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Disclaimer: This is purely anecdotal, and not backed by any data.

I'm in my mid-twenties and just recently started interviewing people for the team I work on. It's amazing how little effort many seemingly qualified people put in to secure an entry-level job. Whether it be hustle to learn more about a business, the specifics about the company you might work at, or finding someone to give a second set of eyes on a cover letter or resume, most people really drop the ball. If job prospects are grim, you'd at least hope people would put in more effort.




One of the problems with the this process is that the information that would drive behavior-driven feedback is not usually correlated with the behaviors you use to interact with the environment. You apply for a bunch of jobs, maybe you'll hear nothing back, or when you do, it feels random and disjointed. I have a nice job, but I can't tell you that it's a result of hard work more than it is luck. I can tell you that all the people I have worked with have praised me for being highly valuable to them, but the people who didn't hire me... what impressions can I make of them?

That they don't know what they're doing? Or that I don't know what I'm doing? Neither of these is a morale booster.


Or you could accept what most people learn in their first month of dating experience - that just because you're not right for each other doesn't mean there's something wrong with either of you.


If "just get over it" were a solution, don't you think it would have worked by now? I don't think being flippant about people's lives is all that productive.


They're just saying that some skills typically come about with experience, and I don't think they're attacking you or unemployed people.

You talk about information being limited to job applicants, but interviewing is a two way street. Interviewers are human and also trying to sift through the information you deliver, and they tend to lean towards false negatives in order to avoid false positives.

Sometimes there is a gap and it really does come down to luck (or your experience in communicating during an interview).


My concern is more that the information which would develop productive experiences is missing. Yes, learning comes from experience. But you can learn the wrong things when your experiences are bad. Applying for work often does more to reinforce learning the wrong things than it does reinforcing successful things.

It's a lot like having many failed relationships. It doesn't necessarily teach you to try harder, it often teaches you to become cynical and careless.


No, of course not. Just as with the dating metaphor, there are a lot of people who will never be mature enough to accept that. But that's something they have to deal with themselves. I'm not their therapist. I can't "be productive" and help them fix their self-esteem issues.


>> You apply for a bunch of jobs, maybe you'll hear nothing back, or when you do, it feels random and disjointed.

Then apply for places where you actually see yourself wanting to work; even if it's McDonalds, people need to eat, a career in the food service industry might be rewarding if that's what you find you like doing.

Or join the military, every country needs a strong military.

Or join a non-profit, build a resume showing what you can and want to do and cut lawns for food money until you have a resume that you can use to get the job you want. You might find you like lawn care and start your own business and become very successful that way.


> Or join the military, every country needs a strong military.

It's funny how looked down upon this is. If I said, hey come work for me for 4 years. During that time you will get paid, get lodging and likely do some traveling. Oh, and you'll learn some skills. If you want to go to college up front and be an MD for example, I'll go ahead and pay for that and you can work for me for 6 years after gaining valuable experience. If you don't go to college up front, then when you leave my job (you don't have to) I'll give you money for college.

Now, inevitably someone will say they don't want to be sent to a war zone. The % of the military that actually end up in a war zone is very small.


What would be really nice is to have a non-military civil service option. So when someone graduates high school, they can still get a government job doing things like road construction or garbage collection, or even get trained on higher skilled areas. The only problem with this, is most of these activities are done by private companies that bid on contracts, so there is no room for a government organization to fill this role.


It's perfectly reasonable to not want to work for the military in any capacity.


Of course, like it is perfectly reasonable not to want to do any job. My point was that the military is a valid option that many people do not think about.


Not everyone can join the military, and there are a lot of people that shouldn't.


At no point did I say everyone should join, but given the down votes my point stands that for some reason it is looked down upon. Joining the military can be a great option for many people.


> secure an entry-level job. Whether it be hustle to learn more about a business, the specifics about the company you might work at

What's the point? No seriously, other than stroking the ego of the interviewer with a 'please sir, I am just dying to work here because you're so awesome and I'm not worthy.' Especially at entry level, one job is pretty much the same as the other. I am not applying because working here is the most important thing to me, I am applying because there was an opening I might be qualified for and I was looking for a job.

I don't care how much you think I should think that your place is the best place ever to work and I should prostrate myself to get it, it's just a damn job and I am only looking for a paycheck so I don't starve and I can do things I want to do with my life.


> I am not applying because working here is the most important thing to me, I am applying because there was an opening I might be qualified for and I was looking for a job.

Yep, I'm actually too scared to state the real reasons why I'm applying. I think HR will filter out my appplication when I write "your opening sounded somewhat interesting and I want to know more about the tasks I have to do when I work here".

Instead I just drop some additional keywords and bullshit into the obligatory "Why do you want to work here?" field. This approached worked so far.


I sometimes wonder whether HR people that do that are so smart that they realize bullshiting is an important ability that must be selected for, or so stupid that they actually fall for the answers they get.


> so stupid that they actually fall for the answers they get.

This, mostly.

Never put HR on your engineering interview loops.

I actually recorded the statistics for our HR people on the loop to prove that they were random relative to the engineering assessments so I could get them kicked off the loop.


Especially with something entry-level. You aren't going to be working on anything interesting and it's a damn miracle if you actually get to be intellectually stimulated. How many people get any type of dream job straight out of college?

You are there to get "experience" and pad your resume so you can move up to something actually challenging and interesting.


That's called drinking the koolaid and it's very effective. Especially for establishing a career path. Once you "make it", you can loosen up.

If you're only applying for a paycheck and not a career then I agree. You should just keep doing what you're doing.


Yes a good dose of self-loathing in order to get a job seems like a very healthy thing to do. It's called 'drinking the koolaid' because it's suicidal.

Companies would be in a better situation if they realized that they were just a paycheck to their employees and not a damn lifestyle. That would cut into profits though, they'd have to give raises and improve compensation to keep people.

Companies aren't looking for decent employees, they want cheerleaders and morons that are blindly working for shit compensation 'because it's an awesome place' instead of employees that think for themselves and want to be compensated properly.


People who are there "just for the paycheck" tend to be mediocre performers, whereas people who are actually passionate about it tend to do a good job.


People who are there just for the paycheck are going to make up the majority of employees all over the world.


Perhaps you should consider a career path that to you is more than a paycheck. There are zillions of options.


That's a pretty ridiculous attitude. Just hire yourself -- clearly your opinion is the only opinion that matters and moving money from someone else's pocket into your own is ultimately all about about your feels.

Where's the hustle?


Where's the passion? Love and work don't have to be two separate entities.


The problem with this explanation is that, for every such person, you can probably find another one that does all of that stuff correctly but still never hears back.

That's exactly what we see with the Fizzbuzz phenomenon, with every interviewer complaining that no applicant can do it, but everyone tripping over each other (including hobbyists and beginners) to say how easy it is, so "where's my job?"

I saw it too with professors and employers who blog, complaining that applicants and students can barely put together a sentence.

Where meets the twain?


"every interviewer complaining that no applicant can do it"

I've noticed a correlation between that and insanely low pay or horrific working conditions, or a crazy disconnect between demands and the requirements.

"I don't understand why none of the applicants can explain the details of why one BGP route is preferred over the other" -- says the guy trying to hire a CCIE for $50K at a dying utility company.

"Well, sure we pivot every month and require 80 hour super high pressure work weeks and the runway ends in six months but aren't all companies, everywhere, on a perpetual death march?" -- says the guy who doesn't get any fizzbuzz-able applicants

"I can't find any applicants with PHD level programming skills and encyclopedic knowledge of algorithms who have written a widely used LISP and/or hold a Fields math medal and/or a Nobel" -- says the guy complaining about getting no serious applicants when trying to hire for an entry level CRUD shoveler, upon being told everyone's unemployed so he should aim high.


Or, in other words, companies tend to get the applicant pool that their job descriptions/work conditions deserve.


I've never had a interview which was only FizzBuzz. The problems given are usually much more difficult than that.

But I've also done interviews with no coding at all.

Point being, nobody is going to hire on FizzBuzz alone, in fact I would hatch a guess that most companies don't use it as a problem anymore given its prevalence.


Recruiter and resume-writer-on-the-side here, and it's become so easy to apply for jobs that most people put zero effort into anything but pressing send and shotgunning a resume to hundreds of companies. If there was even a small cost (time or money) to applying, you can be sure that resumes and cover letters would be much more common and of higher quality.

I'm not suggesting that we charge applicants, but years ago when there was the time taken to type resumes, print them up/copy, put into envelope or hand deliver, the amount of time invested likely made people more concerned with their product.

Job seekers are much better served spending an hour sending 10 focused applications than spending that same hour to send 100 sanitized applications.


Flip side:

After spending a lot of time in the process, realizing that prospective employers give an extremely low effort to respond to candidates - no matter how much effort put into a cover letter, resume grooming, or discussion of why the role might be a fit - it's disheartening. Auto-declines are the norm. Posting jobs for legal reasons when there's already an internal candidate in mind is also undisclosed.

Between having to sign up for proprietary job application systems, seemingly advance to the next stage but never getting a call back like a bad one night stand, or taking months to make a decision, the power dynamic is quite unfavorable.

I think employers are finally discovering that applicants are, for lack of a better perspective, using the same kind of attitude as they have been receiving for years.

Note: I am fond of saying the phrase "Good help is hard to find" because it is, and considering the US has had absolutely appalling wage growth metrics - disgusting even - what motivation is really out there?


I can understand that frustration. An auto-decline after spending a while to customize an application probably feels bad, but frankly most people won't feel great even with a personalized "sorry not interested".

My comments about spending time in the application process primarily are geared towards candidates right on the border of being qualified.

If I get a resume from someone who is clearly very qualified, I'm going to see it immediately and schedule a call. If the resume is from someone who is absolutely no industry experience applying for a senior job, I'll decline (with a note usually if they took the time to write anything).

But say we have a candidate that is slightly underqualified or barely qualified. They can spend a few minutes writing something targeted, and that will make the difference in them getting an interview.

I've had this debate here before, but if you apply to jobs you are clearly not qualified for, you shouldn't expect a reply because you've wasted your own time and theirs now. If someone applies and is just slightly underqualified, they generally are entitled to a response (especially if they took any time in the application process). Anyone who interviews deserves a response and ideally some specific feedback, but that's another story.


The dreaded internal candidate situation is a waste of everyone's time. They already know who is going to be hired, yet collectively everyone has to come together to interview you anyway.

Then there's the rejection, if they even send one.


Oh absolutely, and I think that maybe, just maybe, there should be a legally mandated annotation on such a posting that an internal candidate has been identified and you are competing with them.

In my experience, even worse than a rejection was being offered a salary not commensurate with my experience, and in the neighborhood of $5,000 less than what I was already making in a nearly identical role. I've had that happen on at least three occasions, where the employer was either being dishonest about the salary range or withheld that information until very late in the process; even if for innocuous reasons, it functionally seemed like attempting to put me in a difficult position (stay where you are or leave for us for less and no written/promised path for advancement of position or salary).


Yeah, I'm pretty interested in seeing what effect (if there is even any, not trying to push an opinion here) the bad economy for young people has on salary/compensation negotiations between workers and employers.

Do the employers think that young people are desperate for any kind of job, and then low ball their salary? Or do the candidates settle for a number once it reaches the threshold they think they are worth? Do people negotiate more or less than before the recession on average?

I don't believe that there's even data on these questions, but they would reveal an awful lot about the economic state of affairs if you could get enough good data to establish causation-- which might be very hard.


Just wanted to share I saw a link to a Gallup research piece (by way of ZeroHedge) that touches on some of the issues young people are facing, with respect to the student loan bubble and starting new businesses:

... the country can't look to people coming out of college to reverse this trend because too many of them are strapped by student loan debt. Results of the 2015 Gallup-Purdue Index -- a study of more than 30,000 college graduates in the U.S. -- provide a worrisome picture of the relationship between student loan debt and the likelihood of graduates starting their own businesses.

Among those who graduated between 2006 and 2015, 63% left college with some amount of student loan debt. Of those, 19% say they have delayed starting a business because of their loan debt. That percentage rises to 25% for graduates who left with more than $25,000 in student loan debt. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly 16.9 million bachelor's degrees were conferred in the U.S. over the past 10 years -- a time frame that mirrors Gallup-Purdue Index analysis of recent graduates between 2006 and 2015.

I think Gallup could possibly be an avenue to conduct the study / research you mused about. Wonder if they ever will!

ZH: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-10-15/how-13-trillion-stu...

Gallup: http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/186179/student-loan-de...


It's not just internal candidates. It's done for H1B applications also.


As a recent college grad who went to a community college and then a run-of-the-mill state school, my experience and general impression from my peers was that unless you shotgun as many job applications as possible, you're probably not going to hear back from anyone.

My own hypothesis is that most companies are so obsessed with a potential "false positive" hire that they're perfectly okay with not investing in a new graduate. Thus, we have to send out 10+ job applications per week, otherwise we end up as yet another one of the millions of unemployed, college-educated young adults.

It's not totally awful (I found a great job as a result of my career fair), but unless a company is specifically recruiting from your university it's pretty much a given that you won't be offered an interview, let alone a job.


You don't necessarily need to completely customize everything... In many cases, however it's more important to have good structure and information.

Start off with a basic introduction paragraph or two of what type(s) of positions you are looking for. Followed by a brief summary of the keywords related to the technologies you've used, or are experienced with. Follow this by either eductaion or work history next, whichever is more recent/relevant (if you're still in school, or haven't had a job out of school, education first)... Point out each role, accomplishment and related technology used.

In work history, give a brief paragraph for any major roles/projects again, with any related technologies used. Also include aliases and related technologies.

By doing this, you give up front what you're looking for... what you can use, and then back it up again. Have others who are great with your language proof read and give feedback on verbiage.

Half the battle is getting through the H.R. and recruiter types that hold the gates to the decision makers. The other half is following through with actual relatable experience that you understand, know or can easily learn what you need for the job in question.

Be honest to a fault in terms of what you know, what you don't and what you feel you can learn quickly.

That's my advice to anyone looking for a job in a technical field... You don't necessarily need to customize, but at least have a great resume, that will go a long way getting your foot in the door.


There's certainly a tradeoff between shotgunning and carefully crafting an individualized approach. I'm not sure it's really all that different from what it's always been though. Way back in the day when I was graduating from engineering school, I sent out a lot of minimally customized cover letters with a standard resume to many companies in what seemed like possibly interesting industries. In fact, I got a number of interviews from those shotgunned resumes and ended up working at one of the companies. It was a pretty good job and one that I'd have never stumbled onto with a more tailored approach.

OTOH, my most recent three jobs--including my current one--were all basically through people that I knew.


I don't think that's true at all, although I can see where the stereotype comes from. The fact is, the more effort a potential applicant puts in before applying, the more likely they will be to get a job at the company they're targeting. That's not to say they'll get the job that's their first choice, but they may get another just that's equally good, or perhaps just a foot in the door.

It always pays dividends to invest in your human network. That applies equally well to college grads as to experienced workers.


I'm not convinced that more effort equals more success in this context. Actually I think the less effort you have to invest in getting a job the better the job will be.


The effort mostly lies in figuring out who has the authority to make a hiring decision about you and convincing them to do so. This is really tough for young professionals who don't yet have a professional network. For a lot of folks in the mid-30s and older, getting a new job is as easy as sending an email or picking up the phone (especially in tech, but also in many other industries).


What you're seeing is actually the opposite problem. That candidates aren't obsessed enough with a potential "false positive" hire where they end up working somewhere they don't actually want to work. You can't tell me that someone applying for 40 positions a week truly wants to work at all 40 of those places. Primarily, the candidate just wants any job he/she can get because of the fear of unemployment.


"Fear of unemployment" is a necessary abstraction, but consider what unemployment actually means.

Let's say you are unemployed, and living with your parents-- a very common situation for this generation. You're getting bled each month by your student loans, even if you no other bills, which you probably do. The candidate wants to work at any one of those 40 places, because otherwise they go into default and ruin their credit and probably their parents' credit too.

If you don't live at home, the stakes are losing your apartment or car. This isn't some unreasonable fear; bills need to get paid, and there's an entire generation that is struggling to do so because their largest bill just won't go away.


I'm not saying that people aren't justified in fearing unemployment. I'm just saying that fear pressures them into making suboptimal decisions. It's even worse because 99% of those people immediately stop looking for work, often with a huge sigh of relief, after they've found a stable job.


> immediately stop looking for work [...] after they've found a stable job

As opposed to what?! Any potential employer will ask you in an interview, "Why are you looking to leave your job so soon?". What are you going to say? "Oh, I'm just trying to find something better." - a surefire way to instill trust in your interviewer and get hired /sarcasm.


And anyone worried about not having a good answer to that question doesn't list the job they just started last month in their employment history.


I'm not sure it's that easy... At least in the UK, the employer will sooner or later find out about your previous employment, because you'll need to give the new employer some PXX tax forms.

In any case, I'm not sure being unemployed is actually that much better.


> That candidates aren't obsessed enough with a potential "false positive" hire where they end up working somewhere they don't actually want to work. You can't tell me that someone applying for 40 positions a week truly wants to work at all 40 of those places.

This sounds like a whole lot of blaming the candidate. It also assumes that the candidate could even land one of those 40 positions in the first place. I applied to a whole lot more before I landed mine - as did most of my peers now in our early-mid 20s who didn't get swooped up in a career fair early on in the process.

You can't really tell me that someone applying for a job _in the first place_ truly wants to work (instead of pursuing a passion they like) period. More likely, the candidate doesn't want(keyword) to work at any of those 40 places at all. And here's the kicker:

The candidate should not be faulted for that if he or she is competent at the job and works hard.

The modern age has shown a lot of workers being faithful to their companies and having that faithfulness be an expected one-way street. Look at the firings of Disney and IBM Engineers. The Disney engineers had to even educate their replacements at reduced salary.

I'd love to be spending all my days producing music and building native iOS apps, but that's not how the world works. So, I work somewhere I tolerate working, somewhere I work well. And I count my blessings for it - not many millennials are as lucky as me.


I have real trouble believing a competent developer can't find a job developing native iOS apps in this job market.


Why would I do something I truly love for someone elses dream?


To gain experience? To learn the challenges & pitfalls of the field on someone else's dime? To learn from somebody who has been doing it and getting paid?

Nobody jumps from the bottom of the mountain to the top - you climb it one step at a time. There are people making a living producing music and writing apps - the world does work that way. I'm not saying tomorrow you can decide that's how you'll make a living and it'll happen - but it is something you can work towards and achieve in a reasonable amount of time.


To get better, learn how to run a business based on building such software so that you eventually have the resources to pursue your own dream.

Why would you not want to do that instead of a job which you admittedly feel rather "blah" about?


Presumably because you can't afford to pay rent doing it for your own.


Right, but a real problem is that the HR "match the keywords" whack-a-mole filter is totally random! 10 years of experience for a framework that's only been around for 8 years means that only the liars qualify and the honest folks don't. You don't know how people are going to evaluate your resume but statistically a bunch of companies aren't going to grade people holistically.

But since you can't know a priori which company hires which way, the solution that people have settled on is to blast out a million resumes and hope that some make it past the keyword matchers and to actual human beings making hiring decisions. That's where the actual match-making takes place. But if you don't send out enough resumes to make it through the arbitrary, unpredictable filtering stage you don't make it to the matchmaking stage which means you're unemployed.


It's a positive feedback loop. If it were not for pressure on applicants to find a job, any job, would every employer get bombarded by so many poorly written resumes that they would feel the need to implement such filters?


Yeah I'm not suggesting that the candidates are entirely innocent. But I think the companies share a bigger portion of the blame. If they didn't want to get a million responses they could do things to limit their responses to people who actually want the job like say not allowing people to apply online, or making people apply in person, or requiring a cover letter of a certain length, or whatever.

But what has happened is that the companies set up these online systems to ostensibly make their own lives easier. Candidates have responded to the environment that they live in and started resume spamming. Companies respond by using overly-precise keyword matching to filter out candidates, despite the unsuitability.

It's not as though job seekers started printing resumes by the thousands and sticking them to the door of every business in their town and the companies had to adapt to this by making online systems to reduce the crushing influx of paper.


So are we back to blaming the internet and the modern interconnected society? I can accept that.


Yup, the future sucks and the past was better!

Seriously though, I don't blame the internet or modern interconnected society anywhere. I say that companies should shoulder a larger portion of the blame for creating perverse incentives. Other than that, I'm just trying to describe the world as I see it.


Your whole first paragraph came off as extremely luddite. Knowing that you didn't intend it as such, I'm not sure how to interpret it.


There's a difference between pointing out the flaws of the new system and flatly denying any of its benefits.

Luddites would smash looms so that they could keep their old jobs; I'm merely suggesting that if companies don't want a million resumes for every open position there are things they could do -- which they are not currently doing -- to help with this.

The problem with email is that it's frictionless. It costs an immeasureably small amount of money to send an email so as long as there are some suckers out there who'll buy your penis pills, sending spam emails is profitable.

Similarly all the friction has been taken out of the "submitting a resume for a job" experience and companies are now getting deluged. That's probably not the optimal outcome for employers or job seekers, but the only people who have any power to change it are the employers. Job seekers don't have any real influence on the systems by which employers choose employees, at least not until they get hired and even then it's just about impossible.

The only knob job seekers have to turn is how many resumes they send out and there's little/no downside to sending out more so it's entirely unsurprising that they choose to do so.

Companies on the other hand have a bunch of knobs they can turn regarding how they accept resumes. They're choosing to turn none of them and dealing with the problem on the back-end (keyword matching) rather than the front-end (increasing friction). This leaves them with a quality problem because people aren't keywords and someone with a year too little of experience X might have more than enough actual skill with the thing you need. It's kind-of foolish to assume people all learn at the same rate, isn't it? But because of the quantity problem that employers have, they can't solve the quality problem because that would cost far, far too much. They'd have to spend tens of thousands of dollars on engineering time to try and find the close-but-not-exact-but-definitely-good-enough needles in the not-close-at-all resume haystack.

This is why various companies have tried all kinds of different recruiting tactics like Google's early days where you had to solve problems from billboards or how a lot of companies want to see your open source work or for you to take a coding quiz. That's solving the problem on the front end.

But for some reason not everyone has picked up on this and out of all the programming jobs in the world maybe only 10% (no idea, it's just a guess) get filled by people who solve the problem on the front end. Everyone else does it on the back end, and their methods for dealing with it that way are not up to the task. This is a well documented phenomena, there are countless articles on the subject.

http://www.cio.com/article/2398753/careers-staffing/5-inside...

http://www.today.com/money/how-employers-make-it-hard-find-g...


> Job seekers are much better served spending an hour sending 10 focused applications than spending that same hour to send 100 sanitized applications.

This is the theory, yes. In practice, that 10x level of effort is not matched by a 10x increase in the number of interested responses or a 10x increase in response rate. Diminishing returns sets in quickly. You wind up with more interested responses by shutgunning your resume all over the place - assuming you have a good resume.


The good resume (and I read the comment re: "good resume = qualifications and not just a nice document") is where your argument falls a bit short. Make the recruiter/HR/hirer's job easy for them. Assume they are unintelligent, and don't give them an opportunity to misinterpret your background.

The resume is a single piece of the process. For me to open a resume, first I have to open an email. How long does it take to write a couple sentences to make me want to open your attachment/link?

Then on the resume itself: write a summary. Don't make a recruiter (who 6 months ago was a "struggling unemployed kid who took the first job offered") try to interpret that you are an experienced $LANGUAGE developer with n years of this and that. Come out and tell them exactly what they want/need to know in order to make the decision.

We generally have underqualified people reviewing resumes for companies (agency recruiters, HR, admins at startups). Don't give them an opportunity to mess up. The job says they want a "Python dev with >5 years and some experience with Django"? Tell them exactly that in a sentence in the email, and again as a summary statement on top of the resume.

This isn't 10x effort. It's minimal. It's the hiring company's fault whenever someone qualified doesn't make it into the interview. My philosophy to my resume clients is "don't let HR screw you over - hit them over the head with your qualifications and they can't say no".


An hour for 10 focused applications is a little ambitious as well. I easily spent a day on each focused application back when I was applying for jobs.

And very few of the targeted companies got back to me. I now work at a place that got my generic career fair resume and had a pretty plain "I hear you know how to program?" interview...... Fantastic place though, wouldn't trade it for a 5x pay increase. :)


That's part of the problem... you need a good resume to start with... many don't even take the time to work on that.


Yep. Even though it's true that people will mostly end up just skimming the resume, errors or just general slapdash are huge red flags. I'm not even a particular believer in customizing resumes (unless you're looking at genuinely different types of jobs) so it's really worth the time to get it just right.


When I said "good resume", I did not mean "An aesthetically pleasing resume" or anything of that sort. I mean "A history containing the traits the would-be employer seeks".


I mean having a clear summary at the top regarding your desired position/goals, with a keyword mash of the technology you've used followed by details of work history, projects and the technologies used is a better place to start.

Having actual paragraphs combined with the keyword jumble goes a long way. You don't have to do excessive customization for each job.


I'm not sure about the technology keywords. As a student you most propably won't have extensive knowledge of any technology. I simply don't believe that most HR persons know that somebody who has experience in Java from university courses is equally suited for a C# job.


While I know the strategy was high-risk, I made a very aggressive Cover Letter touting my capabilities and frustration with not geting interviews, and eventually that landed in the hands of the boss that hired me for my first professional job out of college and start in my field of business communications.


Once in a while, someone wins a lot of money on a Powerball lottery. Yet few rational people tout that as a good way to achieve a goal.


> If there was even a small cost (time or money) to applying, you can be sure that resumes and cover letters would be much more common and of higher quality.

I agree. I'd happily put a nominal fee in escro to ensure that the target company I'm applying to actually looks at the resume. I'd also happily pay the fee for them to drop any job ads that they don't intend to fill.

> Job seekers are much better served spending an hour sending 10 focused applications than spending that same hour to send 100 sanitized applications.

I'm not at all convinced that this is true. The response rate seems completely uncorrelated with the amount of time spent on the application. Even at a lower relative response rate, casting a wider net grabs a larger absolute volume of responses.

As an aside: the biggest thing missing from the job hunt process is respect for your applicants _time_. At this point I drop out with companies that don't seem to consider that. I don't need feedback, but I also don't have time to waste doing repeat phone screens and months of interview process.


I think your response rate in relation to time spent on the application has a third element, and that's your audience. If you are applying to giant corporate bank, your resume is first being read by a machine (ATS) scanning for words. I have no idea if your cover letter is being read. Time spent customizing is no better than basic SEO optimization perhaps.

Contrast this with applying for a startup where the CTO is reviewing the resumes, and you mention in the body of the application (they don't want a formal cover letter of course) that you've used their API and say something about how easy the experience was. You're getting an interview, unless you are largely unqualified.

I understand your complaints on process, and that's why I only work represent startups and smaller companies that usually let me streamline the process for clearly qualified individuals. I, too, was once frustrated by the process of some of my clients.


Sounds like job applicants have the same problem that men have in online dating - no feedback from 99% no matter how much effort you put in, so in the end spamming seems like the most effective strategy.


>Sounds like job applicants have the same problem that men have in online dating - no feedback from 99% no matter how much effort you put in, so in the end spamming seems like the most effective strategy.

And the same problem recruiters have when they don't get responses from potential candidates. If you wonder why you get 50 emails a week on LinkedIn, it's the same thing.


That's disingenuous. All the emails I get from LinkedIn are unsolicited and I take my normal approach to spam of not responding, because responding only makes the spam more likely. A better example would be someone putting their resume up on a job board (not a professional social network) and ignoring all the responses, which I have trouble believing anyone does.


Don't you think that some people use LinkedIn as a way to be contacted for new jobs? I think based on the way profiles are written and optimized, at least a fair number of people use it as an ongoing passive job search.


To add to this:

Applicant's who do spend time authoring a well formatted application are seemingly under served by the website-submission process that completely garbles and incorrectly re-formats their applicant documents. Very frustrating and demotivating for the next submitted app. Moreover, they may not even discover that the website ruins their document.

I think there's a disruption opportunity here to provide a HR Applicant Service that doesn't force consumes to blindly copy-paste blobs of text into large free text fields. Just consume and index PDF documents.


Yup, I got more than once extremely mad with crap HR recruiting websites. When you have to waste 15 minutes by filling out a lot of useless fields, having to reenter everthing again because autologout and/or using the back button in the browser, internal server errors, creating a user account and so on. And the worst is that you know that nobody ever will look at most the fields you entered because you can upload your PDFs at the end of the process. And everyone I talked with in the interviews had only my CV and cover letter printed out or opened.

Somebody please make a sane recruiting service and sell it to every Bigco.


One solution to this is to create a plain text resume to be used when submitting through an applicant tracking system. You can still perform some basic formatting in plain text (e.g., string of hyphens for a horizontal line, asterisk for bullet, carriage return at 60 characters to prevent erroneous line wrapping, etc.).

At the top of the plain text resume include a line stating something like "MS Word/PDF formatted resume available at http://ExternalWebsite..."


> Job seekers are much better served spending an hour sending 10 focused applications than spending that same hour to send 100 sanitized applications.

I don't know about the US, but at least here those who are out of work and on unemployment benefit (or, here, Job Seekers Allowance) have to "prove to [their] work coach that [they've] been looking for work". From those I know (and these are predominantly STEM people) who've been unable to get work after graduating, spending too much time on one application is considered faffing around—and if your "work coach" thinks you haven't been looking for work hard enough, they can lose their only income. So, what do they do? Apply with 100 sanitised applications, and get rejected everywhere (at the low-end because no service job will hire them because they're viewed as leaving at the first opportunity, and at graduate jobs because they don't have enough work experience).


Devil's advocate: everywhere gets so many of these that they use automated filtering to sort out resumes. Consequently, there is no point in spending ANY effort until you get a positive feedback from an employer.

So, you have a purely random process on both sides that nobody is willing to put in any energy to fix.


What do you think about the "project" interview?

Do you think that if companies had 2-4 hr projects for applicants to complete, that there would be a better interview process for both parties?


I think most companies that try that get some backlash from candidates who feel the company is taking advantage of free work. I have had clients who pay candidates some reduced rate for this project time, which I think is a good equalizer.


> Job seekers are much better served spending an hour sending 10 focused applications than spending that same hour to send 100 sanitized applications.

Let's assume that you have a 1 in 20 chance on the focused applications, and a 1 in 200 chance on the sanitized ones.

Then the odds that you are offered at least one job, is 40.13% for the focused ones, and 39.42% for the sanitized ones.

I'm not sure the emotional investment is enough to justify the difference in likelihood of landing a job.


You're doing a cost-benefit analysis on a completely arbitrary guess and then using that as the basis for your conclusion? That doesn't work, sorry.

For example, what if in actuality, all other things being equal, they had a 1 in 10 chance focused vs. 1 in 300 chance sanitized, then the results would be 100% chance for the focused versus 33% chance of a response with the sanitized ones. I just used the same thing you did to make the numbers work the other direction.

For the record, based on what I've seen and read, I do think there might be a case for the shotgunned approach, and I personally have had poor luck with the focused approach. But your numbers don't help prove it, sorry.


I think it really depends. I suspect that, for a lot of people, the best strategy is to focus time and energy on companies that they're particularly interested in, have some in with, have unusual qualifications that are a particularly good match for, etc. But, perhaps in parallel, cast a wider net with a more shotgun approach that doesn't devote a lot of time to any single company pre-interview.


That's not how probability works.

10 trials with a 10% success rate yields a 65.13% chance for at least one success.

100 trials with a 0.33% success rate yields a 28.39% chance for at least one success.

You have to use the binomial probability theorem to determine any particular number of hits.

trials! / ( successes! * failures! ) * P_success ^ successes * P_failure ^ failures


I actually read an article on Medium that goes into this in-depth. It's not published anymore, but I had it in a G-Doc, which I linked here:

https://docs.google.com/a/freelanship.com/document/d/1pnuE_b...


Actually, with your numbers the chances are 65.1% and 28.3% respectively.


I appreciate the odds, but I'd hope the numbers would be better for both (we're talking chances of interview here). I usually expect candidates who are applying to jobs they are mostly or entirely qualified for will get response rates well above that (perhaps 40%), but that's only based on anecdotal evidence from my industry experience over the past ~20 years.


Too add different anecdotal evidence. Circa 2006-2007 all of my peers who were entering the job market had to send out >100 applications to get a 1-2 interviews, if they did not get referred by someone. Based on stories from younger family and friends, the situation was the same for first time jobs in 2011-2013


I'm 40, and have seen shitty resumes/interview efforts my entire life. It seems to have no relationship to economic conditions. Most people just don't seem to ... try very hard? Wish I had something more insightful to say after almost 20 years of observation.


My opinion on the matter is that every employer has unique expectations that they pretend are industry standard and obvious. I'll relate this to your statement by saying, they don't know how to try because interviews as a process are like crossing a field of landmines.

Too much academic work or management responsibility, they call you overqualified. To little: they say you aren't trying.

Enthusiastic for a low end job: we shouldn't hire them because their expectations are too high. To low of energy: they aren't the right fit.

This goes on and on and on as hirers act like their individual set of criteria bias are obvious -- likely because the interviewer themselves has limited experience.

Most people do best when they are told what to do in blind situations. Help them out with a few tips on what to expect and I'm guess you'll find much better applicant quality.


Sure, there are certainly some land mines, but then there's also pure sloppiness.

A double digit percentage of the resumes I see have spelling and grammatical errors in them. How hard is it to spend a few minutes checking over a document that is pretty key to your career?


Good engineers can be bad at English. I've seen C-suite briefings and strategy docs with obvious errors in them.

Unless you're working in publishing, I'd pay less attention to trivial errors than to evidence of an ability to get useful things done.


This is proof that you can counter-argument anything. Just proofread your damn resume (or engineer yourself a spellchecker).


Bad at English and attention to detail are two different things. Thoroughness, attention to detail, and knowing how to rigorously shake something down for at-a-glance defects are all skills -- disciplines -- I would expect out of a good software developer.


There's also a pretty strong adverse selection problem in the applicant pool.

People with strong resumes and strong interviewing skills just don't apply and interview all that often.

People who are weak at the resume stage send out a LOT of resumes. People who are weak at interviewing fail to succeed at a lot of interviews.

Therefore, the randomly chosen resume and randomly chosen interview candidate are well below the median of all workers in the field.


I think you're right about that.


I think fear of unemployment as a motivator (or perhaps most kinds of fears) only works in brief, dramatic, and largely unhelpful spurts. So when I look at people who are doing a shoddy job of caring about the particulars of their (potential) job, I always think "is this something that they want to do or at they they are forced to do stave off unemployment?"

To respond more effectively: grim prospects only increase the pool of applicants, and decreases their average desire to do the job you ask for.


"To respond more effectively: grim prospects only increase the pool of applicants, and decreases their average desire to do the job you ask for."

I think that's spot on.


> It's amazing how little effort many seemingly qualified people put in to secure an entry-level job.

That would be because when you're applying to a huge number of jobs per week and get no response for almost all of them, it gets really hard to actually care about any of them.


He was referring to interviewees; ostensibly the interviewee has "heard back" from the potential employer, thereby landing an interview.

It is at this point, IMHO, the interviewee should at least pretend to give a shit about the place that has risen above the silence that candidate had heard to date, and opted to spend the time to interview them.


GP said he was interviewing people. Surely you can care when you go into an interview?


In my experience, most people who are having trouble finding a job put in a lot of effort for their first several tries, then lose hope and start just robotically resume-spamming. Probably some people are just lazy, but I'm guessing in a lot of cases you're catching people on the tail end of that.


Keep in mind that as a purely statistical matter the majority of job applications and interviews come from unqualified candidates. The good people are quickly hired, so the bad/lazy/inattentive people end up dominating the numbers.

In my last job search, I "applied" (usually emailed a friend) to 10 or so companies, had final interviews with 4, and chose one within a week or two. Contrast that with some of my friends who try to do at least 10 applications a day (yet, predictably, still don't have a job). If you were merely to look at the average quality of applications, it would be way lower than the average quality of applicants.


I'd be curious if you are seeing the results of 'shotgun' style job searching. Sending your resume anywhere and everywhere with the hopes of getting a callback. I imagine that would make it difficult to research every possibility.


I was going to mention this exact same thing. The last time I had to go job hunting I submitted my resume to 40-50 companies each week or so, and unless I heard anything back ever, I did zero research outside of seeing if what they were looking for matched what I wanted to apply for.


How long did it take you to find a job using this method? Were you applying to software jobs?


I didn't quite follow the same approach recently... Was my first time looking for a job in several years. I sent out maybe 50 resumes and got callbacks on about half of them. I mainly applied locally. Also, updating my linked in profile got a lot more cold contacts than sending out resumes did.

I was pretty selective as far as finding a job, the interview process reduced the responses to about a third. In the end there were about 3-4 I was interested in, and one of them bumped up the offer to where it was about 20% more than the closest competing offer, so I decided to go with it.

However, I've got about 18-19 years of experience in my field (full stack software development, focusing on web applications), and stronger throughout the stack than most. Many of the positions were labelled "Senior" but the pay, and desired experience, didn't align with that statement in my opinion. It really just depends.

Having a strong resume will go a long way... having a summary statement with your desired position, goals and skills along with technology you are familiar with followed with work/project history reinforcing that experience will go a long way in terms of getting in the door.


Actually, one of my friends on Facebook saw that I was job hunting and offered me an interview. :/

I've gotten all of my best (and last few) jobs through connections, fortunately for me, and maybe unfortunately for me giving advice on how to get a job.

I'm specifically in the sysadmin/dba (and a little devops-y) side of things, and less in programming.


I believe this is definitely true, but I'm speaking of the first initial interview as well. It's not quite as bad as the top of the funnel, much higher quality, but still not the level of effort I was hoping for.


at the interview stage?


The cover letter and resume are going to be read by a keyword-scanning algorithm, not a human being, anyway.

In my experience, the main way anyone gets a job is through personal connections. The cover letter and resume are like some weird archaic relic of a bygone era. As a formality, you have to submit them to some online system, but only after you've already interviewed and been offered the job. They're like paper thank-you notes for wedding gifts: The forms must be obeyed.


I'm 25, and I approve all applications that get sent to every job on Inbound.org, and you wouldn't believe the stuff people submit.

I actually had one of our devs build in an "email applicant" button so I could quickly email the worst ones and give them some tips.


its because when unemployed it is hard to deal with things, it seems like stress makes you dumb or inactive


This is a factor as well. I remember reading an article on the Guardian a few months back about how unemployment is a significant mental health hazard, very frequently resulting in chronic anxiety/depression. It's easy to get stuck in a new rut when you're still stuck in the old rut.


How suitable a process do you feel interviewing has turned out to be ?

Because years of HR research has suggested that interviews are a very poor method for determining candidate suitability for a job. [1]

[1] http://imgur.com/5G0E3dj




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