Understanding your job search strategy can be tricky and confusing. I thought I knew what my job search strategy should have been, but I came out of outdated assumptions. Worse, job search cannot be considered a logical problem to be solved with a linear solution.
Because the job search is broken at every level.
I recently wrote this tweet:
There are some great comments out there … click to see it on Twitter.
Someone tweeted again and asked:
“What are the solutions you see? No matter how weird or unusual?”
My first thought was that I have been blogging about the broken job search process, with ideas and solutions, since 2006. But I could not think of any particular post that ties all the ideas together. Instead, there are a bunch of different ideas, suggestions, etc.
In this post I want to address problems and maybe suggest some solutions.
Broken on the part of the employer
James Winnie left comments in my tweet that are starting to shed some light on what the job search has broken down on the employer side. The bottom line is this: some people are intimately involved. As long as this is true, the job search process on the part of the recruitment will be inconsistent and feel broken.
I can not stress this enough: when people are so intimately involved in the process and the system, it will be messy.
I’ve been in this industry long enough to have talked, in depth, with some amazing people who have tried to fix it. These are systemic, strategic and empathetic people. They understand that things are broken and they see solutions, or parts of solutions. They are losing sleep regarding fixing these problems, and think their solutions can change the world.
They can indeed change the world. But there is another root problem (which I think cannot be fixed):
The recruitment process is not supervised
First, let me say, it has to be out of control. I do not think any government should get its hands too deep on the way recruitment is being done (or, deeper than it already is). Of course, there has to be some control over things to reduce discrimination and things like that. However, the effectiveness of how it was implemented is questionable.
I also do not think any organization or association, like SHRM, should control the way it is recruited. I think they can offer, create guidelines and best practices, and guidance, but not a government with rules / laws and penalties (again, outside of legal issues).
Because this process is unsupervised, it is very fragmented. There are tons of companies and consultants whose “recommended practices” are preaching. There are recruiters and recruitment managers with their best practices. and
Broken from the side of job seekers
My job search strategy was better than “looking at classified ads in the newspaper.” But only a little better. Because I had no job search training I did what I assumed was right. To be honest, if I were to hire a coach or resume writer they would immediately change my job search strategy to include more up-to-date and effective tactics.
I see it almost every day. People do things they think are right, but they are not necessarily effective. This is worse for an audience of 60+ who have not been looking for work for 30+ years.
TANGENT: It’s very sad to hear someone who was 64, with less than a year to retire, fired and losing his allowances. Sad and disgusting.
So what does a job seeker do? They were able to get the parachute book, which I think was the most popular job search book on earth. They could have gotten a coach if they had a few thousand dollars to spend. They can ask for help from family or friends who may have succeeded (or succeeded) in their field but have no idea how the job search, interview, negotiations, etc. are conducted today.
You can read articles, listen to podcasts, read books, etc., but really, are you trying to be a job search expert or are you trying to get a job and get drunk? I just wanted a job, I did not want to be an expert on these things.
The job search and recruitment industries are divided
A fascinating observation I had is that there is no single leader in this space. There is no single resume or company writer that everyone knows or respects. There is no single job search coach, outpost company, recruitment company, human resources leader, etc. that everyone knows is the leader.
The closest I saw was Dick Bulls, the author of the book What color is your parachute? Dick was an outstanding guy who wrote his first edition decades ago and updated it every year. He was very respectable, and well known, but almost everyone I spoke to in the industry. His books were everywhere I went to talk.
When Dick dies we wonder who is going to take his place as the guru, the greatest name, the most reliable person in this space. Know who it was? nobody.
I know hundreds of amazing professionals in my career. Many of them are very successful. But no one is close to the power or presence that Dick had.
Same thing in the recruiting space. Same thing in HR. Outplacement is a bit different because there are only so many good sized outplacement companies so everyone knows who the big ones are. But I did not talk to anyone who thinks “they are the greatest, we should follow in their footsteps.” They are not honored as industry leaders (although they are certainly respected due to the business they have grown).
How to fix this broken mess
I’m not one to be the wet blanket. I am generally optimistic when it comes to opportunities for improvement. However, I think as long as the human element is so high it will not be corrected.
Job seekers are human beings, with all their emotions and peculiarities. Recruitment managers are human, recruiters are human, job-seeking professionals are human. We bring to the table biases and experiences, hopes and dreams, and all our emotional and mental things.
As long as this is true this process will feel broken.
I hope some people in different parts of this equation can really move the needle and make improvements. The people who make standard resumes, for example. I know of a company that did this that was acquired by AOL, and then the product got a little carried away. Of course LinkedIn has the most standard thing other than a resume / resume, but based on my experience since I wrote the first edition of my book on LinkedIn I would say that about 90% of the profiles really stink.
I talked to recruiters who have developed systems or processes that will change the world. I was excited about them. They can affect the issues they are aware of but I can not think of anyone who has the ability to enormously influence the messy issues.
Back to your job search strategy
Okay, enough with the problem definition. If you’ve been looking for a job for more than a week you already know these things. The real question is, what are you doing? What tactics should your job search strategy include?
In general, career professionals agree that networking is the most important job search strategy you should have. It is rooted in dubious data (a survey from the 1960s, in my opinion) and also in gut feeling. I agree with this advice, even though I have known a lot of people who get jobs off-line. And while networking for a managerial role may be best, networking for an entry-level fast food job may be less important.
I said that if I was looking for a job I would spend most (90%?) Of my time in an information interview strategy. This is one of the best and most effective networking strategies, not just for job seekers. Advocacy interviews are the bomb and not talked about enough. I created a course on Pluralsight where I train you why and how: Information interviews.
Marry networking with personal branding and you have a lot of work to do. You will probably have more success than ignoring these two tactics.
Part of personal branding is understanding what and how to communicate. This applies to your resume, LinkedIn profile, anywhere on the internet, professional networking and of course job interviews. This even applies to wage negotiations.
When I got serious about my networks and personal brand, and making them a big part of my job search strategy, I saw changes. Changes in my attitude, results, etc.
Do not rely on others in your job search strategy
One of the most important things I can recommend is that you be active in whatever job search strategy you have. If you think HR managers or recruiters or recruiters are going to hold your hand in this process, and give you special treatment, and make sure you are not confusing anything, think again.
There are great people in these positions, and if you are their No. 1 candidate, they might do it. But usually you have to manage every aspect of this process that you can. That’s why you’re following. That’s why you come to interviews ready. Do not trust others to take care of you. This is a competitive process and you need to get in as a competitor, not as a victim.
I remember going to training for a job interview, which was quite sophisticated and very strategic. After that, I went for a job search interview that was anything but sophisticated and strategic. The interviewers (there were three) did not seem to be ready at all, and apparently typed some interview questions from a Google search just before they got to the meeting.
It was then that I realized it was my job to conduct the interview. Not in a takeover way but in tact. I had to make sure the messages I needed to communicate came out, instead of waiting for them to get through their weak questions.
This has become a big part of my job search strategy. It’s critical that you be proactive as you go through every aspect of a job search.
One last thing. I mentioned this before but I can not stress too much the importance of follow-up. This should be a major part of your job search strategy. This is a big part of networking. Now you are cultivating relationships and squeezing in one more point of contact. This opens the door to more communication and can help keep the mind clear for the decision makers.
and that’s it. This is my post on a better job search strategy. Tell me what you would add in the comments or on mine Jason Alba Twitter account!