September 28, 2018

How to be More Successful on Your Next Web Developer Job Hunt


If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen this tweet go out into the universe. I’m in the process of exploring the next part of my career and asking you all to help me do that by spreading the word. Don’t think spreading the word can make a difference? It totally can.

Just this past week, a junior dev I’ve been helping in his job hunt landed his first dev job! I used my network and made a tweet promoting his background, skillset, and hard work and it paid off. A company reached out to him, he nailed the technical interview, and now he starts in a few weeks. All because a tweet connected some people! Trust me, spreading the word can help, and I’d appreciate whatever support you could show me (if you haven’t already. Much love to all of you who have!).

Putting oneself out there, into the job market, can be one of the most nerve wracking parts of one’s career. Whether it’s your first job, your second, or your tenth, being in the hot seat and under scrutiny can be really uncomfortable. No matter how many times you’ve done it, I don’t think you can get rid of the nerves entirely. However, I think there are a few changes you can make alter your mindset and get more offers. So here are my tips to help you be more successful at job hunts.

Stop Trying to Win the Resume Lottery

There’s this game that so many people play that I like to call the “resume lottery”. People throw their resume and cover letter into a giant pile of other resumes and cover letters and hope and pray that somehow they stand out. It’s nearly impossible to win this game. I mean that literally. According to Designing Your Life, a book I’ve been loving lately, their research suggests that playing the “resume lottery” has a success rate of about 5%. That’s horrible!

Why is that percentage so low? Because as much as 80% of job openings never make it to a job board. When they do, they aren’t always really open. Often, they have a candidate in mind that they’ve customized the opening for in order to appease HR. On top of this, according to a 2015 report, 52% of managers admitted to responding to fewer than half of people who applied for a position. What chance do you have of winning the “resume lottery” up against those odds?!

You can keep playing the game. You can submit hundreds of resumes. Sure, you’ll get a few bites, but you’ll learn almost nothing from your failures. There’s no feedback mechanism, no incentive for those companies to help you improve. All the while, you’re not building up a network, you’re not gathering new information to act upon, and all you’re left with is an empty inbox. What on earth are you supposed to do?

Try smarter, not harder.

Playing the “resume lottery” is insane. You need to lean upon your “weak ties”, people whom you know, but aren’t in your innermost circle (“strong ties”), to help you create “warm introductions”. Most job placements come through referrals, and that’s precisely what a warm introduction can do for you. Learning how to build up connections and get these referrals helps tremendously. So how do you do that?

You need to start doing “informational interviews”. These aren’t really interviews, they’re conversations. You reach out to people who are doing a job you’re interested in and you ask them to tell you about it (of course, with kindness, politeness and a little bit of charm if you can muster it). It’s really that simple. People like talking about what they do! They’ll tell you all about it, and you’ll gain information. As you listen and respond, you’ll be able to figure out 1) whether or not what they do is something you’re interested in, 2) be able to share some of your own passions as you respond to them, which will help them unconsciously begin to see where you might fit, whether on their team or someone else’s team they know, and 3) you’ll begin to access their weak ties, thus expanding your own.

These weak ties, these connections, they’re your way to more opportunities.

You’re Not Looking For a Job, You’re Seeking Offers

I’m going to be honest, I’m ripping this straight from Designing Your Life, so give them all the credit. That being said, this tip is really helping me have the right mindset in my search.

You need to reframe your thinking from looking for a job to seeking offers. It’s going to change your approach entirely. When you’re looking for a job, you’re fixated more on doing what it takes to get a job, instead of exploring whether or not the job is any good for you. Exploration is the key.

There isn’t a perfect job out there, not one just waiting for you at least. There are probably a number of jobs you’ll do great at. Knowing this, knowing you don’t have to get this job, but rather you’re trying to give yourself options with many offers, means you can be your authentic self in an interview. You aren’t trying to conform to them, instead you’re on a path of discovery, you’re learning things about them, you’re focused on whether or not this fits with your goals, your personality, your aspirations.

When you’re seeking offers, everything becomes an opportunity. Every conversation and interview, at the worst, still provides you with information and probably connections. And here’s the thing, when you’re relaxed and not focused on getting just this job, you’ll do better at the interview in general, which will lead to more offers.

Even if you’re just starting out in the field, you need to believe this, because it’s absolutely true: You are capable of doing a good job at many places. There is no one job that will be perfect, no one interview that will make or break your career. If that was the case, then the only successful people would all have had the same path to their success, right? So dismiss that rubbish (sorry, I’ve been watching a lot of the Great British Baking Show and all my swears are somewhat Anglicized at the moment) and realize that your best chance at landing a great job is having a bunch of offers.

The other great thing about seeking offers is it immediately triggers your creativity and curiosity. You’ll be amazed at how some of your informational interviews might lead to offers because of your creativity and curiosity.

Hope these tips help! Tell me some of your best tips in a comment down below!

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Kyle Shevlin is the founder & lead software engineer of Agathist, a software development firm with a mission to build good software with good people.

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