Organize and track my progress during the job search.

Organize and track my progress during the job search - Pic. by Anna Tarazevich on Pexels

By on Sun Dec 27 in Amsterdam, hiring process, job search


Introduction

I want to share with you how I organize and track my progress during the job search. The hiring process can be stressful, so for that reason, I also refer to it as “being ground up like a piece of meat in the infernal recruitment process“.

When I lost my job

In early 2019 for the first time in my life, I lost my job. I had worked there for 2 years, waiting for the permanent contract, but instead, I got a nice “goodbye”.

Well, actually, the company closed 2 offices and at least 10 other people in my office lost their opportunity to get their permanent contract or simply the next renewal. The point was that probably the business was not sustainable as they thought.

I was then forced to find something else and I did it in less than 10 days, I got a new job thanks to a recruiter. I really needed a job so I based my choice only on the salary. No choice could be more wrong!!! Needless to say, I quit after a few months!

I made then the huge error of thinking: “Hey, I am a developer, I’ll find my next job in a few weeks”. I’ve to admit I was overconfident! I spent 2 months searching for something else, and during that time I had a lot of job interviews.

How to start, what to expect

Each process can be different, depending on the company, but after all the interviews I had, I can summarise the steps involved as follow:

  • Find a good job vacancy, it makes sense to invest time in this process
  • Design your CV for the specific job you’re going for
  • Prepare a tailored cover letter
  • Send an email to the HR contact you’ve found in the job description
  • Get a coffee and wait
  • Get another 100 coffee’s, study or build something in the meantime, or write some new posts for your personal website
  • Keep waiting during the next days and/or weeks… If you smoke cigarettes, please, don’t abuse them!
  • Finally, get the first feedback.

Is it negative?

Send them back an email, thanking them for their time, and maybe asking if it’s possible to keep in touch with them?

Is it positive?

Yeah! Don’t waste your time and reply to them, providing all the information they need. At this stage, usually, they want to make an appointment for a job interview. This is only the real first step.

Next steps

I am a software developer, and normally there are at least two interviews and a tech assessment.

About the interviews: it is really important to spend some time on the company website and get as much information as you can about them. In more than one case, when I spoke with the company, they were positively surprised about my knowledge of their business assets.

For the tech assessment, I personally prefer to build something in order to show them my actual coding skills. I really prefer to spend an entire weekend on a small project rather than waste 1 hour going crazy on some code challenge platform (codility, hackerrank, and so on) and their interfaces.

In the case of a good score on your assessment, the company could ask you for some references, be prepared for that! Think about a list of people you can ask,  and find out from the two most reliable people you know if they will provide a reference if asked. Perhaps someone that already did you a favour?

As you can see, the process for applying for a job to just one company takes a lot of time and can be long and tortuous. You have to always be focused on the company and on your goal, be confident in yourself and in your skills, and keep a cool and collected!

Now let’s see how I kept a track of my progress in the job search and which tools I used.

How to organize and track progress during the job search

Notepad

…or better said Notepad++.

In 2017 when I moved from Italy to the Netherlands I spent one month looking for my first job. When I started the job search, I created a folder on my desktop and I filled it with a list of simple text files. I used them to take down notes, links, names, phone numbers, dates, and so on. It wasn’t a good way to organize it because you quickly get confused. If it’s not well organized then the search is difficult, and there no possibility to add metadata on the text file and so on.

In the next paragraph, I’ll show you how I organize and track my progress during the job search using Excel.

Excel

So I started using Excel to better organize information and make some calculations, create different sheets, highlight the information with different colours, sort the columns, etc. I need to do this all in one file.

Here are the columns in my sheet(s):

  • Company
    • The name of the company.
  • Link
    • Link of the company or the link of the page in which you found the job position ad.
  • Position
    • Position title and seniority
  • Linkedin Intelligence
    • Only if you have a Linkedin premium account.
  • Date sent
    • The date on which you sent the application.
  • People
    • People involved, name and email addresses: HR, hiring manager, etc.
  • Assessment platform
    • If they ask for an assessment on a coding platform
  • Assessment score (%)
    • When you finished, track here your score, usually based on a percentage.
  • First Interview
    • The date of the first interview.
  • Second Interview
    • The date of the first interview.
  • Response date
    • The date when you receive the feedback from the company
  • Response
    • The actual feedback from the company.
  • Timespan
    • Measured in days, this is the timespan between the Date sent column, and the Response date column.
  • Note/Impressions
    • Take your personal notes, they will be useful in the future when you’ll face the same situation, try to learn from your mistakes.

It was then easy to track the application process, simply changing the format depending on the status:

  • Red rows for the negative feedback, meaning closed status
  • Yellow rows for the ongoing process, waiting on a response
  • Green rows in case an offer was sent

And obviously, it was easy to have a quick overview of how many applications I sent.

Overview

Here an overview of my applications during the summer of 2019:

  • 40 applications summer 2019

Average span

  • 11 applications – June 9.33 days
  • 12 applications – July 15.22 days
  • 17 applications – August 31.88 days

It was summertime, then most of the HR teams were thinking about their vacation. This explains the length of time that it took to get a reply.

Beside that, Excel gave me a lot of information and helped me analyse it.

I learnt that it was a good way to track my progress, but still not the best way, as something was missing. I was looking for a user-friendly tool allowing me to gather all my application history.

Just for the record: at the end of this lap, I got 5 positive responses out of 40 applications, one for every 8 applications.

A new round of hiring: 2020.

And now: 2020! Thanks to our behavior as human beings, we got the SARS-CoV2 and the world has changed a lot, but still, we get ground up like a piece of meat in the unchanged infernal recruiting process.

For my developer mates: sometimes it happens that you make the wrong decision (see above: choosing a job based on salary). Well, this happened to me when I accepted an offer just because I was scared to refuse it.

And again: If you’ve mostly worked for large companies, there’s no logical reason to get a job in a small company: guess what? I did it, even if it felt like a step backward to the days when developers worked hard instead of working smart. Another lesson learnt: the team is way more important than the salary. We spend at least 8 hours per day at work, and it’s tough if the company doesn’t support you, or if the boss tries to blame everybody else every time there is a problem.

At one point I woke up and realised that I needed something else. The infernal loop of the job search was there, again. I decided to go beyond Excel.

In the next paragraph, I’ll show you how I organize and track my progress during the job search using Trello.

Trello

I approached Trello years ago to manage a side project I was working on. It is popular for good reasons: free and simple with a lot of useful features. Trello can organize your information by creating different cards. I created as many cards as there were companies, highlighting each with a different colour, sorting them into columns, etc.

First of all, I created different columns where I stored a card for each company:

  • To send
  • Sent
  • First response
  • Interviews
  • Positive
  • Negative

Personal suggestion: place the “negative” column as your last column. In this way, together with my screen resolution, this column is hidden so I can avoid the negativity of seeing the negative column.

Be focused on the present and on the on-going process.

Compared to Excel, Trello allows you to store text and files in a nice and readable manner. Within the card, I stored the job description and the link to the page where I found it. Moreover, you can save the attachments such as the PDF assessments, or the whole content of email correspondence between myself and the company in question. In general, I feel Trello has a better overview compared to Excel.

So, to sum up in 2020 I sent approximately 24 applications and I got 3 green lights/offers (see above: one for each 8 applications).

Conclusion

I wanted to share with you how I organized and tracked my progress during the job search, using different tools.

I call the hiring process “the meat grinder of the infernal recruiting process” because during the process you can get frustrated very easily, especially when you need to deal with:

  • HR specialists that are not really specialists, for example, they do not distinguish between technologies;
  • Other recruiters will not give you feedback for weeks or they never give feedback also if you have been involved in the second (or third!) round of interviews;
  • Other ones will simply lie to you, from my personal experience, I got a call from two different recruiters that swore they had the exclusive rights to recruit for the same company… let me just say, it’s weird to me at least since they mention exclusivity!
  • Another problem is that they will not be able to download the CV from your website (like here in my resume section on the homepage) and they will ask you to fill in some weird form with data they already know.

My secret weapons have been constancy and perseverance, some self-confidence, and of course, never giving up! And obviously, I organized and tracked my progress during the job search!

Feel free to share your experience with me and my network on Linkedin or send me a message via the contact form.