If you are like most candidates during a job search process, you might experience a feeling of not being in control. It often feels as if you have no say in the process and you are at the mercy of the employer and their own timelines.
Job search is one of the most stressful things that can happen to you. It affects your psyche- your job or career is directly linked to your livelihood, your self-esteem and also your sense of identity. So no wonder, the process is hard and mentally draining.
And the hiring process that most employers choose is not necessarily easier or favorable for candidates. The surge of ATS (Application Tracking Systems), shrinking jobs in certain industries, stiff competition, etc. makes it even more difficult for candidates. Yes, it is challenging but it does not mean that you need to feel completely helpless.
In this post, I will share some ideas on how you can take control of your job search. By following these steps, you can improve your odds and reduce the time it takes to secure job offer(s).
1. Gain Clarity on where You want to BE
Most candidates react to a layoff without having a well thought out strategy or plan. Yes, it is hard to digest the fact that your source of income has been turned off. It is normal to be emotional and react with fear or panic. Here is where you need to exercise caution. Before you reach out to anyone in your network (friends, recruiters, employers,etc.) – take some time off to reflect. This step is crucial. Reflect on the ideal position you want to be in the next 6 months, 1 year, 3 year, etc. Perhaps you want to change careers or industries. Make the important decisions upfront. Your goal should be such that your next job will help you chart the course of a strong career for years to come.
2. Create a Target Company list
Once you are clear on the type of job or career you want, start creating a list of companies that are ideal for you. Thanks to sites such as Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Indeed, etc., it is easier to create a Target Company List. More tips on creating a target list can be found here.
It is not just important to have a target list based on industries or companies you want to work for. It helps to be more specific.
- What is the ideal company size?
- Do you want to work for a start-up or a corporation?
- Do you want a job that provides remote work options?
- What type of culture do you want to work in?
- What is your ideal commute time?
The more specific you get with your list, the more it helps you in the job search process. I strongly recommend using a spreadsheet – Google Docs or Excel. This helps you track your job search, and also your progress. The goal is to come up with anywhere from 25 to 50 companies in your list.
3. Eliminate any Companies with Red Flags
People leave companies for many reasons. On top of that list is a toxic culture and/or bad management.
If you have just left your last job because the environment was toxic, or because your boss was a jerk – would you want to go back to a similar environment again?
Don’t romanticize a particular employer just because of their brand status. Many of us want to work for major brands such as Microsoft, IBM, Disney, NBC, Coca-Cola, etc. While working for such brands does provide stronger opportunities and an attractive resume, the culture may not be what you are expecting.
I recommend spending some time on Glassdoor, Indeed, etc. and reading the employee reviews.
Don’t just focus on the ratings (1 to 5), but spend time reading the reviews in-depth. If someone has left a good review, find out why. If someone has written a terrible review , find out why.
Glassdoor also provides you more information on interview steps, interview questions, potential salaries, etc. All this will help you make a decision whether you want to interview with a particular company or not.
Additionally, tap into your Professional Network (friends, colleagues, LinkedIn contacts, etc) and ask them about the companies. If you know someone who is working for company on your target list, then ask them about it. This is vital information that will perhaps save you months of aggravation in the case you make a bad decision.
4. Get Prepared
“Every Battle is won before it is fought” – Sun Tzu
I know using a war analogy for job search is a bit too extreme. But it does bring up an important point on the topic of preparation.
Before you have a chat with any recruiter or apply for any job– get your house in order.
Prepare your brag sheet, your resume, cover letter templates, updated LinkedIn profile, references, etc.
There are many resources on the web that will aid you to prepare your job search tools such as atopcareer, The Muse, and Work It Daily. Learn the tips & ideas from these sites and optimize your tools.
Additionally, also prepare a list of standard interview questions, your elevator pitch, salary expectations, etc.
No one every sabotaged their job search by over-preparation.
I will guarantee one thing. Your self-confidence will skyrocket just by doing this step. When you are prepared with all the things you need for your job search –you will automatically feel a surge of confidence.
If you are skeptical – try it!!
5. Proactively Contact Recruiters and Hiring Managers
Most employers will post their jobs on their careers page, LinkedIn or Indeed. The challenge with these avenues is that the competition is very high. For any posted job, there are about 50-100 applicants.
If you blindly apply for the job like everyone other candidate, you risk the probability of being lost in the mix.
Connect with the Hiring Managers and Recruiters on LinkedIn. Send them a decent non-threatening LinkedIn Invitation.
After each application send the HR person/recruiter a follow-up email. You may not receive a reply, but at-least you are making yourself more visible.
The goal of the application process is to get a request for a screening call. Most employers use the screening call as the first step .This helps them to eliminate candidates who are not a good fit.
Your goal is to get as many screening calls as possible.
6. Ask all relevant questions
Congratulations – you have received a call from one of your target companies.
Don’t’ get too excited or attached to the first company that calls you. Your goal is to receive multiple calls. You are screening companies as much as they are screening you.
During the screening call, verbalize that you are also talking to other companies.
After they have asked you all the questions they need to ask, request their permission to ask some questions yourself.
Get clarification on all the things you need to know. I urge you to ask them all the questions you need to ask.
This is your chance to clarify.
- What are the key skills they are looking for?
- What type of experience they are looking for?
- Why is this particular position open?
- What is the compensation range for this position?
- What is the hiring process?
- What is the time-frame that they would like to fill this position?
- What are the next steps?
Asking them key questions about the hiring process and timeline is vital. It gives you the necessary information about the process and the culture of the company.
If they say “the process is 6 months and you need to go through 7 rounds of interviews”. And you require a job within 2 months to pay your bills, automatically you know that this particular employer is not the best fit.
Put them on the back-burner, and continue pursuing other opportunities. Do not put all your eggs in one basket.
During each step of the next steps, ask them “What is the next step?”
7. Taking Control during the Interview
The most crucial part of the job search process is the final interview(s) with the Hiring Manager(s). This is your make or break moment.
A little earlier, I told you about the importance of preparation. Make sure you go into this meeting with as much preparation as possible. Most candidates will only get one shot to make an impression.
Put on your best performance during the interview. Answer all the questions with poise and confidence. The key is solid preparation.
Towards the end, most Hiring Managers will give you time to ask questions. Please use this golden opportunity to ask all the questions.
Before the interview is concluded -set the stage for the next steps. Ask them when you can expect to hear back from them. And if you don’t hear back, is it OK to follow up?
Most will respect you for the fact that you are being professional and taking initiative.
8. Control the Offer Stage
The moment you have been waiting for has finally arrived. You have aced the interview and they want to hire you. Even better, you have received not one but multiple offers. Congratulations!!
The offer and salary negotiation stage can be nerve-wracking for most candidates. Unfortunately, most employers don’t provide a favorable environment for candidates. It often feels rushed. Remember my little excerpt above about preparation. That preparation will once again come in handy.
During the interview process, if you sense that things are moving along well for you, take some time to prepare for your salary negotiation.
Practice this with the help of a friend. Or if you have the budget, hire a coach to aid you with offer negotiation. The extra practice will aid you when you are on the phone negotiating the final offer. Sometimes, a simple 5 minute conversation might help you make an extra few thousand dollars. Negotiation is a skill, you can learn it and hone this skill with practice.
The ideal position is to receive multiple offers so that you are in the driver’s seat and you can negotiate confidently.
However, even if you only receive one offer, don’t be nervous. If a company has spent hours and multiple rounds interviewing you, they are definitely interested in you. Don’t lose sight of that fact. Go in to the offer negotiation confident. And claim your prize!!
I must agree that the ideas stated above are not necessarily radical. Most of them sound like common sense. However, I have seen too many candidates get frustrated with the job search because they don’t have a system in place or are not prepared. I am confident that if you use the above steps and take control of your job search, you will find your ideal job in a shorter period of time.
Also, you might enjoy the job search process when you are in the driver’s seat.
All the best with your job search. Now go find the job of your dreams!!
Nissar Ahamed is an accomplished Growth Hacker with extensive experience working as a Blogger, Content Creator and Editor. He is the Founder and Editor of the Award-winning Career Blog, CareerMetis. The Blog has a community focused approach to career discussion and has earnt Nissar great respect amongst his peers.