Job Hunting: What I’ve learned so far



This is the first time I’ve ever really applied myself fully to hunting for a job. Looking back, I’d always done a mediocre effort at it while simultaneously working full time. Job hunting requires 20-30 hours/week of work to be effective. Only about 4 hours/week of that relates to submitting resumes; the rest is researching companies, learning about job hunting, online stalking networking, contacting people, following up with companies, etc.

Job hunting is really a lot like managing software development.

The kind of job I’m looking for is a Director-level job managing software engineers; basically what I did at my last job though I wouldn’t turn down a step up to a Senior Director or VP-level job. I also want to switch from the small companies I’ve always worked for to a larger company with more resources. The kind of projects that I find interesting are too hard for small companies to pull off, and wearing multiple “hats” so I have more responsibility is becoming less interesting than focusing on one really big hat.

That means relocating from Flagstaff, but De and I had a state-of-the-union recently and realized that since we can’t have kids relocating to somewhere more urban makes sense. Especially if I want to manage engineers, Flagstaff is not the place.

So I’m looking at innovative technology companies like Apple, Google, Yahoo, Amazon, Rackspace, companies that are either using the internet in interesting ways, or companies that are creating interesting technology. I hate Windows, so I’m avoiding companies where I might have to type LPCTSTR, i.e. Windows programming. Since most internet stuff is Windows-free, that’s not as drastic as you might think. Really my requirements are “software development senior management, non-Windows, and willing to pay for relocation”.

The Challenge:

The challenge in all job hunting is that most jobs aren’t advertised. Mostly people hire people they know, or know of. Its only after they’ve gone dry that they advertise the job. ( If you think about this, how many times has your manager said to you “hey I need someone to do X, do you know anyone?” ) It’s even worse at the Director level.

The job hunting books tell you that the solution to this is to bypass HR completely by networking your way to the hiring manager, or even better the hiring manager’s manager. At Director level, the hiring manager would be the VP, with the manager’s manager being the SVP or CTO. It’s pretty hard to network your way to that level. That kind of cold calling is also something I’m not particularly good at; I’m an engineer and it feels like stalking to me. Plus those people are pretty busy. I’m also at a disadvantage because having worked mostly at small companies, the networking pool is smaller. Some of my best contacts are from my days at Radius because it was the largest company I worked at but I feel funny bugging someone I haven’t talk to face to face in 16 years.

Meanwhile, the job hunting books tell you that your chance with a resume submission are about 1 in 200. Then they tell you to submit resumes anyways. I will say that submitting to Monster, Execunet, and RiteSite wasn’t very useful; about all its gotten me is an email a day asking me if I want to be a life insurance salesman. I’ve had better luck with the companies websites directly.

My Solutions so far:

So I’ve had to learn how to really job hunt. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

Networking to Internal Recruiters: Rather than trying to network to the hiring manager, I’ve had fair luck with networking to the internal recruiter instead. I have a pretty strong resume and skill set so if I can make contact, that’s usually lands my resume on the hiring managers desk which then leads to at least a phone screen. That meant getting serious about LinkedIn, and learning Twitter. I’ve avoided FaceBook so far.

Aimed Resume: If resume submission is about 1 in 200, devoting a lot of time to customizing your resume doesn’t make a lot of sense. But a recruiter wants to be able to scan your resume in 20 seconds and see if you fit the position. My compromise has been to do something called resume-aiming which lets me customize a resume quickly. I talk about that in-depth here:

I’m getting about 2 in 5 response rate after aiming my resume. Networking still helps though.

Books that have helped:

Resume Magic: Reading this book made me realize that I’ve been writing terrible resumes for 20 years. If you’ve been starting with the Microsoft Word resume template, get this book:

Interview Magic: This book was very helpful with preparing for interviews. You really need to have a set of 10-20 prepared anecdotes about stuff you’ve done and who you are. You don’t want to practice interviewing during an interview like most people do.

The Unwritten Rules of the Highly Effective Job Search: One of the most frustrating parts about job searching is the fact that you don’t really get any feedback so its hard to keep your success well full. This book was really helpful, and I now keep track of all the stuff I’m doing as part of my job search purely so I can feel a sense of accomplishment.

Programming Interviews Exposed: Certain high-tech companies are following a fad of asking tricky programming or brainteaser questions. I doubt the utility of most of these types of questions as I prefer to hire on a combination of Brains + Attitude. This is a good review book though if you’ve forgotten the tricks for dealing with singly-linked lists and other obscurities, and it covers other parts of the interview as well. My first reaction to any “say you have a singly-linked-list” question is “can I fire the idiot who used a singly-linked list and replace him with someone smart enough to use a doubly-linked list”; but you probably shouldn’t say that in an interview since what interviewers really want to know is “could I stand to work with this guy”. collects interview questions, so I’ve been using that for practice. It also describes what its like to work for various companies, but be prepared for lots of whining.



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