If there’s anything I remember from my job hunt process, it was all of my self-doubting thoughts. “Nobody is going to hire me and I’m going to graduate as a failure” Oof, Now stop right now. HOLD YOUR GODDAMN HORSES.
If you’re reading this, you must be on the market to find a job! Fear not, because we’re here to get you all that moola. Or as the kids say these days, let’s get you some motherflippin’ f r e s h BREAD.
First of all — you are doing AMAZING. The job hunt process is pretty terrible and it’s easy to lose faith in yourself after weeks go by without hearing back from companies. I was in your shoes just a little over a year ago (wow it’s already been past a year what the heck even) and I know exactly how you’re feeling.
After applying to more applications than I can even count and receiving nearly just as many rejections (plus some mental breakdowns here and there no biggie), I somehow walked away with two job offers. Here are some things I wish I knew when I first started this entire process, because God knows that would’ve saved me some dramatic “I’m going to stare out the bus window into the distance because these strangers around me don’t even know half of what I’m going through” moments and of course hourssss of sleep.
1. Henry Ford this ish
When you’re applying to a bajillion different roles because you’re 20-something years old and you have no idea what you want to do for the rest of your life (totally not speaking from personal experience), you NEED to get efficient FAST. Time is of essence — not just because you’re probably already juggling a bunch of other things like schoolwork and friends and extracurriculars, but because these job openings come and go FAST.
And I know how it is. You bookmark or save a job listing you see that you think “oh I might have a decent shot at this, I’ll apply later”. And then after you “shop” around on Indeed or LinkedIn and save 10 or so jobs, you sit back in your couch, nod to yourself and think “wow go me, I did enough for today. I’ll apply tomorrow.” Except you and I both know: yOu LyInGGGG. TOMORROW NEVER HAPPENS.
Now that I’ve guilted you enough, let me put on my therapist hat and let’s psycho-analyze the shit out of this shall we.
(Side note: Wow I’m taking a lot longer than I thought I would to get to my point but trust me, all of this leads to somewhere and I DO have some points to make.)
So why do we procrastinate in applying to jobs? I think that’s an important question for you to take some time to go all meta on yourself. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that for most of us, it’s mainly because of two reasons. One: You want the job — maybe too much. It’s a high-stakes, high-reward situation. A job application leads you down the path of either getting it or not. And as a job-seeker, you know there are a lot of other people in the same situation as you, gunning for the same job. This one is harder to control over because you can’t really forget the gravity of the situation and how much, well, you
want need the job. But there ARE ways you can place yourself in a better mindset — more on this later.
The second reason: that the whole application process takes so freaking long. Think about it. You need to fill out a lengthy form, maybe create a new profile depending on the platform they use, sometimes answer some extra short-answer questions, adjust your resume, write up a cover letter….. and it’s still not guaranteed that you would even get the first interview. Remember how I said this is a high-stakes situation? Well as an applicant, you’re putting a lot at stake here too. It’s a LOT of time and effort for something you might not even get!
There’s one thing you can do to minimize the risk here, and that’s through cutting down the time you spend on the applying part of it. The idea is that the more you can make this process a lower-stakes situation, the less intimidating the entire process would seem, and the less you would procrastinate. Let’s take a page from my mans Henry Ford — it’s time to create an assembly line out of all these moving parts kiddos.
One thing I did to cut down the time spend on my application process is I’d create a Google Drive folder labeled “Applications”, then a sub-folder of “Cover Letters”, “Resumes”, and “Supplementary Materials” (like short response questions).
Then I’d create a Master Resume and Master Cover Letter with ALL of my experiences. Ever. Like I would legit just word vomit ALL the responsibilities and roles I ever had and list all the skills I have. I would still have them all formatted in bullet points and in professional resume lingo though. Next, I created a list of general roles/fields I was interested in applying to. For me, for example, that list looked like: Strategy and Business Ops, Account Management, Recruiting, and Marketing.
After that, I would make my Field-specific resumes. I’d make a duplicate copy of that Master Resume (Google Doc allows this if you click File –> Make A Copy) and create a tailored resume for each of those roles from the list. Since everything was copied over from my Master Resume, I would delete the snippets of past experiences or skills that were irrelevant to the role until it became customized enough for that general role. For instance, I’d have a Business Operations Resume, a Marketing Resume, an Account Management resume, etc. And then I’d add more or would edit certain bullet points of each job that made sense for that type of field for each respective resume.
When it came time to apply to jobs, I would create a new resume for each new role. I’d make a duplicate copy of the appropriate Field-specific resume, and then retitle the document to the specific job title followed by my full name. This makes the resume ready to be sent out as soon as it was downloaded as a pdf and it makes your recruiter’s job easier too because they can easily spot your resume in the sea of downloaded files on their computer.
2. The key to your recruiter’s heart: personalization
The customization doesn’t stop there though — the more I wanted the job or the bigger the company, the more I would tailor it using the same exact keywords that the recruiter used in the job listing. This pulls from a basic principle of marketing: Personalize to your target group. if you market to everybody, you market to nobody.
There was a period of time when I actually made a different resume for every single job I applied to. I think this was one thing that really helped me get some interviews for the bigger companies because the hiring manager would look at my resume and look back at the job description and everything would match up… because I took the keywords right from their mouth! Of course I’d only do that for skills or things I did that actually was a match. I didn’t just put in skills or keywords in my resume if I didn’t actually have them in my previous experience. This sounds tiring to do but it actually doesn’t take too much extra time and it’s worth it in the end.
3. Develop thick af skin
Another thing I did was follow-up. This doesn’t sound like much but a lot of my friends back at UCSB were legitimately afraid of following up with the recruiter/company because they didn’t want to come across as annoying. I say BS to that. I totally get where they were coming from, but if you want the job you need to express it. How else will they know? Hiring managers get hundreds and hundreds of applicants. They’re in no rush to review your application and to get back to you if you don’t remind them to check your application.
In fact, I’d go as far to say that they appreciate it when you do. Because they’re human too! Things happen, they forget. There’s a very good chance that they meant to get back to you but forgot because your initial email got buried underneath the influx of new applications.They just have too many things on their plate. So don’t be afraid to follow up. Plus, think about it this way: there are only two ways this could go. 1) You could get a reply back moving you to the next stage! Even if you get rejected, it’s nice to at least know that so you can move on with your life and invest your time and energy in a different company. 2) They don’t get back to you. In which case you’re in the same boat as you were before so you don’t lose out on anything. In fact you can go to sleep better knowing you at least tried. It’s a win-win situation!
I think a good rule of thumb is to follow up 1-1.5 weeks after you first send in your application, and then once every 4-6 days after that if they still don’t get back to you. If you want a sample of the kind of follow-up email I sent, here’s what I write as a general guideline:
I hope you had a great weekend [or you can say “I hope you’re having a good day so far”. Open with positive vibes]! I wanted to check in with you to see if you received my last email (or application) regarding the . [position title] role at [XYZ Company] . I am still interested and would love to share my experiences in [job field (e.g. Customer Success)] and as an [relevant previous role/experience] for . [XYZ Company] with you.
Attached, is my resume for easy reference (make sure to attach resume!!). Please let me know if you’d need anything else from my end or if you have any questions.
I look forward to hearing back from you.
LinkedIn profile url (if you have one)
And going back to my first point about saving time — create an email template for these follow-ups so you can just copy and paste and edit with the new company’s/job’s title. All ya need to do is click send and you just shortened a 5-minute process (or more if you’re me and you take 10 extra minutes to agonize every word in your email) to a 5-second process.
4. Track everything
I submitted upwards of 50 applications. In the end it’s a numbers game — the more jobs you apply to the more likely you’re going to get calls back. It’s hard to keep track of who you need to follow up with after applying to so many. I had a few friends who would wave this suggestion aside and say they remember everything in their heads. Here’s what I say to that: if you can remember the status and when you’re due for a follow-up for every single job you’ve applied to, then you haven’t applied to enough jobs. Don’t downplay the importance of keeping track of all your applications!
My friends and I use an excel sheet as a tracker. I add mine to the same master Google Drive folder for my applications. My sheet would have a column for each of the following: role title, company, location of office, when I applied to it, when it was posted, when I followed-up (I’d list dates of all my follow-up emails), and link to the job listing. I also add in a column for “other” if I have additional miscellaneous comments. Block some time in your week (it could be for example every Tuesday morning) to just go through this tracker, update everything, and to pinpoint apps you need to follow-up on.
5. Choose your battles wisely
After doing a few informational interviews with recruiters (when I was considering a career in recruiting), and after being in the position of recruiting others as the head of some student organizations on campus, there are two things I can tell you that influence the likelihood of you hearing back.
The first, is the relevancy. How relevant are your previous work experiences, extracurriculars, and coursework to the role you’re applying to? Hiring managers are more likely to go with someone who has already had exposure and experience in the role they’re hiring for simply because training newbies is very costly and time-intensive, aka resources the company may or may not have. This is more the case for bigger companies but if you’re applying to a smaller company or start-up, then the weight of this factor has little effect to no effect because the values and tight-knit nature of these kinds of business organizations encourage training into new hires who may not have had previous relevant experience.
The second is how long ago the job was first listed. This seems intuitive, but not a lot of people take this into consideration when applying for a job. Chances are, if you see a job posted 30+ days out and it’s a role that sounds cool, the recruiter most likely forgot to take it down after filling the role. Of course, there’s a chance that they just haven’t found the right fit yet — reach out to the recruiting/HR team to ask if the role is still open before spending your time on their application.
Aside from that, I’d suggest applying ASAP instead of waiting until the deadline because your likelihood of getting picked for an interview lowers with each passing day. Think about it, by the time you apply to a 30-day year old listing, the company is already in the final stages of interviewing some candidates they’ve built a relationship with already from past interviews. No matter how great your resume or cover letter is, they’re going to go with that candidate if they ace that final interview. This job hunt process is mentally tiring and time costly for the recruiters too, so they want to wrap up as quickly as they can once they’ve found a quality candidate. I typically only applied to listings under 21 days. Again, this is more the case for a bigger company versus a smaller business so do take this with a grain of salt.
6. Beware of the ATS
If you’re applying to big companies, you may need to change the format of your resume. My resume used to be set up using the table format (with whited out boundaries) to visually separate my roles from my dates more easily and because I wanted an ~aesthetic~ resume (and because I wanted to be unique) ?
Big companies tend to use something called ATS: an Applicant Tracking System. Since companies get hundreds of applications, this is a way to filter out candidates who don’t have the background they want. It’s literally an online system that looks over your resume to see if you have some of the same skills as what’s desired in the role. This is why using the same keywords is important, from my previous tip. Lucky for you, this is all mentioned in the job description. Anything that messes up the machine from reading your resume though, like your table format or any other visuals (e.g. icons), can really screw up the formatting and how the words are read by the machine. That’s why I create an ATS-friendly resume as well that uses zero tables and only uses spaces. For the dates for example, I would just tab to the right (see below). If you’re not sure if the company you’re applying to uses ATS or not, I think it might be safer to just make sure any resume you submit is ATS- friendly (remove any table formatting or visuals you have).
Of course, if you’re a creative applying to more creative roles or if you’re applying to a start-up or smaller company, then this wouldn’t apply to you. In fact, creating an aesthetically pleasing and different resume design could work better in your favor so that you can stand out. Canva has a lot of resume design templates you can use and customize — and it’s free!
7. Are you Linked[In]?
Another thing I’d recommend is to make a LinkedIn profile or to improve what you have (for example, have a professional headshot or a nice high-quality headshot with no busy backgrounds. No selfies. You don’t have to be in business wear). Nowadays a lot of hiring managers are looking online and your LinkedIn profile is basically your resume available for all the companies to see. There’s also a lot of jobs posted exclusively on LinkedIn that you can “one-click” apply to. You just click apply and LinkedIn submits your profile as a resume to the company which makes it super quick and easy. They also have this feature that you can turn on where you basically advertise that you are looking for a job. You mark which industries and roles you’re interested in and LinkedIn then pushes your profile to recruiters in those fields looking to fill job openings. You can also add the link to your LinkedIn profile onto your resume to showcase your professional brand to the hiring manager reading your application.
There ya have it! I know this can be super overwhelming and a lot to take in, but even if you can start implementing one of these pointers into your job app process, you’re going to be a step closer to hearing back and getting that dream job.
I mentioned this earlier at the start of this post, but I understand what a struggle the whole job hunt process is. It’s not the slightest bit fun. And it can feel like you lose a bit of yourself with each application you submit and with each rejection you receive.
So I have just one more thing to add, an unofficial 8th tip if you will: believe in yourself. In a process like this that can feel very robotic and disheartening, you NEED to be your own cheerleader. Remember all those late nights studying? Remember all those days when you could’ve stayed in bed or lounged on the couch, but instead you trekked onto campus for a student org meeting, or worked that job and sacrificed time with friends or watching Netflix? It wasn’t for nothing. If it helps, write down a little encouragement sticky note for yourself in a place where you can read it. What motivates you? What do you like about yourself? Why do you want your dream job?
And if you’re reading this, you’re already taking a step in the right direction and I’m so proud of you for taking initiative to research more about this. Don’t stop here. Keep going.
Even though it may not feel like it at the moment, things will fall into place in due time. Yes, it’s okay to take a break every now and then — mental health is important — but don’t prolong it to the point of stalling. Pick up where you left off, and as Zac Efron would say, it’s time to get your head in the game. Because YOU. GOT. THIS.