Anatomy of Julie's Job Search: Preparing
This post is part of a series. See the introduction for additional context and disclaimers.
After reflecting on what I am looking for, I do a bunch of preparation to set myself up for success with the many, many activities involved in the active job search.
Table of contents
It is a good practice to regularly update your resume, but I continually fail to do so. I hate updating my resume. I only do it when I really have to. Thankfully, I can put a lot less effort into it at this point in my career because it is unlikely to make or break my ability to get a job.
I usually start by updating LinkedIn because it formats the information, a lot of recruiting happens there, and you can often use it instead of a resume. I do not really like LinkedIn, but it has a corner on the market, so I use it. I will spend most of my time there attempting to wordsmith descriptions of my work and its impact. This is the part of resumes that I hate. Trying to describe the impact of complex work in a few short bullet points while using language that will please a resume parsing algorithm, recruiters, and hiring managers is an exercise in futility. I do so much better speaking to my work in interviews where I can interact with another human being.
When I am sufficiently frustrated with updating my experience on LinkedIn (I timebox this part because I am never really happy with it), I then translate the content to an updated version of my resume. It has lived in a variety of places over the years, but these days I maintain a relatively plain HTML-based version on my personal site. I do not spend time crafting a beautifully designed, 1-2 page PDF, but I do maintain a little bit of CSS to output something sensible when printed to PDF or paper using print media queries.
When updating my resume, I asked around on Twitter to find out if resume length was still important. I got a variety of answers ranging from "one page only" to "two pages" to "it doesn't matter." I made sure the "print" version of my resume was about two pages, which seemed like a good middle ground for my level of experience.
Set up data store
The job search process includes a lot of information. People, companies, job postings, interviews, and more! I cannot keep it all in my head and would fail catastrophically if I tried. Thankfully there are many different tools available to store and keep track of data. I have tried a variety of tools in the past ranging from spreadsheets to project tracking tools.
This time around, I am using Notion 1, which gives me a hybrid of spreadsheet, database, and document all in one tool. It was new to me, so I spent a few days understanding the features, finding the sharp edges, and coercing my mental model into something that played nicely with it. After making it over the learning curve, I'm happy with what I put together. I'll report back at the end of my job search on how well it worked overall.
The entities in my system this time around include:
- Tasks: General tasks I want to track. For example: updating my resume, promoting my job posting, and writing these blog posts.
- Roles: Potential jobs and information about them (e.g. company, job title, link to job posting). Roles have status that I use to track progress through the job search. I often visualize this using a kanban board.
- Organizations: Companies, non-profits, or other places I may want to work and general information about them (e.g. what they do, size, location, age, industry). I track these separate from roles because I can end up looking at multiple roles at the same organization.
- Activities: Tasks and meetings associated with roles that I want to track. For example: cover letters, take home assignments, and interviews.
- People: People I interact with, their contact information, and how they are related to the job search. This can include recruiters, hiring managers, interviewers, and more.
Create interview questions and template
In addition to the data described above, I want to collect as much information as I can about potential jobs. I did all of that reflecting to identify what I am looking for. Now I need to collect similar information about jobs to see if they align.
The best way for me to do this is to put together a list of questions that I want answered throughout the interview process. I usually turn this into a template that I can easily reuse as I interview. In the past, I used a google doc for these (examples from 2015). When I was doing in person interviews, I formatted the template to be printed and filled out by hand. Now that I interview remotely, I type notes on my second monitor. I am also using Notion for note taking this time around, so I can keep the majority of my job search in one tool.
Preparing for interviews beyond the templates is a large undertaking worthy of its own post. Stay tuned for that in the future.
I collect a list of useful resources, so I can reference it throughout the rest of the process. This is usually a mix of job searches, company information aggregators, and company reviews. Below are some examples from my current search.
- Levels.fyi — Basic company info, compensation
- Glassdoor — Basic company info, employee sentiment
- Crunchbase — Detailed company info, useful for info about funding and startups
- Layoffs.fyi — Info about layoffs
- 4 day week - List of companies that have 4 day work weeks
- Established remote companies (hiring globally)
- Remote-friendly companies
- Awesome Remote Job
- Diversify Tech job board
Set up appointment scheduling tool
A larger, public job search often involves talking to lots of people, especially early on in the process. Doing the time scheduling dance over email with that many people is time consuming and not very effective. Thankfully, appointment scheduling tools exist to simplify this process for both me and the people who want to talk to me.
Last time around, I used Calendly and was really happy with it, so I am using it again this time around. I use one of the lower paid tiers because it provides multiple event types and a few other features that are worth it to me to simplify my process for the month or so where I am interviewing. My calendly events ask the other person to add a link for meeting invites, so my interviewers can use the tool they use day-to-day on the job, and I can avoid paying for yet another service.
Why it works for me
At this point in my career, I optimize for the interview process and spend a lot less time on things like resumes and cover letters. Just like the public job search, I can get away with this because of my experience and professional network. I spent significantly more time on these tools earlier in my career when they were critical for even getting to the interview part of the process.
I put a lot of effort into data stores and templates to keep everything organized. This is necessary because the large scale of my job search exceeds the small scale of my memory. If you are only talking to a couple companies and you have a great memory, this would be a lot of extra work for very little value. Similarly, appointment scheduling tools add unnecessary overhead and cost if you are not scheduling that many conversations.
Takeaways for job searchers
Notice that I keep calling out where I am prioritizing my time and energy. There are only so many hours in the day, and there are a lot of different things you can do to prepare for a job search. Prioritize the work that is going to have the biggest impact for your personal situation and goals. There may be some commonalities with my approach, but unless you are in the exact same situation, your priorities will probably look different from mine.
If you are not sure where to start, think about areas where you struggled in previous job searches. For example, if you rarely hear back after applying for jobs, it may be worth getting feedback on your resume and working to improve it. In my case, I struggle to keep track of everything and to perform under artificial pressure, so I focus on organizational tools and preparation before interviews (more on the latter in a future post).
My level of organization is way more than most people need, but a little bit of organization can go a long way. For example, having a list of questions you want to ask during interviews can be really helpful to get the information you want and make a good impression about your interest in the job.
Takeaways for employers
Interviewing is a two-way street. Make sure that the interview process leaves enough time for candidates to ask questions and get enough information to determine if the organization, team, and role are the right fit for what they are looking for.
I am going to repeat a variation of this in every section. Note how much time and energy a job search requires. I may put more into it than most, but I am not that much of an outlier. Finding a new job is exhausting as a candidate, but it is also incredibly time consuming and expensive for employers. You can set yourself apart from other companies by streamlining your process and making it less painful.
Takeaways for people who want to hire me
The tools and process I use for my job search may look a bit like your process as an employer. Just like you are talking to multiple candidates, I am talking to multiple potential employers. Just like you, I am trying to juggle lots of information and manage my time effectively. I totally understand why your team uses tools like greenhouse to manage the hiring process. Please be similarly understanding when I use tools of my own to keep everything organized.
Expect me to ask a lot of questions. If I take a job at your company, I am going to spend a significant part of my week collaborating with the people there, doing hard work to solve problems, and producing value. I want to know what I am signing up for before I commit to something that has a large impact on my life. Thankfully for you, I wrote down a lot of what I care about, so my questions are hopefully not a surprise.
I originally started with Airtable, but got really frustrated with the UX of their kanban view (it cuts off most of the title), so I spent a little time with Notion to see if it would work better. It did, and I preferred a lot of their UX choices. I do wish they supported some more complex data types and formulas, but overall it was the better choice for my needs. ↩