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Listener Question: How Do I stand Out as a Job Applicant?

Published 4/12/2017

In today's episode, we discuss Supui's question regarding how to stand out as an applicant. We reinforce some of the things we've discussed previously, and introduce some new ideas as well. Thanks to Supui for the question!

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
How do I make an impact on a potential employer? If I had a dollar for every time I was asked this question, then I would have at least $100. I'm sure I've been asked this a hundred times. That wouldn't make me rich and I'd still need to look for a job. So we're going to talk about it again today because there's so much to talk about. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and you're listening to Developer Tea. On this show, I try to coach you through your career. And you as a developer, you're here listening to this because you want to level up. And my job is to help you do that by talking about discussing the realities of these things. As a hiring manager, for example, I got this question from listeners to Pooey. And here's the actual question that Pooey sent me. Pooey said, I recently graduated from a coding boot camp, but I'm having a hard time even landing interviews. I was just wondering, as a hiring manager, what aspects about an applicant makes them stand out? Should I just keep doing projects and keep learning and hope for the best? So Pooey, I'm very glad that you asked this question because the short answer is no. You can't just hope for the best and expect it to happen. It is your responsibility to take action. That's something that we believe in very strongly here on Developer Tea. If you are not taking action, then very few people, if anyone else other than you is going to act on your behalf, your career is in your hands primarily. Other people may help you out along the way, but ultimately if things stagnate, it is your responsibility. So we're going to talk about ways that you can stand out as an applicant today. It's kind of a fire round. I've got a lot of ideas on the subject. And I'm going to share some of them. Some of this stuff I've probably said on the show before, quite honestly, I don't have a perfect log of all the things that I've said on the show before other than going back and listening to the episodes. But considering we have 365 or so episodes now, there's no way that we're going to actually only say things once. But the things that are true, we will continue to reiterate on the show. So Pooey, thank you again for sending this question in today. Let's start out by saying the most important thing that you can do as an applicant is align yourself with the needs of the business you are applying to, or maybe a better way of saying it is, solve a problem that they have become necessary. If you understand basic psychology, then you have to understand the reality of decision-making, especially when it comes to the hiring process. If you are not necessary to that company, they're going to have a hard time justifying a reason for hiring you. What most people do and most developers are included in this, they accidentally get a job based on their skill set. And they acquired that skill set because they wanted to get a job. So this is a very simple alignment. You have a skill set and you're willing to come in and use that skill set for a company. But most developers seek out a job and present themselves in the position of need. In other words, I need a job. So I'm going to ask you if you will hire me. So many times, this puts you in a disadvantaged position as a potential candidate because what you're bringing to the table is a need and a skill. From the hiring manager's perspective, they are now limited to fulfilling your need if your skill is worth their money. So you have, let's say, you have a $50,000 a year price as an introductory developer. We're using fake numbers here, so don't try to pull anything from these numbers. But let's just say that you cost $50,000. If you bring to the table, only a skill, right, a hard skill. If you bring that to the table and someone else brings the same skill to the table and they only cost $40,000, the business decision is made very simple, right? If you come to the table with a $50,000 need, then the business is going to choose the other person with the same skill that you have. If instead you come to the table with a solution for the business, then you begin to trump skills. Solutions trump skills. That's kind of the takeaway for that one. People who bring solutions to the table, candidates who bring solutions to problems to the table, they become necessary for a business. Not only are they an option, but they are, the business is compelled to find those solutions. And if you bring that solution to the table, you're going to be much more necessary. You're going to be much more higherable. And in that scenario, your compensation, your salary is not only filling your need, right? You aren't coming to the table with a need for a salary. It is compensating you for your solution. There's a huge difference, especially psychologically, in those two things. When I am filling your need, that puts you in a weakened, disadvantaged position. But when I'm compensating you for your solution, that's a much more symbiotic relationship. So that's the mindset that I want you to approach searching for a job from. I don't want you to approach searching for a job based on your needs, but rather search for a job based on how you can fill the need of your employer. Secondly, and this one is very simple. Instead of contacting 100 people, one time, right? Instead of sending out your resume to 100 different companies and then waiting for a response, I want you to focus on 30 people and contact all 30 of them three times. The total number of connections is fewer, but the depth of the connections is much greater. I want you to notice, I didn't say focus on five people. If you aren't putting energy into sending your resume out to a large number of people, then you're probably not going to find a job. But more importantly, you need to balance the number of people, the width of your energy with the depth of your energy. Instead of just sending out your resume and hoping that that will lure one of the 100 people in, I want you to make a connection, make a further connection with the top of those people that you've connected with. The top 30 that you really think you can provide a great solution to, that you really think is going to be a good fit for you, that you're going to feel empowered by, that you're going to feel a sense of purpose working at that particular company. You should have focused on that top 30 percent and eliminate the bottom 70 percent. What you'll find out is you didn't really want to work for the bottom 70 percent anyway. If you're only focusing on the ones that you want to work with, and you're putting more energy into the communication, you're putting more energy and intentionality into writing personalized emails, and you're actually taking the time to learn about those companies. You're going to find that your connection with those companies and your connection with the hiring managers is going to be much more valuable. You'll also notice that I didn't say wait for a response from them until you send an email back. I want you to send an email and then send a follow up and then send another follow up and then send another follow up. Your persistence will pay off perhaps more than you expected to. It's important to stay persistent and stay vigilant when it comes to connecting with these companies. A lot of times the reason somebody doesn't get a job is because they only sent one email. It's possible that that email didn't even get read. It may have ended up in spam or it may have looked like a recruiter email, so it got archived. Instead of just sending one email and expecting someone else to understand the weight of that email, send more than one connection. Find a way to connect with this company at a deeper level. Go and understand the work they do. Connect with them on Facebook. Connect with them on Twitter. Connect with them on Instagram. Go read one of their blog posts. Decide how you feel about it and make a meaningful comment on that blog post. Engage with the company that you are saying you're willing to spend most of your time with. If you're not willing to send a second or third email, if you're not willing to connect at a slightly deeper level than surface level with this company, then you aren't really showing that you want to be at that company. You're just showing that you're searching for a job. The third and final kind of practical tip that I'm going to give you is to Puyi. There's plenty of other things that we can talk about that would help you stand out. I do recommend that you go back and listen to the episode from a few weeks ago about the resume mistake that could be holding you back. The third and final thing I want to talk about in today's episode is ask for an in-person meeting to learn more about the company. A lot of times the things that hold us back are based on our language. There are a lot of implications that come with the word interview. If you can set up a meeting, if you can set up a tour or perhaps just coffee with someone from the company that you want to work for, they don't even have to necessarily be the hiring manager, especially if the company is small, simply setting up a coffee or going and grabbing lunch with someone from that company. This gives you a chance to have a conversation, to talk about the things that the company is doing, the things the company is facing, to make it personal connection. When that company decides to make a decision about hiring, they're going to have a hard time not seeing your face. They're going to have a hard time not remembering the value that you could provide. They're going to have a hard time having a personal connection with a stack of papers and a much easier time having a personal connection with a person that came and bought them lunch. Make that personal connection and avoid the word interview if you have to. Avoid the formality. Make a personal connection, whatever it takes to make that personal connection is your responsibility. Do your homework find a way to get your foot in the door? Your foot in the door doesn't mean getting an interview. It quite simply means getting your foot in the door. Thank you so much for your questions, Bui. I hope that this discussion has helped other people who are trying to stand out as applicants in a hiring scenario. Start thinking from the perspective of your hiring manager. I can't say this enough. Thinking from the perspective of the person hiring is going to shift your thinking 180 degrees perhaps. So action steps for you to take today go and cut down the number of companies that you are seeking out. Unless you have a small number of companies now and then I want you to go and do some research to find a bunch of companies and then cut it down. You should be sending out your resume to a ton of people but few enough people that you can follow up three times. Going back to your original question, no, you absolutely shouldn't just wait. You shouldn't wait for good things to happen, you have to make them happen and you have the power to make them happen, Bui. And anyone else who's listening to this, if you are discouraged that you haven't gotten an email back, I want you to go and compose another email. Compose a follow of email today. If you feel discouraged, take an action today to step towards what you want in your career. It is in your hands. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. If you don't want to miss out on more coaching in the future, that's what I hope to do here. I hope to coach you through your career. If you don't want to miss out on that free coaching that comes through this podcast, go and subscribe and whatever podcasting app you use. That ensures that you don't miss out on future episodes. Thank you so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.