First, let me give you some context. I’m an IT leader with ~15 years of software development experience. Recently I was looking for a new job, which was something I haven’t done in 10 years or more (and when I did, I was junior Java dev, so it was totally different). So in the last 3 months I’ve learned a lot. And since nowadays many people – even in the IT dreamland – are looking for a job, maybe my experiences and lessons learned will be of some value.
FYI, I have started my recruitment journey before the Covid-19 but almost all of my interviews were remote as everyone was already WFH.
You Need a CV
If you think CVs are a thing of the past you are (unfortunately) wrong! No matter how beautiful your Linkedin profile is you still need a CV. There are many good guides on how to create one so I will give only my 3 cents here:
- Be specific what you did in each role/project you mention.
- Surprise, surprise – some recruiters will read your CV and often ask questions to learn more.
- …but some interviewers will only scan it so make sure that things you want everyone to know about you are somehow highlighted.
BTW. What is uber-irritating that some companies will ask you to fill some forms where you have to put the same data that you have on your CV.
I used Canva (free version) to create mine CV. They offer many templates that look good enough for me.
It is definitely a good idea to consult your CV with some recruiter. Do it. There are definitely things that could be improved.
People Are Helpful
I have to say, I got a lot of help and support from many people, including some that I really don’t know well or haven’t seen in years. I asked a few people to have a coffee so I could learn about their job & company they work at, and it worked every single time (meaning: they agreed and we had a nice & valuable chat). I learned a lot about not only their job but also about other companies. Do it. Don’t hesitate. Just do it.
(I think I’ve wasted a lot of time by not approaching some people early in the process. Stupid me.)
And two more things:
- People love to help others.
- They will also learn a lot from you. So it is also beneficial for them.
Recruitment is a skill that you can master
You might be a highly skilled and very experienced dev or tech lead or whoever you are, but this is only a part of your success. You also need to prove you have the right skills. And you prove it by saying the right things the right way.
It is like practicing your business pitch or elevator pitch. The first time you do it, it doesn’t sound right. The next time is slightly better, and it gets better with each repetition. You present seemingly the same idea but somehow it feels different. It starts to feel better, and then it clicks and it sounds perfectly.
During interviews you will answer very similar questions. For example, almost every company asked me to “tell us about yourself” and wanted to learn about my approach to measuring team performance and handling of low-performing developers. My answers didn’t change from one interview to another, I mean I haven’t added new facts to my life or haven’t changed my views on how I would handle some team issues. What has changed is the way I responded to it. I improved the language I used and I was definitely more in control about what parts of my experience or leadership techniques I would like to focus on. And I believe that after a few interviews I did much better than in the beginning.
So yes, it is worth your time to read about typical questions that are being asked during interviews for your role, because you will be asked them – or some very similar. Do it, write down your thoughts, and exercise answering these typical topics. You will thank me later.
Great opportunity to learn about the company
You can learn tons about a company by going through a recruitment process. At the companies I applied for there was always some time for me to ask questions. During more technical interviews it was like the last two minutes …and sometimes I felt the interviewers didn’t really want me to ask anything :). But in some cases the “what would you like to know about the company and the job” part was taking half of the interview time. And I felt (well, this is my very subjective feeling) that by being prepared and asking a lot of (I hope) intelligent questions, I earned a few points there.
So be prepared. Have questions (about the role, about products, about organisation, about people you will work with) and ask them.
Know what is important for you. Working with the latest technologies? Work atmosphere? Luxurious office & benefits? Flexible work hours? Feedback culture? Avoiding telcos in the evening? Whatever it is, figure out what questions to ask. Sometimes, you don’t have to ask really – a long discussion with someone who is eager to share will give you a lot of insights (and many employees that were interviewing me were very open and willing to share!).
I have to say that I treated this part seriously. In some cases I felt like I was interviewing them! And you know, I guess that is OK. I believe there should be a mutual match so I’ve asked questions like “My team needs a tool that costs $100 per month. What do I need to do to get it?” or “When was the last time you received feedback. Tell me something about this situation.”
Quoting my colleague, Piotr:
“When we interview young people, we ask questions. If we interview veterans, they ask questions.” 🙂
Be prepared for a rejection
It is a part of the process. You’ll be rejected. And – even more often – you’ll probably be ignored (which sometimes hurts even more).
I’ve been ignored & rejected a few times. In some cases I really believed I would be a perfect fit for a role, and I haven’t even got a rejection email. In one case, I was rejected, and the feedback I got was that I lack experience in the area that I really have plenty of experience (and I spent a few days wondering what the heck happened and what was the real reason). Another case was a pretty cryptic email rejection from some poor recruiters:
“the management team has just let us know that they decided to pursue other candidates for the position […]. Unfortunately, we have not been given any more specific feedback about your application.” 🙂
Remember, there are many reasons you can get rejected and they do not necessarily mean that you are no good. They might be looking for some other skills. They might already have someone. You might not be the reason.
If you didn’t get it yet, then look at the picture below. See, this is a cat. It totally f#*(&$ ignores you. And there is nothing you can do about it. Even if you blow a trumpet right to its ear it will simply move to find another place to enjoy its life. It doesn’t give a damn about you, and so will many recruiters. Look for the ones that will be interested in you.
Don’t apply to your dream job. Not yet.
So there is this company X that you really want to work for (because they have PS5 in the office or whatever makes you tick). And there are a few more companies – let us call them Y & Z – that are also interesting, but they don’t make you so very much excited.
If you are not skilled at interviews then don’t go to X as the first thing. Apply to Y & Z, get yourself acquainted with the recruitment process and then go to X. Now listen, don’t get me wrong. There is no guarantee you will get a job at any of them. And if you do get a job at Z then this is also awesome! So I’m not telling you to waste people time applying to companies you don’t care about. No, that wouldn’t be OK. What I’m telling you is that maybe it makes sense to first improve your skills before you start your most important battle.
Open positions? No
Say you want to work for company X but they have no job opening for your role. In such cases when you look at jobs/careers pages then sometimes you will find an “open position” (“If you haven’t found anything for you then send us your CV. We are always eager to meet people that are enthusiastic about working with us” – or sth along these lines).
I’ve applied for a few such “open positions” with my CV and a nicely written cover letter and… nothing happened. Like zero, null, nada.
I seriously doubt if it makes any sense to apply like this. The chances of immediate results are close to zero and I don’t have much hope they will get back to me after a few months (and if they do, I probably won’t be interested anymore).
(Obviously, “your mileage may vary” but this is what I’ve experienced.)
So how much would you like to earn?
I really thought this is a thing of the past, but no, still many companies don’t publish their salary ranges (which makes things unnecessarily harder for both sides, but anyway, it happens).
There are few things that helped me to answer this so maybe you can try them as well.
- Ask your colleagues – from different companies – how much in their opinion a person with your skill & experience could make at their company. (In some cases what you’re really asking about is “how much money do you make?” but it is simpler for them to answer when you don’t ask directly).
- You need to know your limits.
- Always ask about total compensation. When you ask this question, some companies will tell you about the fresh fruits in the kitchen & benefits system, but many also offer shares, bonuses and other financial benefits that could really sweeten the deal. So remember, it is not only about the paycheck.
- My usual response to the “how much would you like to earn?” is that I’d like to get the same money as other people in the same role.
- I also often mentioned how much I was making in my previous job and that I would like to at least keep this level. It helped to open the discussion.
- Remember, there is always some flexibility, and don’t hesitate to discuss the offer.
Remote work – some have it easier
At first I was looking for a remote job. No luck. It was much much harder than I thought to find something for a leadership position.
As a dev, you simply have it. As a tech lead, no problem. Team lead – much harder. Remote companies are usually small (well, this is probably gonna change now…), and they prefer leaders that are also coders. Or rather coders that are also capable of leading. Which makes total sense, IMHO. So it is much harder to find a remote job if you are not on a tech path.
It is great to discuss the “hygienic” things at the very beginning. That is how I got rejected during the first call (with a remote company I really wanted to work for). The interviewer asked about my readiness to code (which wasn’t clear from the job description). I said that I don’t plan to go back to coding which then made it obvious that I wasn’t a good fit for this position. And we said goodbye to each other – there was no point in wasting our time.
Similarly, it is good to know about the money. You will have to talk about it anyway, so better to make sure there is no mismatch as soon as possible.
Few things to mention here:
- This is the first place recruiters will look at.
- LinkedIn Premium helps. You get it free for 1 month so why not give it a try? Much easier to connect people that are outside your network. But then cancel it as it is of no use.
- I’ve ticked a “Open to job opportunities” switch on my LinkedIn profile. And totally nothing happened (but I’m not a sexy Python Data Scientist!).
[UPDATE] Right after I wrote the article, I received this email from LinkedIn. Hm, apparently there were some messages from recruiters after all.
If you read this article then you are probably looking for a job (or worrying about the fact that you will have to). Prepare yourself for what is coming and do your best!