The Secret Sauce to Landing Your Dream Job? Apply Less!!!

Robert Combs over at Fast Company had a brilliant article recently, and if you’re in Recruiting or HR, it’s a must-read! If you’re looking for a job, it’s also a must-read!

Here was Robert’s concept. A.I. (robots) are running the world. It’s the biggest innovation to come into recruiting since Big Data (wait, didn’t we always have data…). If robots can run the application process and find you where ever you are, Robert thought, why not use a robot to apply to jobs for him. Let the robots fight it out!

So, that’s what he did, he built a robot to go out and find jobs he would want, apply to those jobs, and then even follow up!

He applied to hundreds of jobs in minutes! It got a bit out of control:

So I started slowly casting about for new challenges, initially by applying (perhaps naively) to openings at well-known tech companies like Google, Slack, Facebook, and Squarespace.

Two things quickly became clear to me:

  1. I’m up against leaders in their field, so my resume doesn’t always jump to the top of the pile.
  2. Robots read every application.

The robots are “applicant tracking systems” (ATS), commonly used tools for sorting job applications. They automatically filter out candidates based on keywords, skills, former employers, years of experience, schools attended, and the like.

As soon as I realized I was going up against robots, I decided to turn the tables–and built my own…I fired it up I accidentally applied to about 1,300 jobs in the Midwest during the time it took me to get a cup of coffee across the street. I live in New York City and had no plans to relocate, so I quickly shut it down until I could release a new version.

After several iterations and a few embarrassing hiccups, I settled on version 5.0, which applied to 538 jobs over about a three-month period.

So, what did Robert find out? Here were his biggest learnings:

1. Even your ATS robots suck at giving responses! Around 70% of his applications never got a response!

2. Only 4% of 538 jobs he applied for, got a personal email response from a recruiter.

3. Only about 6% of your hires come from people applying to your career site.

Robert found out what most of us in the business already know. Applying to jobs doesn’t actually work. Yet, we spend so much time, energy, and resources building these great tech stacks and apply processes for just his!

So, what works?

Turns out about 85% of jobs are filled by good old fashion networking. You know someone, who knows someone, who has a friend, whose cousin works in the department you really want to work for.

“Out-of-the-box hires rarely happen through LinkedIn (or any job board, career site) applications. They happen when someone influential meets a really interesting person and says, ‘Let’s create a position for you.’”

I disagree somewhat with the above quote. I’ve worked in large corporate TA shops, we just didn’t run around all willy-nilly creating jobs for really cool, smart people! We did many times find really great people and then stick them into a job we already had open, and usually, the reason we found the person was someone who knew the job was openly referred the person to us.

My advice to job seekers is always the same. Stop applying to jobs, start networking with every person you have a possible shred of connection with, and let them know you’re looking for a position, what position you prefer, what position you would take, and where in the world you would work.

Every minute you spend networking is a thousand times better than every minute you spend online applying for jobs. Robert just proved this!

You could just say “Yes!” to everything!

I tend to say “Yes” at about a ten to one clip of saying “No”. So far it’s worked out well for me. Most of the time I’m not quite sure what’s going to happen when I say “Yes”, but it usually works out just fine. Some of the coolest things I’ve ever been apart of were because I just said “Yes” and didn’t worry about the details.

What can go wrong when you say “Yes”? 

  1. You can take on too much and get overwhelmed and stressed out
  2. You could be taking time away from more important things in your life: family, working on stuff that is more financially viable, you-time, etc.
  3. You hate the thing you said “Yes” to,
  4. Some moron will try and take advantage of you.

What can go right when you say “Yes”? 

  1. You might actually find some really great stuff you love.
  2. You might meet and work with some awesome folks you never knew.
  3. You might find some business opportunities you didn’t expect.
  4. It just feels better in your soul to say “Yes” to others.

I’ll be honest, I probably say “yes” too much. I often have people try and take advantage of my propensity to say “Yes”. Will you do this thing? Sure! And then that “thing” takes up a lot of my time that is valuable, and the time I’m giving up is mostly benefiting the other person, and there is probably nothing they’ll do for me in return.

Pro-bono work feels great until it doesn’t.  It’s when I start questioning my life strategy of saying “Yes”. Everyone wants some free work from you, believing that it’ll all work out for the best in the long run. Which in truth, it usually does for the person getting the free work!

How can you say “Yes” more, but stay sane? 

That is really the question, right?

I think the biggest thing is to have personal boundaries you don’t compromise. Knowing when the “yes” becomes a “no more”. The reality is people aren’t trying to take advantage of you for the most part. They just are trying to do their thing, and if you don’t have boundaries they’ll keep doing their thing without much regard for your things.

Know your value. I say “yes”, but I also usually let the person know what I’m giving up to say “yes” to their thing. Even when I’m being paid. “Hey, thanks for the offer of “$X” and Yes I want to do this and help you, but normally I would be getting “$X+”. Why do I do this? It’s a boundary thing. This is my real worth, I like you or what you’re doing, I want to help, but let’s be clear, here is my real value. The value I’m giving you.

This is really hard because most people get uncomfortable with this. They don’t want to tell others what they are worth and they don’t want to make others feel uncomfortable that they aren’t paying you what you’re worth. But, if you want to say “Yes” more, you kind of have to come to grips with this!

At the end of the day, I still like saying “Yes”. I like trying new things and working with new people. It’s not for everyone, but I think it’s worth a try!

The #1 Thing You Need To Do To Find The Job You’ve Always Wanted!

Last week I got a call from an old work friend. He wanted to have a “virtual” lunch or cup of coffee.  He just left a position and was in transition.  Not a bad or negative job loss, just parted ways.  When you get to a certain executive point in your career, it’s rare that bad terminations take place. It’s usually, “Hey, we like you, but we really want to go another direction, and we know you don’t want to go that direction, so let’s just shake hands and call it a day, here’s a big fat check.”

Executives get this.  For the most part, there aren’t hard feelings, like when you were young and lost a job. I usually find that the organization the person is leaving from are super complimentary, and usually takes the blame for the change.  Executives in corporate America are like NFL coaches. You get hired with the understanding that one day you’ll be fired.  It’s not that you know less, or aren’t going to be successful in your career, it’s just that the organization needs change, and you’re part of that change.

Welcome to the show, kid.

My friend decided that he was going to find his next position not through posting for positions online, or trolling corporate career pages, he was going to have lunches.  About two per week, with past work friends. Let’s connect, no pressure, we already know each other and I want to catch up.

You see, in 2021 you don’t find great jobs by filling out applications in ATSs and uploading your resume to Indeed. You get great jobs because of the relationships and personal capital you’ve built up over your career.  Having lunch and reconnecting turn on a relationship machine. I believe that people, innately, want to help other people. When a friend comes to you with a situation, and you have something to offer or help, you will do that.

The problem is most people who are looking for great jobs don’t do this. They lock themselves in their home office and apply to a thousand jobs online and get upset when nothing happens. Great jobs aren’t filled by ATSs and corporate recruiters.  Great jobs are filled through relationships. Every single one of them.

Want to find a great job in 2021?

Go out to lunch.