A large part of my role as a career strategist is to help people in search be accountable and manage the inherent frustrations that are part of every search. Here are the five most common frustrations I see and advice for moving past them.
Applying to an online job posting.
The Challenge: Some of the systems that companies use to track applicants are so unwieldy that I’ve often compared the experience to that of the character from Greek mythology, Sisyphus, who was punished in Hades by having repeatedly to roll a huge stone up a hill only to have it roll down again as soon as he had brought it to the summit. The upload process for many of these applicant systems is exceptionally cumbersome, requiring significant time copying and pasting information that is already in the applicant’s resume. To make matters worse, the number of applicants who get their job through a job posting is abysmal, particularly for senior executives.
The Solution: Circumvent the job boards. If you see a position of interest, use your network and tools like LinkedIn to see if you can find a connection into the company. Even if you are still asked to post online, you will have explored multiple entry points into the company and potentially increase the likelihood of finding someone who will be willing to speak to you.
Waiting to hear back from a networking contact.
The Challenge: Frequently my clients tell me that they reached out to a solid contact for an introduction and all they hear are crickets. They often start doubting themselves, thinking maybe the relationship wasn’t as strong as they thought it was or maybe their request has offended their contact and that is the reason he/she is not responding.
The Solution: Usually when you don’t hear back from a networking contact, it has nothing to do with you. People are busy, and while we would like to think we are top of mind with them, we aren’t. If the first outreach was by phone, try email, text, or social media. If you make a second phone call, try reaching out during a different time of day to see if it’s easier to catch them. Try to create a follow up plan that is persistent, but doesn’t make you a pest. Don’t leave dozens of voicemail messages or send too many emails. You’d be surprised how many people eventually respond and profusely apologize for their tardiness. If there are others in your professional or personal circle who know the same person, consider asking them about the contact’s whereabouts. Maybe they will know if the person is extremely busy or out of town.
Additionally, before you reach out to your contacts, make sure your “ask” isn’t too big. Many job seekers tell their contacts that they are in a search and say, “If you hear of someone who’s hiring, let me know.” This is generally too much to ask. Most will not know of someone who’s hiring, which makes it easy for them to say no or not respond to you at all. Instead, start your conversation by bluntly stating, “I have no reason to believe you know of anyone who is hiring, but would you be open to spending a few minutes with me so I can learn more about…(a company, an industry, a job function, etc.)” This type of “ask” often leads to a meeting and introductions to other people who may be closer to an actual job lead. People like sharing information. They also like talking about themselves. It’s a low-risk interaction and many are happy to have this type of conversation.
Asking for a LinkedIn recommendation and not getting one.
The Challenge: LinkedIn recommendations can be a great way to build your brand online and demonstrate your value through the lens of people who have worked with you. But my clients often report asking for a recommendation and waiting a long time to hear back. This makes the situation awkward, because the person has agreed to do them a favor and the requestor doesn’t want to appear impatient or entitled by following up.
The Solution: If you want a LinkedIn recommendation from someone in your network, offer to write it for them. This allows you to tailor the recommendation to the skills you want to highlight and it helps expedite the process. Most people are perfectly happy to have you write the recommendation, and once it’s done, they are likely to make only minor edits or approve it quickly.
Another strategy is to write a recommendation for someone without being solicited for one. When the relationship is such that a reciprocal recommendation would be appropriate, you may very well get one without even asking.
Waiting to hear back after a final interview.
The Challenge: You have a final interview that you think went very well. The hiring manager suggests that they will make a decision quickly. And then nothing happens. You spend days in self-flagellation, picking apart every moment of the interview, trying to figure out what went wrong.
The Solution: Understand a delayed response often has nothing to do with your interview performance. Even when a hiring manager wants to make a decision quickly, he/she often can’t because there are others that have to be consulted or an approval process that has to be followed. In some cases, they have offered the job to someone else and while that person goes through their decision or negotiation process, you are kept in the dark. They don’t want you to know they are considering someone else and want you to be excited if they later present you with an offer.
You can try to gain some control over the situation by specifically asking when they plan to make a decision. If they say they will decide shortly, ask them if you should following up in one week or two. By asking a question with a forced choice, you may be more likely to set expectations.
Being asked about past salary regardless of its relationship to the job you are interviewing for.
The Challenge: Your most recent salary is not a competitive benchmark for your next salary. All a salary represents is what someone was willing to pay you to do a specific job at some point in time. It doesn’t account for changes in industry, market demand, geography, or economic factors. Yet many hiring managers continue to ask this question. Identifying this information could put you at a disadvantage, but not disclosing could damage the relationship you are trying to build with the hiring manager.
The Solution: Let the hiring manager know that while you are happy to share that information, your past salary may not represent your expectation for the job you are interviewing for. Let them know you would like to learn more about the position and ask if they would be willing to share the salary range. Do some research before your interview on salary sites such as Glassdoor.com or Payscale.com. Talk to industry recruiters who may be able to disclose salary ranges for certain types of roles or seek out information from professional associations that may conduct industry salary surveys. If the hiring manager asks you to identify a salary range, let him/her know what your expectation is based on your research. In this scenario, your past salary becomes irrelevant, because you have identified a new benchmark and reset the expectations.
Job search can be frustrating at times. Work on managing the situations you can control and letting go of those you can’t. This will help you build confidence, patience, and maybe even a greater sense of humor throughout your journey!