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Saturday, March 13, 2010

How to get a job

A few people I know are trying to find a job. Some will go to Workopolis and scan the job listing. Some will do it religiously. Some will do it occasionally. Most will do it religiously at first but stop when they get depressed.

The truth of the matter is, finding a job is a job. Think about what you do well. I'm good at testing software. Why am I good at testing software? I'm always learning. I'm always using what I learn to improve.

If finding a job is my job, what have I learned about finding a job? Am I getting better at it? Am I doing the same thing every day and expecting different results? Albert Einstein said this was the definition of insanity.

So learn something new and use it to get better at finding a job. How many people do you think go to Workopolis and look for work? That is how many you are competing with.

If you can get a friend to hand in a resume it will go a long way. Don't have any friends at a company you want to work for? Find anyone at the company and ask them to hand in your resume. A lot of companies will give employees a bonus if they hire you. This doesn't usually apply to management so go after an individual contributor.

If you are a programmer, you might be thinking working on an open source project would be good. Maybe help you to meet someone who can hand in your resume. The people doing the actual hiring won't be looking at open source projects. They'll be asking employees if they know anyone, they'll be placing ads on Workopolis or hiring a recruiter.

Rather than working on a project, figure out where recruiter hang out (LinkedIn) and be impressive there. If you stand out, in a good way, a recruiter will find you and introduce you to the hiring manager at the company.

Additionally, a lot of people believe the purpose of a resume is to get a job. Totally wrong. The purpose of a resume is to get an interview. The interview will get you a job. So you need to focus on getting an interview. Talk to hiring managers and see what they look for in a resume. If you can see things from their perspective you might be able to help them find you.

Think about this, I used to get 1000+ resumes for a position a former company advertised. The bigger the company, the better the job, the more people applying to it. The more your resume has to SCREAM that you are the right candidate for the job. I had a full time job. Scanning resume was not my top priority. Anything someone could do to make my job easier I liked.

With 1000+ resumes you cannot read each one. Big companies will use a scanner to look for keywords. They will either reject an resume which does not have ALL the requirements, by keyword, or they will rank the resumes and keep the top resumes. If they think they have time to read 20 resumes, they'll keep the top 20. So the first phase of resumes is throwing them away. I want an employee who I can trust. Are you trying to be sneaky? Did you put things like "Familiar with Java" but no evidence to support it? Stuff like this will get past phase one but as hiring manager, I'll keep the resumes which show where they used Java.

This might sound harsh but thing of this. To properly read a resume might take me 3 minutes. If I gave everyone a chance we are talking 3000 minutes or over 7 days. With all the work a manager has, there is NO way they could devote that much time to finding a candidate. Even 20 resumes is going to be an hour out of my day.

If you embellish or lie on your resume there is a small chance you can get the job but more likely you are going to tick off the interviewer. The number of times I've brought someone in for an interview, I slide a sheet of source code across the table and ask them questions about it only to find they have no idea what the letters in the paper mean.

So try to be truthful on the resume BUT don't sell yourself short. Leave them guessing. Tell them something you did at your last job so it sounds interesting but vague enough that they will want to find out more. Don't give too much information. Too much information might help me to eliminate you from the interview process. Remember, you are trying to get an interview not a job.

Once you get the interview, think about what the employer wants. I'm amazed when I ask questions like, "I give you a task to do. I believe it will take 4 days to complete. After 2 days you finish the task. What do you do with the 2 extra days?"

Good answer: let me know you are done and ask what you should do now.
Bad answer: read a book, a nice fiction novel. I never seem to have time to read a good book anymore.

Find interview questions (technical and soft skills). Think about the answer. Practice your answer. Talk to yourself in a mirror or have a friend ask the questions and give them the answer. Having the right answer is part of it but saying it with confidence is important as well. The more you practice the better you get.

Finally, I once had two candidates. One was very technically competent but seem to be taking the job because he couldn't find any other work. The other candidate was younger, less knowledgeable but really excited about working for me. I asked a colleague which one he would hire. He said to me, "I'd hire the eager candidate. You can always teach him the technical skills. You cannot teach someone to be passionate about their job." So if you are not excited about the idea of working for  a company, don't bother applying.

Be forewarned, every time I got rejected from a job it hurt because I really wanted to work for that company.

Good luck.

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