In this episode we’ll explore 5 key questions:
- What are the different methods/channels you can use to look for a job?
- Should you target your job search to specific companies?
- If yes, what factors must you look out for when selecting those companies?
- What research do you need to do to make your application stand out?
- What strategies, goals, and expectations can you realistically work with?
Questions 1 & 2 deal with the first stage of a job hunt: research. Questions 3 & 4 deal with the second stage: application. Finally, question 5 deals with the third stage: interview + wrapping up.
Let’s start with the research stage. You might ask, “Why bother with all this mind-crunching and planning? Is it really necessary?” Well, let me go back to my own story.
This was my last semester in uni. It suddenly hit me that I need to start looking for a way to feed myself after classes get over. The market was (and is) already competitive enough. To complicate things, I’m an expat Indian living in Malaysia, where immigration is tricky, expensive, and next to impossible for fresh grads. All factors considered, it was a suicide mission.
But I couldn’t just give up! Anxious and sweaty, I had a panic attack. I ran to my laptop, signed up for Jobstreet, and blasted the Canva CV I had made overnight. To every company and role. Didn’t even read the descriptions. This hasty approach obviously didn’t get me anywhere.
Then, in one of her personal consultations, my professor told me that I, like many other graduates, was feeling lost only because I had never taken the time to study the market. I was shooting everywhere, praying for a miracle that was never going to happen. That’s as good as gambling.
But job hunting, she said, “is a game of probability- simple math. Rather than swinging hard in all directions, you need to think carefully of where you have the highest chances, and then focus most of your energy on those shots.”
Essentially, you need to pick your fights wisely. Try to zero in on the 50-60 companies that you know will consider you the most. And go all out with them.
Types of Application
What this means is you need to split your applications into three different methods, decreasing in terms of the effort put in. From tomorrow, you should try to spend:
- 2 hrs. on targeted applications (on your own)
- 1 hrs. on applications through referrals (tap into your network)
- 30 mins. on general job-posting websites (mass)
Let’s start from the back and go through the usual method (mass). Going targeted doesn’t mean you need to stop sending general applications to all available openings via job search sites. You can still keep trying your luck on the sidelines there. There’s no harm in that because all it takes to apply are a few clicks.
But devote only half an hour for this. And try to be efficient. For example, most sites have a section for a short summary/pitch, so keep a template ready in advance. That way, you can slightly tweak the name of the company and paste the answer. Check out how I prepared my pitches for 2 different websites- JobStreet and AIESEC, depending on their word count limits (300 & 1000 respectively).
Talking about preparation, you can also set filters for your job search through portals. Sort them by:
- The latest date (so you always get fresh openings)
- Your location
- Your role or designation
- Salary requirements
- Your level in the hierarchy (manager/executive/intern)
Once you’ve set up the filters, just bookmark the URL in your browser. Then, collect all bookmarks into one folder. So the next time you sit for applying, you can just right-click on “open all.” You’ll see fresh openings instantly!
Let’s go to the second method (referrals), which should occupy 1 hr. of your daily hunting time. This boosts your chances by a lot. How much exactly? Well, 70% of jobs are not even listed because they get filled internally by friends and families of existing colleagues! That’s the power of contacts. So if you’re not tapping into your networks, you’re losing out on 70% of the opportunities out there!
Go through your LinkedIn circle, and watch out for friends who’ve landed in good places. Professors typically have 5-10 years of industry experience. So do approach them to see if you can tap into their professional networks.
Are you too shy to start the conversation? Check out my mini-guide on how to ask for a referral/recommendation here.
Thirdly, let’s move to applications based on your own strength (targeted). You should spend 2 hrs. crafting personal emails that you’ll send to hand-picked companies. Aim to send at least 7-8 emails per day.
So your weekly target can be anywhere between 50 to 60. And then you can add more names to your list (continue doing that until you strike gold).
You can consider making a Google Sheet list of the companies with these columns:
- Company Name
- Drop-down: Industry? (Media/Travel/E-Commerce/F&B)
- Drop-down: Size? (startup, medium, or MNC)
- Link to its website, preferably the careers page (to get an idea of their culture)
- Link to its Facebook or Instagram (to be updated on latest news)
- Phone number (just in case you want to follow up)
- Name of the HR manager/executive or team lead (target your pitch)
- You can find this by searching the company on LinkedIn
- Then, click on “see all employees.”
- Position of that specific person you’re targeting
- Email Addresses: What are some key inboxes you can target?
- HR + team you’re applying for.
- HR typically uses join@- , careers@- , career@- , hr@- , or recruitment@-
- To avoid bouncing, you can test if these email addresses are valid for FREE by going to app.neverbounce.com/verify.
- 2-3 more email IDs you can CC in the thread (just to be safe)
- Drop-down: Status of your job application
- Which stage are you in? Researching, Emailing, Interviewing, Reference Checks, Rejected, or Accepted.
Need a template? Check out how I’ve done it recently for Malaysia. You can download this sheet & start your own list.
How do you select the companies where you have a good chance? Consider these factors:
- Industry: Which brands are hot and famous in your field?
- University: Where do all the seniors go? (use LinkedIn to stalk your alumni)
- Background (history): Are there any previous contacts from your internships?
- Skills: Which sort of companies would value your skillset?
- Work permit situation: Which companies are open to hiring expats?
- Location: Are there any corporate parks/towers near to you?
- Willingness to commute: Is the place accessible via public transport (or car)?
- Values (ethics): Which companies are popular for having good culture?
- Racial profiles (dominant): Is there a concentration of your nationality here?
On top of all these factors, it’s also preferable to go for companies who have just acquired funding or big investments, giving them the capital to go on a hiring spree. If you google lists of “your country + top funded startups,” you’ll get the latest new names in town.
Those were some common ways of selecting which companies might be a good fit for you. Another smart technique I’ve used in the past is called “filtering by elimination.” Basically, I looked at every company, and asked myself- Why would they NOT hire me? That way, I kept eliminating all choices until I was left with the one where I’d face the least amount of issues.
First, I considered the usual suspects- huge mass employers like Unilever, Nestle, KPMG, CITI bank, etc. Since I had no experience, and not the best grades either, it was a waste of time sending my resume to these giants- because they only pick students with 3.7 GPA’s and good track records. So that group was out. I didn’t even try there.
Second, I considered attacking startups because they’re too cash-strapped to hire experienced people so they generally rely on young and fresh interns to do the heavy lifting. But that’s also a bad thing because I realized that they wouldn’t have the funds to apply for my work visa (since the company has to apply on the worker’s behalf). So that group was also out of the question. Who’s next?