Elsewhere on the Internet: Jobhunting real talk

Career change the fourth (or third or fifth, it’s a little hard to keep track): I recently left my publishing job for a similar marketing position in another local nonprofit. I lucked out: the new job happened to be a good fit with the kind of work I want to do and the kind of schedule I need to have, the latter of which only became apparent to me about three months ago. Before that, I looked for jobs casually over the course of a year, looking primarily when I was feeling frustrated with my existing job, and primarily for jobs that offered greater compensation for greater responsibilities. (Ultimately I took a job with less compensation for greater responsibilities, but substantially more flexible hours–which is my most pressing need this year.)

Over the past year:
I sent approximately 50 applications
I was asked to submit additional materials (editing test, portfolio, etc.) 3 times
I was invited to 10 interviews (3 of which were on Skype or phone for various reasons)
I withdrew my application after 4 of these interviews
I had 2 second interviews
and was offered 1 job, which I accepted.

I like to be transparent about these numbers. I’ve been on the other side of the hiring process often enough: I interviewed candidates for my replacement when I was promoted, I’ve hired student workers and interns, I’ve reviewed resumes for potential new staff within my department. I’ve been involved in enough hiring processes, particularly with small companies and nonprofits, that I’m well aware what a crapshoot the whole procedure can  be; it’s easy to overlook strong candidates in a deluge of applications, it’s extremely common for two reviewers to have completely different impressions of the same  resume, and it’s very hard to judge from one or two interviews how well a candidate will perform and fit in. (Though I pride myself on making several very good calls in the last few years.)

But even with that experience, and even though I approach the interview process as though I am trying on the company for size instead of the reverse, there’s still a voice in my mind whispering that I must be doing something wrong, that I must make a poor impression or have glaring mistakes in my cover letters. And regarding the stats above: if I had estimated them rather than looking through my files for hard data, I would have guessed that I applied to “more than a hundred” jobs and interviewed for “several.” Being on the market felt a great deal more laborious and fruitless than it actually was.
I know that some of my dear friends are applying to jobs right now and grappling with these anxieties. So, jobhunters, my stats and the following links are for you.

Via The Billfold, a Medium piece about how the hiring process is broken. It opens with a story about the author’s participation in a hackathon, and then examines some stats that sound a lot more familiar to me (and probably also to you):

  • In 2005, a firm ran a “mystery shopper” experiment with more than 100 healthcare employers. Professionals posing as job candidates applied for work with tailored resumes showing skills that matched or exceeded the posted job requirements. Yet 88% of the candidates were rejected. Even perfect applicants don’t get interviews.

  • “Usually when people talk about hiring for fit or culture fit, it’s a shortcut for saying I want to like you,” says Ji-A Min, a research analyst for Ideal Candidate, a Toronto-based company that uses predictive analytics to help employers hire sales professionals. “That’s where hiring breaks down and all these biases are introduced.”

  • “Years ago, we did a study to determine whether anyone at Google is particularly good at hiring,” Laszlo Bock, Google’s senior vice president for people operations, told a New York Times reporter in 2013. “We looked at tens of thousands of interviews, and everyone who had done the interviews and what they scored the candidate, and how that person ultimately performed in their job. We found zero relationship. It’s a complete random mess.”

I also really appreciate that the Medium author, Deborah Branscum, ultimately takes a more expansive view toward hiring success than “the best possible candidate was hired.” It’s clear she got a lot of good out of the hackathon; similarly, my feeling has been that no application and especially no interview is wasted, since each time you put yourself forward is an opportunity to learn something new.

This is an older column, but because Ask Polly is so good (and also because some of you need this): I Hate My Job and Feel Like a Fraud. What Should I Do?  Or if you aren’t sure why you hate your job or what kind of job you’d hate less, there are some good links in this old roundup.

By the way, Ask A Business Lady is there for you at The Toast.

Finally, if you’ve made it this far and want more sympathy and commiseration, feel free to share your Weird Hiring Stories in the comments. I don’t have any doozies from this go-round, but plenty of mild disappointments: the friendly, conversational interview that ended abruptly after I revealed that I didn’t have training in a field that wasn’t mentioned in the job listing; the hiring manager who asked me very little about my qualifications but grilled me (pardon the pun) about my food blog and where I get my CSA. And I found one sad Email chain in my files: a message containing my application, a brusque reply asking for my salary requirement, my reply containing a lowballed salary requirement (nonprofits, what can you do?), and then silence.


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