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3 Assumptions That Can Hurt Your Job Search

Published 6/3/2019

Most of us don't have formal training when looking for a job. In today's episode we're looking at job searching from a different perspective and uncover three assumptions that we make about the job search, that can actually hurt our job search.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Most of us don't have formal training on how to look for a job, how to network with right people. What should we care about when we're looking for a job? Whether you are a manager or a brand new programmer or even a seasoned programmer looking to switch your career, change directions, maybe jump tracks from management to individual contributor or back from individual contributor to manager. Today's episode will help you gain a new perspective on how you can think about looking for a job. My name is Jonathan Cutrell, you're listening to Developer Tea and this show exists to help driven developers find clarity, perspective, and purpose in their careers. When you sit down to drive a car, I'm assuming most people who are listening to this have either driven a car before or you have some of the same mental schema necessary to know how to drive a car. But when you sit down in a car, there are a few assumptions that you make. A few assumptions that most people would make. For example, you probably know that turning the wheel to the left will turn the car to the left. It won't flip the car over in the same way that the wheel is being turned. It will turn the car linearly across the ground. Generally speaking, the gas pedal or the power pedal, depending on what kind of car you have, is going to be on the right. The brake will be on the left and you probably have a series of mirrors to give you some awareness around your car. It would be kind of strange if you got in a car and you realized that the driver seat was in the back. Not just because it's unusual, but also because it doesn't seem like a good idea. There's a variety of assumptions that you would make getting into any given car. There's additional assumptions for different categories of cars. For example, if the car has a manually controlled transmission, then the clutch pedal is going to be to the left of the brake. This assumption is one that by definition fewer people are going to make because it's not a universal reality for cars. Another example of this kind of assumption would be which side of the car the driver seat is actually on. You can go on and on trying to come up with all of the cross sections of assumptions that people might make about driving a car. Many of these are quite useful and this extends well beyond driving cars. We make assumptions about pretty much everything that we encounter in our lives, even if we don't have a good reason to do so. For example, when we buy a gift for another person, if we don't know what that other person likes, we will probably substitute a different person, usually ourselves, and ask the question if we would like the gift. So instead of actually getting the information that would give us the best basis to work from, we substitute information that is easy, that's accessible. As we said over and over on this show, these heuristics are incredibly useful. It's really quite difficult to track down every piece of information that's necessary to make a truly fully informed decision. After all, whatever I like, my close friends probably like as well. We have a lot in common. We're all humans. We all have similar kind of backgrounds. So I act as a very cheap proxy to assume that the things that I like, my friends will probably like as well. It's probably a good assumption in terms of economics. In terms of effort to return, it's probably not a bad assumption. So our brains make these kinds of assumptions all the time, and usually those assumptions are useful. They're helpful. They allow us to do more with less. But hopefully you have guessed already that this episode is going to break the bad news to you that when you are searching for a job, sometimes these assumptions are not assumptions can be really damaging. And I want to cover three of those assumptions in today's episode. Three assumptions that could make your job search really painful and really ineffective and really limit you in terms of your options, your career options. So that's what we're talking about in today's episode. Before we talk about those three assumptions, I want to take a moment to talk about today's sponsor, Discover.Bot. Discover.Bot is an informational place for novices and experts in the bot development space. It was built by Amazon Registry Services. They regularly publish how-to guides and the latest bot-building resources. For example, how to design a bot personality. But they also share expert advice and insight on all things bots, like for example, how to write an engaging chatbot dialogue. This kind of community is incredibly important to move forward both to practical and the theoretical when it comes to bot development. If you've ever been interested in bot development, but you never actually took the time to learn about it, then this community is for you. And on the other side, if you are an expert in bot development, this community is also designed for you. For example, hopefully you know by now that frameworks are an important part of building any kind of product. You don't want to build everything from the ground up. So how do you choose a bot-building framework? You can look at the article on Discover.Bot about bot-building frameworks. So wherever you are on that spectrum, go and check it out. Head over to Discover.Bot. Slash Developer Tea and join the community today. Thanks again to Discover.Bot for sponsoring today's episode. So we're talking in today's episode about three assumptions that can make your job search significantly less effective and perhaps even kill your opportunities before they get off the ground. So we're going to talk about the first assumption. And perhaps this is the most important assumption about a job search. And that is very simply that when you get turned down, that means you are incapable of doing that job. Let me say this again. Whenever you receive any kind of rejection letter, it's easy to believe that whoever sent that letter has a kind of employment crystal ball. And they can say whether you are qualified or not. So if we peel away this assumption and we go the opposite direction, the people who are sending you rejection letters, they don't have that crystal ball. You very well may be qualified for the job that you applied for and still get turned down. These are not mutually exclusive situations. Now how does this happen exactly? How do we end up in a situation where we've applied for a job that we're fully qualified for, fully capable of doing, but we end up getting turned down? Well, we're always searching for reasons. We're always searching for the story that makes the most sense as humans. And so we often fill that in with, well, of course, of course, this is the most reasonable decision they could have made because I'm not good enough for this. But we rarely consider external possibilities. Things that may have nothing to do with our own experience or abilities, but rather with another candidate or maybe it was the process, the timeline, maybe somebody else came in and they were equally qualified or maybe they were even more qualified. Now we aren't ruling out the possibility that you are indeed not qualified for that given job. Not everyone is qualified for every job, but the mistake that we make, the perception mistake that we have is that we are being evaluated thoroughly by a rational person in a vacuum. This is just simply not true. There's humans on both sides of this transaction. There's a human that reviews your application. Sometimes, even that doesn't happen. Sometimes your application is reviewed in an algorithmic way. And so our assumptions about every application being thoroughly vetted, every application being treated equally and every application being treated on its own and purely off of merit, well, these are just simply not realistic. What this means is that early on in the process, we need to be more mindful of the things that keep us in the group of people who are likely to move on to the second or third round and late in the process, we need to be keenly aware that being turned down is still possible, even if we're at the very last stage. And simultaneously, being turned down is not necessarily a direct mark on your capabilities. It's very likely that if you made it towards the final rounds with a given company that you're probably meeting most or even all of the qualifications for that job. So if you receive a rejection letter for a given job towards the last rounds, then consider that you may be able to apply for a very similar job, maybe in another company or at the same company in a different department and actually get that job. So that's bad assumption number one that a rejection is equivalent to an actual judgment from a rational actor that just simply isn't the case. Assumption number two that may be killing your job search is that someone is going to read your whole resume. Now this isn't necessarily untrue, but it's very rare that someone actually goes through and reads every single word on your resume. If you do some basic napkin math, you can quickly see that spending time with every single resume, especially spending enough time to read the whole thing is very unlikely. If you do some basic math, imagine that a given employer has a job posting and they get 500 applicants that have sent in a resume. Now they probably got more applicants, some of them probably didn't send in a resume, but let's assume that there are 500 resumes that are readable and actually applicable to this particular job. Well if you actually spend the time to read a full page, we can estimate that that will take somewhere between three and five minutes to actually parse and fully understand a fully typed out, you know, 12 point font kind of page on a resume. So if we go with four minutes per resume and that's 500 resumes, it's 2000 minutes, that's around 33 hours of straight reading through these resumes. That's before you get into any kind of selection of those resumes and it's also only one person having read those. It's before you have any kind of summarization, any kind of ranking. So this takes a lot of energy and so a hiring manager is much more likely to skim a resume, to look for the high points, make sure you're covering the bases and to go with the safest bets. Now it's very unlikely that the hiring manager is able to interpolate whenever there's missing information for example, let's say that you don't meet one or two qualifications, it may be easy for them to set your resume aside. So this actually brings us to the third assumption and that is that applications to jobs are how people get jobs. If you are following only the normal channels of applying for a job, for example, if you are just kind of blasting your resume to a bunch of jobs on a job board, then you're very likely missing out on some big leverage points. For example, connecting directly with someone at the company. If you have a connection, particularly if you have one that was already established beforehand, then it's much more likely that your resume will get looked at longer than that quick skimming that a hiring manager might do. If you assume that there are no other ways for you to get a job then to apply through the normal channels, then statistically speaking, you're going to have to go through quite a few applications, most likely, before you even get selected for an initial interview. That's not to say that there aren't ways to improve your prospects when you're going through those traditional channels. For example, making your resume easy to scan and addressing all of the important concerns and checking all the boxes from the original job post, these are ways that you might increase your chances for a callback. But I have a very simple exercise for you to perform, especially if you're looking for a job, but also for those of you who are not looking for a job. You are very likely to be on a job search at some point again in your life, and it's also possible that opportunities will show up for you. I want you to imagine for a moment that you are trying to find a job without job boards being available. What resources would you take advantage of? What connections do you have that you could look for jobs through? This means that you don't see any open positions. There's no call for that particular job. This opens up the possibility of working at companies that don't have postings on job boards, for example. Perhaps another bonus assumption is that all available jobs are on these job boards. There are plenty of openings that are not necessarily posted, and perhaps openings that are coming available soon that you may be really well suited for, but they aren't posted either. It's important to think about how you would approach the job search if you didn't have the ease of applying online, just sitting at your house on your couch and refining your resume and submitting it through some job board. Consider other ways that you would go about looking for a job. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. Thank you again to Discover.bot for sponsoring today's episode. We can't do the show without our sponsors. If you are interested in building bot software and you kind of voice activated bots, go and check it out, head over to Discover.bot slash Developer Teato join that community today. Thank you so much for listening today's episode. Also wouldn't be possible without spec.fm. Spek is a network that we started back in 2015, and it's designed specifically for you as a developer or you as a designer to level up in your career. There's a ton of other awesome podcasts and content available at spec.fm. Thank you so much to today's producer, Sarah Jackson, and thank you for listening. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and until next time, enjoy your tea.