why you did ABC but it matters a lot how you explain you moved from A–>B–>C!
You may have done many things for many different reasons. There may be a particular reason why you chose to go down path A, maybe you were confused, maybe you had family/relationship issues, maybe you just need a break. But it’s a rewarding experience in retrospect. Yes there is always a positive spin, and things always make sense and you can always connect the dots when you really think about it.
For example, if you took a gap year after college to travel around the world and real reason is: you can’t find a job back then! What you could have articulated is: accounting has always been my career interest and I know I want to enter the industry upon graduation. But I realized that being an accountant means I have to deal with clients from all kinds of different cultures and backgrounds. My liberal arts college was very white and I felt I lacked the experience dealing with multi-cultural situations so I really want to take the opportunity to explore other parts of the world and to enhance my communication skills and my ability to tackle unexpected situations…You get the idea.
This is not lying, and I would never recommend you to lie on a resume or in an interview, as I have seen people getting fired/or reverted from the job offer once they were identified as cheating. What I am saying is that you need to articulate the motivation and the reasoning behind why you did A, and then B and then C. And why not directly A to C, or why not D or E. It is not difficult but you need to think about it beforehand, and trust me you will be asked during the interview! Actually, it’s an inspiring exercise to yourself as well because when you try to connect the dots, you may as well discover things about yourself you were never able to realize before.
Your resume is not a story-telling adventure but they will also throw it away if it’s TOO SIMPLE
Some people have told me that they like a resume that is “focused”. TRUE. But a “focused” resume doesn’t mean it’s so concise with ONLY high-level summary and no fruity details. The key is: be appropriate. With details, but not too much detail. The goal is to provide ENOUGH INFORMATION so the recruiter will AT LEAST become interested in your experiences. The only exception to write a simple resume is that you are OVERQUALIFIED for the job. So you want to deliberately hide some details of your experiences, and whatever you put on paper is already more than enough to get you the position. But most of the cases, you want to fully leverage that space on the 1-page.
For example, if you are describing your role as a financial analyst, instead of saying:
Analyzed financial data to find key trends
Try something like:
Analyzed and interpreted comprehensive financial data from 50+ firms and identified key industry trends to be reported to senior management
And instead of saying:
Served as a main contact on multiple assignments
Try something like:
Effectively coordinated multiple projects ranging from financial reporting to case studies among 3 key divisions with a tight schedule
Is this an exaggeration? I don’t think so. And there is a convincing reason why you should go ahead and provide more details on your resume too:
Because everyone else is doing it!
P.S. I know the job market is tough now and a lot of firms have announced hiring freezes. But it doesn’t mean you should stop working hard on networking, improving your resume, and finding every means to know more about the industry. So good luck, and share your good news with me if my tips (including those from previous articles) worked for you!