Back in April of 2012, I did a presentation at the Kansas City Developers Conference on tips and tricks to finding and landing your dream job. Having been through a number of interviews as both an interviewer as well as someone trying to get hired over the last handful of years, I have had the opportunity to see what things are important to both sides of the table. In the end, both parties need to make sure that the other side is right for them and it’s not just a one-way relationship.
The presentation is below if you’d like to listen to it (link, slides):
Overall, the talk focused on 3 important pieces of a job prospect’s journey; locating an opening, becoming marketable, and the interview process. Each of these things are important and many people make mistakes in one or all of them.
Locating a Position:
I’m very opinionated when it comes to this section. If you want to find a job that’ll make you happy you need to do your research. In my opinion, job sites like Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com are really only good to identify what skills are being looked for in the area and what companies are looking at a baseline. Job sites rarely give you any indication about the personality and culture of the company, though. I’m also not a fan of recruiters. While there are many good recruiters out there (or so I hear), most get paid based on putting you into a job, not necessarily the job you truly want or need. I’ve had a couple bad run ins when using recruiters to the point where I’ll never use them again. The same goes with LinkedIn. With a few rare instances, I view LinkedIn as nothing more than a Job Site ran by Recruiters.
Which leads us to the option of going out, meeting people, and building your network. Networking provides you an easy way to connect to people who work for companies that you may or may not want to work with. They can tell you about good companies and bad ones. Also, you can begin to learn about your future coworkers and them you through networking. This is a double edge sword though. If you think your future coworker is a total jerk, why would you want to work for that company and deal with him or her every day? Likewise, if they think the same way about you, they may be less prone to provide a positive review. This means that you always have to be yourself and ensure that you are a person that other people want to get to know better.
This takes us to the next important piece of landing a job. You have to give others a reason to hire you. Your resume is the weakest form of personal marketing that you have available to you. I highly recommend starting a blog if you do not have any web-presence yet. Blogs are fantastic for a number of reasons:
- Blogs provide a place where you can control your story
- Blogs provide a place for you to chronicle your trials in your fields
- Blogs provide a central hub for your other online presences
Anyone who has blogged for a while can tell you how beneficial blogging can be. It provides a place for you to control who you are on the web. You don’t have to worry about fitting onto a single page or anyone trying to cram you into their specific template and under their own logo. You are yourself on your blog.
It also allows you to write about what problems you’ve solved (within proper non-disclosure agreements of course). If you’ve fixed some problem at some point, blog about it. One thing that I learned early on was that I will ALWAYS encounter that issue again later. In the rare chances that I don’t, others will and being able to point them somewhere instead of trying to reiterate yourself again helps keep things consistent and shows that you can provide a resource to others.
Lastly, blogging provides you the platform to pull in content from other sources. If you code, you can link out to your Github or similar code repository. If you present, you can talk about your presentation and link out to your slides on Slideshare. If you do video, there’s YouTube and Vimeo. And, in the case of this post, if you do just sound/audio recordings, there’s SoundCloud and Audioboo. These are all things that you can put onto your resume and use to spring board more content for your blog. The more content you have, the more people will come to your site and the better you’ll become as a writer and a job seeker.
So you’ve landed the job and are going in for the interview. Now what to do? I recommend 3 things:
- Research the Company again
- Review Yourself and Blog again
- Write Questions to ask the Company Representatives
The first thing you want to do is research the company you have an interview with once again. How did you find the position and company again? Why did you want to apply here again? Who told you about it? All of these things will help you with the near ubiquitous question of “what brought you to Company XYZ?”. Having names of people even if they didn’t refer you can help you get in the door too. If you follow coworkers on Twitter or via their blogs, this can provide other talking points about those people and some of the things that you’ve seen through them.
Secondly, an interview can be thought of as a presentation about yourself. Presenting really stresses a lot of people out; however, you know the topic forwards and backwards because no one knows you better than yourself. With that said, it doesn’t hurt to review your blog and your various content streams. Find out what items are most popular and try to draw reasons why that is. Think of why you wrote or created that content in the first place. All of these things provides you with stories to tell in the interview and can illustrate your trials and accomplishments easier.
Lastly, ask questions back to the person interviewing you to validate that this truly is a company that you want to work for. In the recording above, I talk about how I did an interview at a “pretty decent company”; however, after getting past the lobby, it quickly turned into a place I didn’t want to work at. Asking questions is a way to confirm this as well. One question I like to ask is what I call the “sick child question”. It simply states “If an employee has a sick child and has to stay home with them for a 1/2 day or so, what is the company policy on such things?” Does the company allow them to work remotely, make up the hours, require a sick/vacation day to be taken or tapped into, or just hopes the child gets better and the person returns when they can? Each of those 4 answers can paint the company in a completely different light when it comes to how it handles life issues that will come up. Even if you don’t have children or anyone you take care of, life events will happen and knowing that the company understands that over having strict policies is a huge item when finding a great place to work.
One Final Note
If you don’t like the job that the interview covers, then don’t accept it. While there are cases where you NEED a job and the income; if such isn’t the case then taking the time to do the research and make sure that you will be happy with your next job is important. So many people dream of a job or career different than what they are currently in yet settle into a less than perfect job. A dream job always changes and thus we’re always chasing it; however, we can make sure that we’re always pursuing it properly without back tracking.
I encourage you to listen to the entire presentation since there are a number of stories and additional tips held within. In addition, if you have questions leave comments or talk to me on Twitter (@JamesEggers) or Google+ (James Eggers) and I will see what I can do to help.