An unofficial guide on getting a job

This originally was a guide I built for my friends and for me. They wanted a guide to help them find a job and I wanted to go over those mistakes I did in the past. I am not related to HR so use it carefully.

Before I start, I have to point out a few things. The first thing is what my professor told me when I got my M.Sc. degree. He said, as I quote, “Congratulations, the easy part is over now”. The second thing is that, through a series of random events, I found a mentor who helped me a lot, kudos to this guy. Last part is a quote from Bruce Lee “Be like water my friend, water flows through everything”.

Let me start by acknowledging some facts. Finding a job is tough. It may get frustrating, you may get rejected, you may question your abilities and the list goes on. Keep in mind my professor’s quote and talk to people.  The people you may want to talk are people more experienced than you and people who will support you. In this journey, you don’t want people that will make fun of you. It’s not one of those times since I treat looking for a job as a job itself.

The next part, before starting your journey for a job is to put deadlines. You will look for the perfect job for a certain amount of time. After that, you will look for a job that is related to your field, again have a deadline. If those two fail, you are looking for any job and you are starting over again. This is where Bruce Lee comes in. Be flexible and adaptive to situations.

There are quite a few things here to notice. Not everyone is playing with the same chances as you. For example, if you live in Greece and apply for XYZ-company in the USA, chances are that a guy in the USA is already in a better position than you. He is located in the US thus there are fewer expenses for XYZ to hire him. Keep that in mind. There are many other things to note but those are on a per company basis.

Before going into an interview, you need to find some job postings. Make a list of 20 companies you would die to work for. Then go through each job posting for each company. Find some jobs per company that match your skills and bookmark them. Most people will simple look over a job description. Don’t do that. Review each job posting carefully and take notes.

So, until this point, what you have to do is:

  1. Find what you want to do. I can’t help you on that but common sense says that if you spend resources on things you don’t want to do, chances are you won’t do what you want in the first place.
  2. Find a fair share of companies, I’d say around 20 companies or organizations, you would die to work for. You shouldn’t just come up with a list. For each one of those you should do a research. What are they looking for? What do they want? What do they do? How do they earn money? What other employees are saying? Salaries? Come up with everything you can find. You will find it useful later.
  3. Read the job postings carefully. Read it again. Did I mention you should read it one more time? Think if you fit.

 

It’s time to build that CV. Your CV is a story of your life. You want to make that story interesting. In order to make it interesting, you need to know each job posting. Then you focus on things that matter for that job posting and you briefly mention the rest. Don’t forget to add some other interests. I wouldn’t hire you if you had no other interests beyond those of the job posting. As I mentioned in step 2, you already know everything you can about the company. Let me give you a few bullets again:

  1. Take a moment and think about your life. If you want to share your life with everyone, attend a huge event in your town and hand out your CV to everyone. I guess that’s not how you treat your life. Don’t treat your CV that way. In general, forget what you were told in that managerial class regarding CVs and interviews (forget almost everything).
  2. For every job posting, write a dedicated CV. Remember step 1. Assume your life is like a restaurant. If you change the way the lights reflect in the place, chances are the restaurant looks very different. In simple words, do not write generic CVs. Focus on the job posting not on that great, but totally irrelevant, assignment you did in your B.Sc.
  3. Keep it short. I’d say 3 pages max but that’s debatable. In general, I think of the CV as a presentation/story. I don’t want people to get bored.
  4. Find a template and stick with it. For EU people, there’s the Europass available here. Use it. Unless you are a graphic designer, avoid at all costs custom templates. I’ve seen pink paper with purple letters. It wasn’t nice.
  5. Describe what you studied. You studied computer science? Great. Describe briefly the curriculum of your department. Do it Even if you attended the most known school on that subject.
  6. Mind the gaps. While you are writing your CV (in chronological order) you may end up with times that you did nothing. Chances are you did something. Write it, even if it is irrelevant with that job. If not, chances are someone will question you about that gap.

Now that you have some guidelines, let’s move on to cover letters. Not all companies ask for them but in many interviews people read what I wrote in the cover letter and they asked me. So, while writing a cover letter remember:

  1. Be polite. You don’t know who is going to read it.
  2. Keep it brief but interesting. Since it is shorter in length, the recruiter may read this first and decide whether or not to look at your CV. Still, your story has to be interesting.
  3. Describe what you can offer if they hire you. I don’t mean technical skills. Mostly something that points out that you did some research on the company. Knowing the values of this company is a must here. Mention what you will earn by working for them but keep it short. The interesting part is what they will earn from you.
  4. Look online for a variety of Cover Letters but make them suit your needs. Don’t mess on this and don’t use the same cover letter twice. You may refer to company A in an application for company B. Yeah, mistakes tend to happen.

Your CV and cover letter landed you an interview. That’s great, you rock. Remember, he is inside that organization, you are outside and you want to get in.

  1. Do your research on that company again. This time though you have to remember things as well. Take notes. Many pictures of people wearing suits on the company site? Wear a suit during the interview.
  2. Interviews work sideways. You are the one being interviewed but the employee conducting the interview is being interviewed by you as well. In other words, take what you learned from step 1 and ask them or find a way to prove that you know this through the questions he asks.
  3. You are not friends. This is essential since you don’t want to get very personal with her and at the same time you want at the end of the day to remember you. Act accordingly.
  4. Answers say a lot about you. The same question can be answered in many ways. Again, you want to answer it in a way that she will remember you at the end of the day.
  5. Be honest. Know what you don’t know. Say it. Then give it a try.
  6. Dont be arrogant. It works if you are 110% sure that your answer is right. Even in this case, it may not work out for you.
  7. Search the subjects beforehand. Not all interviews are technical and some may turn out to be about leadership, or videogames. Yes, I was asked about videogames for a company.
  8. Be prepared to answer any question. Remember that technical interview? Well, it turns out that the guy starts asking you about your dreams. Answer and skip the WTF face.
  9. Interviews may be done through Skype, cellphone, on the company. Don’t screw with time kids. When it comes to interviews and meeting people I tend to be there 15 minutes earlier. If something happens, I still have 15 minutes as a cushion and if nothing happens I have 15 minutes to do whatever I want to relax.
  10. Don’t be nervous. You won’t lose your hand if you fail. Just repeat the process. You learn by doing.
  11. Keep notes. You can review stuff later.
  12. Ask feedback. In a clever way. Asking for feedback helps you. In many cases you have to give feedback as well.

 

No matter what you do, don’t get frustrated. At the end of each interview, take some time to think about what you did, how you could handle some situations differently etc.

Next post will be a variety of questions I was asked over time.

If you have any questions, tips, comment or tweet me.

Good luck on your journey.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *