Anatomy of Julie's Job Search: Sourcing
This post is part of a series. See the introduction for additional context and disclaimers.
After reflecting and preparing, it’s time to kick off the actual searching part of the job search.
Table of contents
I source potential jobs from many different locations. I do a mix of active searching where I look for jobs and passive searching where people come to me.
Reverse job posting
I publish the reverse job post I created in the reflecting step to my personal site, so that it can be shared publicly. The blog post includes instructions for how to contact me with potential job opportunities. In the past, I exclusively used email. This time around, I used an Airtable form to help keep things a little more organized and provided an email with a subaddress (+jobs) as a secondary option, so I could easily filter my inbox.
My personal site does not get nearly enough traffic for the post to do much on its own. I direct traffic to it and use it as a reference when sourcing with other tools.
I promote my reverse job post on twitter to get attention and traffic. I discourage people from having detailed conversations about jobs in replies because they are hard to keep track of. I sometimes start conversations with a small number of people I follow in DMs. I do not open my DMs for this process because it sucks to be a woman on the internet.
I have about two thousand followers, so not a massive audience, but enough that I usually get some attention, especially if someone I know with a much larger following helps promote my post (thank you!). I tend to source at least a handful of interesting opportunities this way.
As noted previously, I kind of hate LinkedIn, but it's where a lot of recruiting happens, so I use it. I change the settings to indicate I am looking for work and make a post linking to the reverse job posting on my site. I do not like the messaging feature on this platform and will encourage people to use the contact methods mentioned in my post.
I tend to source a lot of opportunities this way because the platform includes a lot of features for recruiting. Unfortunately, the signal-to-noise ratio from LinkedIn is awful, so it requires a bit more work to filter the results down to the small number I actually care about. I will only look here when I'm done triaging results from my preferred contact methods.
Ex-company slacks and discords
I sit in a few slack workspaces and discord servers for people who used to work at my previous employers. I post that I am available for work in the job search channels and include a link to my reverse job posting. People also use these channels to post roles they are hiring for, and I sometimes find opportunities there.
These often prove fruitful because these channels include people who have personal experience working with me in the past.
I am a member of a handful of community-based slack workspaces with job posting channels. I will look through recent posts to see if any roles might be a good fit. I may also add myself to a "looking for work" spreadsheet or post that I'm looking depending on the norms of that particular channel.
These are pretty hit or miss for sourcing opportunities, but it's very little effort, so worth trying.
Companies I interviewed with in the past are often worth revisiting when I look for work again. If I do not end up taking a job with a company that I spent significant time interviewing with, it is more often a "not right now" than a "never." Sometimes I got a better offer from somewhere else or the timing just wasn't right. Thankfully, past Julie documented everything, so I can easily look at my notes from last time and see what companies are worth looking at again.
The previous sources I listed are mostly passive. I put my information out there and people come to me. I also source a handful of roles more actively through a combination of:
- Job search sites (e.g. LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Google)
- Directly looking at job listings from companies:
- I have heard good things about.
- With products, missions, or other work I am interested in.
- On lists of companies relevant to my job search (e.g. remote friendly, 4 day work week).
When possible, I try to find people in my professional network to learn more about these companies and hopefully refer me for a job. A positive referral often helps shorten the initial application process because you are a known entity. The referrer often gets a bonus if you take the job. Everybody wins!
When I am interested in a role and cannot find a referral, I will sometimes fill out an application cold. My willingness to do so is dependent on my level of interest and the effort needed. I am generally willing to fill out quick and easy applications that require a resume and a few short bits of information. If I'm excited about the role, I will do the extra work of writing a personalized cover letter and answering a few more questions. I am unlikely to fill out long applications that require hours of work. Tech interviews are already incredibly time-consuming, and I could better spend that time talking to other companies.
Cold recruiting emails from employees
Occasionally, someone from a company will send me a cold recruiting email that fits what I am looking for early in my job search process. One of these ended up in the final list of companies I was picking an offer from last time around, so they can be useful. However, the signal-to-noise ratio on these is really bad. There is a reason people complain so much about recruiting spam.
Note that this only covers contact from people directly employed by the company (e.g. hiring managers, engineers, in house recruiters). I have never taken a job based on a cold email from a third-party recruiter.
It is rare for me to work with third-party recruiters in my job search process unless I have a preexisting relationship with them. They can be really helpful for some people, but they are more of an unnecessary middleman in my situation.
There are a small number of really awesome third-party recruiters that have put a lot of work into building solid reputations and relationships with engineers. For example, Jill Wohlner was early in starting up Underpin last time I looked for work, and her list of jobs and support were really helpful.
Another third-party resource I occasionally will chat with are representatives from venture capital (VC) firms. They sometimes assist companies they fund with recruiting. Since I am not that interested in early stage companies, this usually does not provide me with a lot of leads.
Why it works for me
As noted previously (but repeated because these posts may be read in isolation), the very public part of my job search works because I have significant experience, a large professional network, and the ability to be unemployed while I look for a new job. This allows me to put my information out there and have a bunch of opportunities come to me.
I rarely have to cold apply for jobs because I have a significant professional network. That network does not get me the job, but it often allows me to skip the slush pile of resumes and jump right to a first call with a recruiter or hiring manager. After that, I still have to make it through the full onslaught of the interview process.
I can afford to be picky and ignore most third-party recruiters and cold recruiting emails because I know I will source plenty of good opportunities elsewhere. I also do recognize that there is privilege in receiving so many of these that I can complain about them (as I often do).
Takeaways for job searchers
Note that my professional network comes up in several of my sources for job opportunities. Building good relationships with people you like to work with will pay dividends well beyond your current job. It's relatively common for software engineers to change jobs every few years, so you may end up working together again in the future.
I want to acknowledge that the middle of a pandemic is a really challenging time to build your professional network beyond your immediate coworkers. Attending large, in person events like conferences comes with significant risk (to yourself and others). Thankfully, some events still include remote options with digital hallway tracks. There are also a good number of tech communities online using tools like slack or discord to help you network remotely.
Even with my experience and network, I still search for jobs the old fashioned way too. If you rely entirely on your professional network to source new jobs, you may miss out on interesting opportunities.
Takeaways for employers
People talk. They share the good, the bad, and the ugly about their experiences with people in their professional network. If you treat employees poorly, it will negatively impact your ability to hire in the future. On the flip side, if you treat people well, word of mouth from your employees can be one of your best recruiting tools.
People refer to cold recruiting emails, especially poorly targeted ones, as "recruiting spam" for a reason. It is the job search equivalent of a cold call from a telemarketer, especially if you are not looking for work. If this is your primary method of recruiting, you may be struggling with hiring and need to invest in improving your process.
If you are requiring candidates to write a dissertation before they even talk to a human being about the role, stop it. Interviewing for software engineering jobs is already incredibly time consuming, and you are making it worse.
Takeaways for people who want to hire me
Please contact me using the methods I request in my reverse job posting. Trying to track opportunities across email, Airtable, LinkedIn, Twitter, Slack, and Discord is a Sisyphean task. I would hate to miss out on a great opportunity because it fell through the digital cracks.
If you are interested in hiring me, you should contact me during the period when I am sourcing opportunities (right now!). Once I have a sizable list of options that seem like a potential fit, I will close my inbox for business because I can only talk to so many people at once.
Opportunities from third-party recruiters I do not have a relationship with go to the very bottom of my list when triaging potential opportunities. The signal-to-noise ratio is usually really bad, and I strongly prefer to talk directly with hiring managers or in house recruiters instead of going through an intermediary.