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How To Get A Job

Page history last edited by rsb 1 year, 10 months ago


This is a simple, proven technique for obtaining a job, quickly.  Although I have only recommended this to tech workers in silicon valley (because that's where I live), I suspect that this technique would help one obtain a non-technical job as well with minor tweaks.  However, this technique may not work outside of big metro areas.  So, to summarize this unnecessarily long paragraph: If you live in a large metro area and need a job quickly, then reading this might be worth your time.  


You need a process.  Any process will help.  However, I am extremely confident in this particular process.  It's a lot of work, but I think it is time well spent and it makes you faster at a lot of things - like everything - time must be invested to get a positive return.


This process simply asks you to pay attention to the odds.  If you do that, you will turn job searching on it's head and put all the odds in your favor - you will have more offers, and know more about what you want, than you thought was possible - or your money back.  Act now. ;)


The main reason this method works is that in the job market, you are effectively comparing two very large sets (job-seekers and employers), based on highly unreliable information, in an attempt to come up with optimal sets of one to one relationships.  When you do that, the best outcome for each party is usually found by making as many reasonable one-to-one comparisons as possible in the time each party has available.  Most employers know this, but job seekers don't always think that through, or act on it if they do.  


The other reason this system works is that the psychology of this process works completely in the job seekers favor.  It is a very *positively* reinforcing system that builds confidence.  IMHO, job searching, when you need a job quickly, is about process, attitude, and efficiency.


(NOTE: More maths is better.  If you take more time than I did to study job-searching analytically, then you will probably be more effective than I was.  I recommend you start with Optimal Stopping TheoryWild-ass guess: at least some people get into an urgent job search situation primarily because they have been doing shallow work instead of deep work - and that encourages them to skip the math required to make data-driven decisions.  For them, it's not a bad idea to force a few oligodenricytes to wrap layers of myelin around the neurological circuits necessary to solve math problems.  In your downtime, why not try some math.)


(CAVEAT: I recommend a lot of tools and websites in this document, and I don't update this document more than once a year, and I might stop now that it's 2020 and people don't come to me for advice as often as they once did.  If you are reading this after 2020 - get the concepts.  You might need to take the concepts and update them to use what are surely the faster, more productive tools of your time.)



The system I will describe attempts to maximize search efficiency, but before you dive into the work, it's worth discussing end-runs to a job search - these are things that can work in parallel with a proper job search.  If you are really screwed, and need a job fast, you might have to skip these end-runs. 


Ideal Situations - You might already know what the ideal situation is for you - the company - the job.  Go for it.  Contact them.  All of them.  Follow your dreams.  If you are under-qualified, say so.  But explain to them why you would be an asset, and the kind of excitement you have for the job.  A smart friend of mine pointed out that this is basically the quality before quantity approach - and should not be skipped.  That's not what the rest of this page talks about, but I tend to agree with him.  However, timing is always a challenge.  It can take months for the ideal job offer to come up, and you will have to pass up other offers waiting for that to happen.  If and when you are well and truly done pursuing the perfect job, come back here and keep reading.  Good luck!  


Recruiters and Job Shops - I know these can work.  They take a cut, and you can expect to be pushed in the direction they can most quickly get you employed.  I have no experience on the employee end of this, but I've found plenty of hires through these, using everything from high-level position recruiters to temp agencies.  There are emerging digital versions of these that might be worth looking into - I haven't tried them. 


Your Network - In many cases, people with useful capabilities and experience can rely on their contacts ("networking") to feed them job opportunities - they don't need to "search".  If you have a good network and you are ready to interview,  contact your entire network, and tell them you are ready to interview.  Come back to this page and keep reading when you are done.


Reverse job fairs - hard to find, but these are, in my experience, fantastic.  Typically you build something cool in a few weeks time, and demo it at the job fair.  The job seekers have the booths, and the employers run around giving out their resumes to the job seekers, and exchanging info with them.  Much more efficient for you.  I've gone through one of these at Hacker Dojo, and although I was hired before the fair started, it was just a great experience. 


Asking people who are the best at what they do to help you - this can work.  It's not easy to find them, but if you ask the 10 best people in the field you want to be in for advice, some of them will give you advice, and maybe one of them will give you a lead - maybe.


I don't recommend you spend too much time on those, but rather do them in parallel with your search proper.  Or maybe time box it - give end runs a few days, tops, before digging into your real job search full time.  


O.k. End Runs are not going to cut it: 


If you are still reading, then the end-runs probably seem quaint and ineffective to you.  You need a systematic, common-sense process that will help you build confidence, and get you back into the workforce.  You need a plan.  This is one such plan.  Take the time to read the whole thing.


FWIW, I was there!: Just a side-note.  I, Rich, have used this method once, in a dark time in my career.  For months, I was searching for my next job and getting nowhere.  I was depressed, lacking confidence, barking up completely the wrong trees, and far too picky about what I applied to.  I needed to give myself process.  I needed a system.  Out of complete frustration, I developed this simple system, and it worked splendidly.  I have described or tutored this method to at least a dozen people - every one of them in a tough employment spot at the time.  Only a few have followed it, even half-heartedly - but it worked like magic for every one of those who did.  


Since then, I have been asked about this kind of thing often enough that it's easier for me to document it here and just point people at it.  It's there, see!  Down below!  I'm pointing at it!  Good luck - I know you're gonna do great.


Step 0) - Setup


Time required - 1 hour - one time only (could take much longer depending on your background - well worth it)


This step brings you up to speed with google's online tools, as applicable to job searching - you can use other tools - this is just the LCD. 


0) Pop open chrome and review browser hot keys for:



Review gmail hotkeys for the following: (Hitting the ? key from the inbox proper brings up all the hot keys in gmail - link to googles explanation)


  • Compose a new message (c) 
  • Send message (tab-enter)
  • Go to inbox (g then i) 


1) Tool up your browser and OS


For your OS, download a macro tool that will help you copy and paste text efficiently.  (google "text expanders" or look at some macro/shortcut tools - windows has roboform, mac has quicksilver and other stuff - here is a mac article on these). You will use this in your job search because you will be pasting your cover letter into the email, not attaching it - it's just easier for people that way - and your cover letters are going to be very short. 


For your browser, get used to at least one tab manager - I recommend both OneTab and Tabs Outliner - I use them both together to great effect.  This makes it easy to save and restore job search sessions with many tabs, and keeps your CPU usage under control to increase your speed.


2) Start with a new browser window


3) Create three tabs for:


  • personal gmail - NOT outlook or apple mail
  • craigslist (your first job search site!)
  • personal google drive


4) Create a new google spreadsheet called jobsearch_[year] and file it in a folder named something like "jobsearch" (file | move-to on the google spreadsheets menu)


5) Close your drive tab, but keep the spreadsheet open


Set up a spreadsheet with tabs, rows, and columns that looks like so: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Oes6m8zQPGIgCzaLTV6RLet8HIH6M9Rq5EjUZ2os5Bw/edit?usp=sharing


You can make a copy of the spreadsheet above and work with it.  Now you have a clean setup with which to start your work, and you can get the work done in a timely manner.


Save that browser session in each tab manager you have - get used to saving and restoring sessions.


Note: In all cases, I'm going to be really lazy and short throughout this article, instead of writing you a book.  You don't get to be lazy.  I just gave you the minimum spreadsheet that gets the point across - you'll mod the heck out of it - if you don't know how to use google sheets, this is googles getting started guide - don't ask me how to use google sheets, please.


Step 1) Weekly Grind - Choose Job Boards and Job Search Terms for the week


Time required - three hours the first day - then one hour a week every monday.


This step is research - it requires you to pretend you are an employer, figure out what job boards they will be looking at, what terms they will be using to search, and a few other things.


Take notes of your findings on the first tab of the spreadsheet you are using (the summary tab).


1) Google for jobs at companies that you love, and see what terms they use - this will turn up some search terms.   Put those terms at the top of your monday column in your week1 tab.  Ideally, you will have 20 or more sets of search terms - they will start out noisy - you will ultimately organize them a bit into sets of no more than two or three terms that might describe a job (insofar as a google search describes the item searched for)


2) Google for candidates that would be ideal for those jobs as if you were an employer, and see what job boards their resumes show up on - take note of all of those job boards in the summary page of the spreadsheet.  Also search for and note industry/category specific job boards (like idealist.org if you are considering non-profit jobs).


The main qualification for a good job board is that they allow employers to give you a list of jobs *with* contacts - you need a way to navigate to the job such that you can find the direct contact for the job provider - i.e. you don't have to fill out a bunch of forms for someone-not-the-hiring-manager, and ideally, you don't have to fill out any forms at all.  Forms often indicate an AI job filtering system - those are terrible - they miss most of the good candidates - they *never* bode well for the hiring company.  I assume you don't want freelance/part-timey things - so stay away from upwork, etc.  You will def use linkedin and craigslist.


3) Use some common sense and modify the terms - the terms and the boards won't be perfect on day 1.  You have allocated an hour each day during this week on this step, so you will mod them constantly - you will find more job boards that are specific to your industry by searching around - ideally, you want 10 job boards (very hard to get).


As you fill out all the keywords and think of more, you will also want to take the following notes in your spreadsheet:


A) Links to jobs that you *really* want - especially ones that you are not qualified for. (you will automatically revisit these and apply for them at some point)


B) Phrases that would make you want to hire someone, or skills, or anything else that is a game changer if you could include it legitimately on your resume. (these will become part of your resume as you learn and progress)


4) Pull up your resume.  Make it into a one-page summary form resume (sections are: summary - work history - additional_info (just like on linkedin - these sections should show you are a learner and enthusiast).  Look at the jobs you found in step 3A.  Edit your resume such that it has a summary that describes you generally and puts your best foot forward as someone who can get things done.  Edit your resume so that the most salient of your qualifications for those jobs are readable within three seconds just below the summary.  The summary and the most important qualifications should take no more than five seconds total to read - the first five seconds are what matters.  TXT and PDF versions are all you need. 


5) (Optional) Another nice thing to do once a week is to go to a meetup or users group in the field that you most enjoy.  Show up.  Exchange information with people.  Education and serendipity combine there, helping you build a network and keeping you out of this kind of situation in the future.


**** A quick side NOTE on job boards for remote work ****  - This article is designed to help you find a full time job.  I have never spent a lot of time on job boards for "remote" work, but if you want to find some, you can check out the tryremote job-board site.  Most of those job boards are for temporary work - contracting - that's very different from a normal job, and it can be a huge hassle.  It's more like running a small business.  I'm not into that at this time in my life and that's not what this article is designed to help you with.  

Work environment and team structure can affect your productivity (see Martin Fowlers article for a few data points).  Know yourself.  If you are productive with remote work, then you can seek that out, and if you are looking for remote work as a full time job, then this article still applies.



Step 2) Daily Grind - Send out resumes, study


Time required - ninety minutes to four hours per day 


This step brings up a bunch of job board windows in your browser, and a bunch of tabs on each one of those windows describing jobs.  Then it requires you to be brave and apply to them.


0) Log out of all gmail accounts and log into only the one you will be sending mail with. 


1) Open your spreadsheet, gmail, and the job board tabs (with your tab manager I hope!)


2) Put the search terms into each job board tab (all of them get the days search terms), and click search - jobs will come up.  If less than 10 jobs come up, change search terms in that job board until there are 10, or however many you think you can get.  Take note of the search terms you use for each job board on that day in the spreadsheet.  Each job board is a little different, and will pull up a different set of jobs for a given set of terms.


3) Steel yourself, soldier.  You will be applying, mostly, for jobs that you are not fully qualified for.  This is partially due to the fact that employers throw crazy requirements into job descriptions.  Accept that you will be making these applications, and that you will not be getting a call back on a lot of them.  Be o.k. with this.  Apply to the jobs that come up, even if they aren't the one perfect job for you - I've got news for you - there isn't one - you need to meet a lot of people, and learn a lot about what they do - then and only then will you find a decent group of people - and a decent work life balance.


4) Open a new window for each job board. (just pull them into a new window if the tabs are up - you can drag tabs from window to window in chrome - try it!)


Now you have a bunch of job board windows, and a gmail/drive window.


6) Put  your search terms into each job board window, adjust the terms as needed, then annotate the spreadsheet with the terms.


7) Pop open a tab for each job in each job board window (ctrl-click or command-click to open new tabs for each job).  


Now you have a bunch of job board windows, each with a bunch of tabs open to individual jobs you can apply for.  (hopefully the total number of tabs is somewhere around 50).


8) Apply for the quickest ones first.  Email is best, one-page forms are acceptable, and multipage forms are garbage - ignore them.  If you can get all 50 each day done via email - perfect - spend the rest of the time honing you skills and reading sci fi novels.  Never, ever apply to companies with reputations for requiring days of your time for a 1 in 1000 shot of getting a position - those companies usually suck and it's just plain stupid to spend your time that way.  It's your time - and you have a limited amount of it - do the math! - option 1 requires a massive time input for almost no chance to work in just 1 bureaucratic company - option 2 gets a couple hundred inquiries out to potentially good places and teaches you about yourself and the world of jobs out there.  Take option number 2.


You will use the body of the email as a cover letter (single page forms will have a place to paste something like a cover letter).  Cover letters are always one of three things, very short.  They each start with the following:


A) I realize that I am missing a few of the requirements for this position, but if you will give me a an opportunity to interview, I know that I can show that I would be a good fit, and that I would add great value to your company.


B) I believe my qualifications to be a perfect fit for this position.  If you will give me an opportunity to interview, I know that I can show that I would add great value to your company.


C) I have more experience than is required for this position.  If you will give me a an opportunity to interview, I know that I can show that I would be a good fit, and that I would add great value to your company


Your text expander will insert the right cover letter in a second or so (make three shortcuts something like "ctrl-option-cmd-o,u,q" or "over_q, under_q, exact_q" for over, under and qualified cover letter text expansions).


You probably want to restate the cover letters I described more nicely, and add one more sentence in the first paragraph.  Maybe follow that first paragraph up with a three sentence paragraph about how stoked you are and how much you love this stuff.  


Practice sending a cover letter of each kind to yourself.


Now you can insert cover letters into emails in about one second.  Total time elapsed to insert a cover letter, and attach a text-resume, and send an email should be well under 10 seconds.


Try to get at least 50 out a day.  That's the goal for the first week - 7*50 = 350 out - duplicates are fine (seriously) - you learn to be fast and you learn to understand the market as you do this. 


Finally, when you are done sending out as many as you can, reward yourself with a programming hour.  Some people choose to add a "programming" hour in the morning before they start as well.  Those people are lucky to have that kind of time.


Step 3) Daily excitement - interviewing, chatting with people, etc.


Time required - one hour to six hours per day


Replies begin interactions.


Every interaction you have will start with THEM replying to YOU, and asking you questions.  They are all just interactions, whether by phone, email, video call, or on-site.  Your attitude is the same for all of them.  You are a person after Feynmans heart - if you look into anything deeply enough, it is interesting (if that's not true then make it true).  


Your attitude has to be that you are excited about solving problems.  That and positivity are all you need, plus a good nights sleep, some actual coding each day (or whatever it is you want to do - if it's game level design - you need an hour of that every day, at least), and a big cup of coffee or whatever gives you the energy to interview for hours on end.  In every interaction, you will kill it, LEARN all about the position, LEARN about what you know and don't know, LEARN about what the company doesn't know about itself (that's because most job descriptions are not well thought out, nor is company structure) and LEARN bout what you love to solve.  The company actually must LEARN this way as well!  They don't even know who they need until they have met the people they do and don't need and forced one another to discuss why after the fact.  This is the natural order of things.  Job interviews are a way for both sides to learn.  Embrace it.


NOTE: DO NOT SKIP ANY OF THE STUFF IN THE LAST PARAGRAPH - you have to learn - and you have to give the interviews your best, or it doesn't work.  It improves you.


Simply view every single question and every problem as something fun to solve.  There is no pressure other than the non-pressure to have fun with this person solving this problem.  Work and converse with them as if you are stuck in this room with your best friend and you both do *not* want to leave until you both can solve this problem.  If they don't have problems to solve, ask them what problems they have for you to solve, or something like that.  That is what makes you learn, makes you comfortable, and gets you hired.  


What to do if the interview is not going well:  Ask what problems they have that need solving in the areas in which you *love* to solve problems, and tell them that you would love to solve those and work on those every day - that you would pop out of bed to solve those.  That's what people want to hear.  And if they don't have those problems, feel free to be very apologetic and thankful and end the interview early.


This entire process is about turning the tables - the statistical advantage now works for *YOU*.  We are protecting *YOUR* time to the maximum.  We are finding the best fit in the world for *YOU*.  *YOU* are learning constantly, every day, and improving yourself.


How is this going to pan out?


I realize you might be anxious, and a lot of this is about staying positive, so here's a blow by blow of what will happen.


First, it works, so either you will use it, and it will work, or...you won't use it. 


The first week is the hard part. 


It can take a week or more for the replies to come in, so you will start getting the replies in week two, and the number of replies may increase to a ridiculous level at some point - after which you won't be able to schedule more interviews.  When I did this, it only took one week of sending out less than 100 resumes a day for that to happen to me.  My calendar was literally full on most days a week or so ahead.  I had to stop sending out resumes because I was turning interviews down to avoid overbooking. 


After a week or so, you will see the math start kicking in.  If you have a 1 in 350 chance of getting a reply, and you send out 350 resumes a week, then you will get about one reply every week.  Your chances are twice that good if you get 100 resumes out a day, 10x that good if you can always avoid long forms.  Your chances will go up every week, because you are not dumb - you will be finding new boards, improving your network, subconsciously A/B testing little tweaks to your resume, the system, and to yourself - all improving the rate of reply.  It could take weeks to get there, but in a big metro area like silicon valley, 10 to 20 replies per week is certainly possible.


Your skills will increase tremendously with your focus on the programming (or writing/game-design/whatever) hour and the sheer F-ton that you learn solving problems during interviews.  


You will learn a tremendous amount about the job market, the careers available, the gaps that need to be filled, people that you might be working with, and mostly, about yourself. 


Your confidence will improve as time goes on:  You might suck at interviewing for the first 5 or so interviews - slow - sloppy - nervous.  That doesn't matter, though.  For the first five interviews, you must not expect to be hired - you are there to have fun solving problems and to pick their brains and learn like a madman.  You win.  By the tenth interview, you will be the master of the friggin' interviewing universe.  Even if the job you are interviewing for is not a match, you'll be making friends and everyone will be happy you interviewed.  Remember, they are learning, too.  If you are very friendly and follow all the advice on this page, you will build a network without trying, and introduce people that are better fits than you to people that need to interview them.  You win again, and again.


Obviously, I'm pretty confident in this - If you keep at this long enough, and really do 50 apps a day, then, as happened to me, in a short time you will no longer be able to schedule all the interviews people invite you to - and shortly after that happens, you will be forced to stop applying for jobs - you will have to do the right thing, accept an offer, and get back into the workforce.


Good luck!




Setting rejection goals works for writers.

Notes on Optimal Stopping






















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