Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Job Search Reflections - What's different this time?

I have been on the hunt for a full-time position since becoming re-structured from my last
permanent full-time position. It's been seven months of searching and it's been harder this time 'round. At times I felt encouraged, like when there was a job posting I was super excited about the prospect of. Or when a head hunter sought ME out on Linkedin; that feels good. Other times, it's been discouraging, like weeks when I applied to several openings but heard nothing back. It has never been this challenging for me before to find a new position; to have applied to so many jobs and get so little interest. What's different this time?

Not Different: Custom Applications, Every.Single.Time

Let me be clear on one very important point - I customize EVERY SINGLE application. I do not just use a form cover letter and generic resume. Instead, I write a custom cover letter for each and every position I apply to which specifically addressing the job posting and how I can meet the requirements and why I'd be a good fit in the role. This may seem obvious but in my experience with hiring, this is QUITE RARE.  In addition, on occasion where I am really interested in the position I will add "something extra" to my application such an Infographic (read about my "something extra" here). Here is a post I wrote about one unique application I sent in. It takes me at least 45-90 minutes to apply to a single job but I believe customizing each application sets me apart. However, does it work?

What Could Be Different? Reflections

My recent search experience has caused me to be reflective and ask questions about why it's been a different experience this time.
  1. Are there more qualified candidates in my industry now than there has been in the past?
  2. Are my skills now too diverse and I was not being narrow enough in my search, hence over-applying?
  3. Am I over qualified for the roles I applied to?
  4. Are recruiters getting better at only interviewing people they already know they would hire (hence, reducing the number of interviews I would get)?
I think the answer could be YES to all of these questions. As our world becomes more digital and our shopping experiences move online more and more, there are more people becoming versed in e-commerce and digital marketing so the entry-level applicant pool is larger for these jobs, than it was 2 or 4 years ago. Meanwhile, my skills are evolving too. I am becoming more well-rounded and more experienced and company's only need one or two "top level" digital manager jobs so I've been applying to jobs I could easily manage.

On the point about recruiters becoming better at selecting candidates, I'm not so sure about this one; can someone in the HR world comment here? On the cynical side maybe they are actually worse at their jobs and don't recognize awesome talent from cover letters and resumes because they are so used to reading the same thing over and over. OR maybe they're all using software to select candidates and my time spent customizing cover letters doesn't resonate with the technology like it would if a human being were reading my application.  I don't have the answer here.

Application Metrics

In reflecting on this recent job search journey I went back and tracked all my applications from August 2018 - February 2019. During this time I applied to 48 positions. Of these applications, 8 included "something extra" like an Infographic. Sadly, I received no feedback, acknowledgment, or call-back from any of the applications where I took this extra initiative. I still think submitting a "something extra" is important for key roles of interest so even though it wasn't the trick this time, I still advocate for this strategy. And I will always be a proponent of customizing a cover letter for every job; always!

During this time, these 48 applications resulted in only 5 interviews. In the past my application-to-interview ratio has been higher.

Types of Roles

In terms of types of roles I applied to, they could loosely be grouped into 5 groups:

  • Account Management: 4
  • Ecommerce: 5
  • Digital Strategy/Campaigns/Publishing: 8
  • Content Creation/Communications: 15
  • Marketing: 16

Reflectively, I am stronger in e-commerce than reflected in these numbers but that's likely due to e-commerce being a more specific job role (compared to "marketing" which is a vast category) and there being fewer postings for that more narrow role.

In Sum

All in all this job search period had it's up's and down's. I sure got excited about a few of the positions and had to deal with the "let down" of hearing nothing from the employer. However, in the end, I landed a new full-time job so I gotta consider that a success.  It would be nice to not have to do another job search for a longer while ;)

How does this compare to your recent (or past) job searches? What additional factors do you think impact your search experience?

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