How to Find a Job in 2021
I get asked 20X a week for employment help from people who are looking for a new job. Some are experienced job seekers, some are career changers, some are right out of high school or university, but they all have one thing in common. They are looking for my advice for how to find a paying job to further their career.
After helping hundreds of people over the years, I decided to publish an updated version of the 20 Steps to Find a Job in the 21st century. *One note, these guidelines may be slightly different in the new normal of 2021. I think the underlying concepts are sound and still work, but there are usually different ways to solve every problem.
This is also applicable if you are looking for a job at www.hubspot.com, the company that I have worked for since 2007. HubSpot is a great company because it hires great people, has a defined culture and is doing meaningful work to help people, managers, leaders and companies #growbetter and then scale better. It is very hard to get a job or internship at HubSpot (statistically harder than admission to MIT or Harvard), but it is possible and follows these general rules and guidelines.
If you have ideas or thoughts on ways to improve this posting, please let me know and we can add or subtract based on new information. The people who have followed this plan have usually found success, so we have some good data that the process is successful.
Step 1: Figure out if you need a job to meet current expenses, if you can take a little bit of time to find the right job with the right company in the right industry that can further your career goals, or if you have the luxury of spending time to search out and investigate your passion project. If you have the financial cushion to take a methodical approach and spend a few weeks or months to find a great fit, that is a great option and should be factored into your plan. There is an expectation here that you understand how much you actually pay in monthly expenses and can quickly calculate the date in which you absolutely need a job. Most people need at least 30-60 days to find a good fit position, senior positions usually take a bit more time.
Step 2: Think through the type of people you like to spend time with and try to find your tribe. It's usually more fun to work with people who have the same purpose, ethics, work expectations & culture as you. It's especially interesting if you can learn new things along the way. A good rule of life is to spend time with the people you like and avoid people you don't like spending time with (the good news is you usually get to determine who falls in each category). Sometimes looking for a job is just looking for a job. Sometimes looking for a job is a more deliberate search to find what fulfills you as a person. Sometimes it is an excellent adventure designed to help you pivot to a new career change or into a new industry. Sometimes looking for a job is working on or toward your passion project that will make you happy. Those all represent slightly different journeys, but finding your way in each category falls into the same general category.
Step 3: Before you pick the jobs you are looking for from a job board, spend some time to intentionally noodle on the industry and type of company you want to join. Think through the best work experiences you have had and try to determine why you enjoyed them so much. Think through the worst work experiences you've had and why you decided to never do that again. All of this can help you determine the types of companies which may be a good fit. There are a few variables here that may apply such as the industry, the type of company - mission driven, public or private, the companies position in the market (industry leader or up & comer), the company size (revenue or # of employees) the location of the company (corporate headquarters or satellite office), company growth rate (fast growing or steady state), public/private/government, the company culture, the other employees, and the expectations for work hours. Try to hone in on your preference for new employment. Even if you are open to multiple options, the more specifically you can define your search, the easier you will be able to target companies that fit what you are looking for.
Step 4: Once you decide on the type and characteristics of the target companies you want to pursue, identify 12-15 companies that meet your criteria. This activity can keep you organized and give you confidence that you are making progress. We suggest that you put the identified companies in a spreadsheet so you can stay organized. Share the spreadsheet with people who can help you in the job search and keep track of your progress.
Step 5: Title your spreadsheet: MY JOB SEARCH and date it and version it; our suggested column headings are: COMPANY NAME, CITY, STATE, Positions Title, Recruiter, Recruiter email, Hiring Manager, Hiring Manager email. Then add activity columns like Sourced, Applied, Application Response, Connect Call Date, HR Phone Screen Date, Interview Date, Second Interview Date, References submitted, References Checked, Offer Letter Received, Start Date. It sometimes helps to set a goal for a specific date you want to be employed and in what capacity, and commit it to writing at the top of the spreadsheet. (Please don't do this if it creates anxiety), but it is a subtle reminder that you have to move with speed & consistency to get what you want.
Step 6: After you have identified good fit companies & built out your spreadsheet, you should start to think through the type of position you are looking for. Entry level or advanced position, title, responsibilities, reporting structure, remote or on premise, work schedule, compensation, benefits (health care, 401K match), and % travel required. You can add any other considerations that are important to you. You might divide these into basic requirements and nice to have. The result should be a list of companies you want to work for and positions that you would interview for.
Step 7: Share the spreadsheet with someone who can give you feedback and guidance This may also be a good time to determine whether you are willing to start at an entry level position or take a step back in title or compensation to find the right environment for you to thrive Be realistic about your options if you are going to change industries. Employers sometimes value experience in an industry differently. If you are job seeking in a difficult economic environment, you may want to consider taking a pay cut to get an initial offer and get a foot in the door. I have always thought that it is better to take a job (for at least one year) where I could showcase my skills internally and prove to the team that I was a good employee, as opposed to telling what I could do once I took the position. This could be a matter of personal preference, and part of your process is to think through your minimum financial requirements.
Step 8: Start researching the posted jobs by checking out your target companies website, job boards, LinkedIn & other websites to see what positions are currently open and available. Compare the job openings with your company and job criteria. Remember, many jobs are not advertised and if a company is growing quickly, they are typically going to need quality employees to help fuel that growth.
Step 9: Once you have researched this information, you have the start of a plan to engage with people at the company effectively to determine fit and get on their radar screen. This is where the fun starts. The key in any job search in 2020 is to differentiate your candidacy - that is, showcase yourself as the "ideal candidate" that this company & hiring manager would want to hire, regardless of your background.
Step 10: Make sure you have a current, accurate one or two page resume and that you have tricked out your LinkedIn (see this blog post https://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/23454/the-ultimate-cheat-sheet-for-mastering-linkedin.aspx) which is essentially your most important awareness asset. Make sure you have a current cell phone and email address printed on all your materials.
Step 11: Spend a few hours a day to apply for the positions or network with current employees to showcase your interest. We sometimes suggest you ping current employees and ask for help. If you can get 15 minutes on the phone with someone performing the job today, you can learn a lot, and you can start to gain a clearer picture of the company mission, culture, people and expectations. If you can set up quick breakfast/lunch/coffee meetings to keep momentum going, that definitely helps. Meeting face to face at the company location is a pain but shows that you will go the extra mile to get what you want.
Step 12: Leverage your second & third level connections. Call everyone you know and ask for help. This can sometimes be intimidating to certain job seekers because it involves reaching out to people you don't know. But our research has found that most people will be willing to help you if you are cordial, professional & offer to do most of the work. You have a small ask and lots of people have empathy for job seekers who have done their research. The harder you work to expand your connections the easier it can be to make others aware of the type of job you are looking for and to expand the potential hiring pool. Unless it is a confidential search, make sure all your friends and family know that you are actively looking for a new position. It turns out the most important new job connections are secondary or tertiary connections. People you worked with 10 years ago, family members you see once a decade, your old soccer coach, people who "kind of know you" but you haven't spoken to in a while. By connecting with these folks you exponentially increase your potential to find good fit positions and accelerate good outcomes. The reason the second connection outreach works is that many jobs are filled by personal connections and you are showing initiative, research skills & professionalism.
Step 13: Apply for as many positions as you can keep track of through the formal process so you are in the formal recruiting system. This can be a mixed bag because if you are not qualified or if your resume doesn't have the right keywords, you might be categorically denied. If you are denied for the position, gather that data and try to determine if there is a flaw in your expectations or qualifications. This is not always easy and a good place where a job coach can help you. A job coach is a person who is experienced in hiring the type of position you are looking to get hired for or has been through a similar search relatively recently. It doesn't have to be a paid position; it is someone you know who can be objective and review your process to determine if you are on the right track. It can be a paid position, but it could be someone who is interested in your professional progression.
Step 14: The key to getting hired to most new jobs is to demonstrate to your employer that you are the best person for the job. This might be easy or hard. Top companies usually have a lot of applicants, so if you are interviewing at a highly competitive company, you have to do some extra work. Sometimes your qualifications or intelligence is enough, but the more work you do to differentiate your candidacy, the easier it is for the recruiter and the hiring manager to move you through the process. If you are moving from one company to the next, essentially doing the same job, you might be the ideal candidate. In any other scenario, where you do not fit that mold, you might want to think through your credentials and experience and come up with multiples-ways outside the normal qualifications where you can differentiate your candidacy. When job seekers ask me how to differentiate their candidacy, I don't disclose specific examples. A good applicant should be able to figure that out on their own. There are usually dozens of things that a candidate can work on that shows the important attributes the employer is looking for in the position. There are dozens of ways you can make a positive impression. Spending time noodling on how to tangibly showcase how you took the extra steps in the interview process will separate you from the other candidates by showing creativity, thoughtfulness and intelligence.
Step 15: If you have a specialized skill or you are an older adult who is interviewing for a position you are unquestionably qualified for, you may want to find a good local or vertical market recruiter who will be able to help represent you to new companies or markets.
Step 16: Once you have applied for the job, go through LinkedIn and identify three people associated with the company that you can connect with. They might be in recruiting, a hiring manager or someone in the current job role. The more senior the position, the harder it is to get attention, and it helps to be concise & thoughtful in your outreach. Sending a generic email requesting for help rarely yields results. In fact many times it has the opposite effect. Smaller company executives are usually more open to direct engagement. You might want to create a quick ask that you can send to them to ask for help. Here is an example> Dan, my name is Mike R and I found your profile on LinkedIn. I recently applied for a position as a BDR for HubSpot and wanted to connect for 15 minutes to ask a few questions & see if you could point me in the right direction. I am in Cambridge, not far from the office, so if you are able to meet face to face, I will bring the coffee and bagels (unless you are a burrito man) Thanks in advance for your help. I know you are busy & I will do all the work. Your outreach should be tailored to each situation.
Step 17: The goal of this connection is twofold A) Determine if there is a slot at their current company or in their network that is currently available and B) get a feel for the culture, hiring process & requirements. There is also an added value to these connections because in the process, you are broadening your network to people who have additional contacts and who could refer you to other companies.
Step 18: When you call or meet these contacts, you want to make sure you make an impression as well as a connection. Start with thanking them for their time and keep it brief. Research them individually and prepare logical questions that will get them talking about themselves and their experience. Prepare a concise introduction and three questions (you only have 15 minutes) Start with - My name is Dan. Thanks for connecting. I saw on LinkedIn you have worked at five start ups? Tell me about YOU. (people love to talk about themselves) Ask your three questions. Listen closely and take notes. Sometimes the next step will be a meeting to get more familiar with them or the company, sometimes it's not a good fit. Either way, you have enhanced your hiring potential by connecting with someone who you can reference in the remainder of the interview process and who can help you differentiate your candidacy. Always thank the connection for her/his time and support. You can have an additional ask, if they know of any additional positions at the company or in the industry that you would appreciate a heads up and reinforce that you will do all the work. If the contact is willing to check with the recruiter on your status that is a huge plus, but asking for active involvement can impact the dynamic. Asking someone to be your advocate in a company over 100 people is a big commitment. Your job is to be memorable in those 15 minutes and to relay the message that you could potentially be a good hire. If you are lucky enough to have someone advocate for you, it's a plus.
Step 19: Based on your research, ten to twelve submissions and hustle, you should receive a few preliminary interviews. Today's interviews usually start with a recorded video interview or a recruiter phone screen. In many cases, the key to acing your first phone interview is preparation. You should do a few hours of research on the company and position before the call. You should check www.glassdoor.com and other employer review sites to anticipate the standard questions.
Step 20: You should be able to give a concise, positive overview of your background and experience (2-3 minutes top) and you should have 2 great interview questions to ask before the interview begins. If this is a phone screen, you should be in a quiet place with great internet access if possible. If it is an important conversation, you should have a good nights sleep and be well fed (no stomach gurgles).
Step 21: It's a plus if you can role play the preliminary interview with your job coach and get honest feedback on your delivery. The key to this interview is to demonstrate the hard work and effort that you put into the process and showcase why you are a superior candidate. The goal of the phone screen is to get a face-to-face meeting so you can observe the environment, meet more prospective co-workers and showcase your skills. No matter what the outcome, connect with your recruiter and thank them for their time. If you have done a good job of preparation and you are a good candidate, they might suggest another position or think of you when a similar position opens in the future.
Step 22: A face-to-face interview (or series of interviews) should trigger even more research to find the type of employees that the company hires. If you know who you are meeting with, connect with those contacts on social media and do your research. If you can, find someone who has been through the process recently and can give you hints that can help. Show up to the venue 15 minutes early, make sure you know the floor where the interview will take place and the person you are meeting with. Have five copies of your resume available, if necessary. If you have not interviewed in a bit, role play the standard interviewing questions with your job coach to make sure you have well-thought-out, concise answers.
Step 23: Subsequent interviews create further opportunities to network, but following the same process can be helpful. Bring your A-game. Great preparation, good connection skills, good interviewing skills & showcasing a willingness to use your skills to earn the job usually makes a huge difference. If you have done a good job in the interviewing process, the recruiter and hiring manager should understand that you embody the right mix of skills and attributes for the position you are interviewing for or another position at the company.
Step 24: Don't quit. This process can be impersonal, embarrassing, emotional, discouraging and hard. But most everyone gets a job if they follow a process and are willing to learn new skills along the way. Make sure you are working consistently and effectively toward your goal. The best candidates work as hard in the interview process as they do the day they start.
Step 25: When you ultimately get a position, you can make a huge impression if you send a quick note to all people who helped you to thank them for their time. Even if it was just a LinkedIn connection, thanking people for helping you can make a difference.