Job Searching As A Sales Process: Lead Gathering

This is the second in a series of posts on managing a job search.

The initial phase of any job search is, of course, locating job openings you’d like to pursue.

In the technology world, leads come from three places, in ascending order of quality: Job boards, recruiters and social network referrals.

Job Boards Are For Noobs

The worst source of employment leads is a job board. It’s my opinion that unless you are exceptionally junior — as in, little practical experience and only basic skills — job boards are a waste of time.

What is a job board? It’s a place where you look for a job, rather than the job looking for you. Places like Dice, Monster, Indeed, and LinkedIn job listings are job boards.

It’s certainly possible to find employment through a job board. People do it all the time. But they do so to their detriment.

  • No matter who you are or what you can do, you’re a commodity on a job board.
  • You are going to have the hardest time fitting into jobs you find at a job board, and
  • you’ll have the hardest time closing those jobs.

The fundamental problem with a job board is that it casts a wide net. That’s fine if you’re trying to locate a janitor, short-order cook or nursing aide; those are largely fungible skills. And it’s OK if you’re trying to hire basic tech skills.

But people don’t build careers from job board listings. The better your skills set and the more clear you are about where you want to be in five years, the less likely it is you’re going to find the right position on a job board.

I have never successfully applied for a technical position on a job board. On a few occasions I made it past the screening only to discover the job was bad. But usually, I don’t even get past the initial application screening.

At the risk of sounding arrogant, I have a long and accomplished track record of knowing exactly what I am doing across a broad spectrum of technologies and business sectors. If I can’t convert a job board listing, you probably can’t, either. And that’s a good thing, believe me.

The majority of recruiters are not particularly good at recruiting. Photo by RyanMcGuire via pixabay, in the public domain.

Recruiters Are Largely Miss, Sometimes Hit

There are basically three kinds of technical recruiters:

  • Two-thirds are “spray and pray” types who send out tons of emails and job board postings. They’re keyword mining their way to finding a warm ass they can put into a chair.
  • The remainder mean well, but usually are trying to pound the square peg that is your resume into the round hole that is their employment opportunity.
  • The top 1 percent will take the time to find out what you want, what the employer needs, and actually match you to good opportunities.

I’m quite fortunate in this sense. My last two jobs were obtained by working with those 1 percent recruiters: Katy Imhoff from Camden Kelly and the internal recruiter at 10th Magnitude, where I now work.

10th Magnitude is looking to expand in DFW, Tulsa, Chicago and Seattle. If you know which end of Azure pounds the nail, take a look at our job descriptions and let me know you’re interested.

The traits of a quality recruiter are:

They contact you via LinkedIn, and they use InMail, not connection requests, to send messages. Most recruiters will use resumes posted on job boards to identify potential candidates. But the ones who have the best jobs — especially, higher-end jobs — use LinkedIn to find candidates. And they pay for the privilege.

If a recruiter is asking you to connect on LinkedIn, and sending an inquiry along as part of the request, that recruiter is a joke. If they’re so cheap they won’t invest in the tools needed to run their business — namely, access to InMail — what are the chances they’re going to invest in you?

To this end, you need to help good recruiters find you on LinkedIn by having a strong profile. There’s plenty of advice out there on how to do that.

I recommend hiring a professional resume writer who also builds LinkedIn profiles. I used a company named Careers Plus a couple years back. I paid about $250 for a resume and LinkedIn profile. There’s no question I got that back in spades. The quality of my LinkedIn inquiries increased markedly and my resume is in a format recruiters like.

That said, I did need to go through several revisions and help the resume writer understand what I wanted to highlight. You should expect to do the same with whomever you hire.

They don’t call first. There are a lot of reasons why a recruiter will call you before they even send a job description via email, and none of them are in your favor.

Primarily it’s to lock you in as their candidate, so that other recruiters can’t earn commission for finding you. It also shortcuts a lot of back-and-forth; the recruiter can quickly qualify your skills and salary over the phone, often before you’ve even found out what the job entails.

Never give a recruiter, cold-calling about a job, a salary requirement. Don’t ever tell them what you make now; it’s irrelevant. Ask what the job pays. If the recruiter won’t say, or insists that you state a salary requirement, walk away.

It’s also easier to sell a crappy role via phone than email. And a blind phone call is more likely to lead to follow-up activity than a blind email, which is a metric a recruiter’s boss can track.

In other words, blind phone calls are at best the recruiter being selfish, but more likely the recruiter wasting your time to make their lives easier.

This is not someone who is looking out for your interests. I’d advise firing that recruiter on the spot. But if you want to keep your options open, at the very least, tell the recruiter to send you a job description by email and you’ll call back if it’s something you want to pursue.

They send customized emails that prove they read, and understand, your resume. If I get an email seeking a Java developer with AWS experience, and the preamble doesn’t address me by name or mention how the recruiter found me, I immediately mark that email as spam. Because that’s what it is: The recruiter simply lifted my resume from wherever they found it, ran keyword searches against it, and spat out an email.

A good recruiter’s email reads like this:

Hello, Doug. I found your resume on Dice and was impressed with your background in Azure and .NET development. I have a contract-to-hire opportunity in Bismarck, North Dakota for a lead Web Application developer …

That’s a message from a recruiter who, at the very least, read and understood my resume. It’s not something I’m going to do — It’s something of a step backward, career-wise — but I’d want to keep in touch.

I’m an advocate for staying in touch with mediocre-or-better recruiters, even when you’re not looking. Nobody knows what may happen tomorrow. If you work for a good employer, like I do, they’ll give you plenty of reasons to stay, and not worry about whether you’re connecting with recruiters on LinkedIn.

A great recruiter’s email reads like this:

Hey Doug, Hope all is well. I wanted to reach out to you and see how everything is going at 10th Magnitude. I have an awesome opportunity at {redacted} I think you’d be a great fit for. I’m looking for a high level, customer facing executive with IoT experience. I’d love to chat with you about the role, as well as go more in-depth in regards to your experience. When are you available?

That’s an email from a recruiter who took the time to find the right kind of candidate for her role, and assumed the sale. Mind you, I turned her down because I have a great job already. But if I was going to bite, this would have been the bait to do it.

Referrals Are Best

This is pretty obvious so I won’t dwell on it: Hearing of jobs from friends, business associates and other people you know is best.

Not every word-of-mouth referral is going to pan out. And you still need to screen your opportunities. But if a job seems like a good skills fit and the right move for you, word-of-mouth is by far the most likely job lead to end up in a job.

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