The next step is to actually apply. Don’t send all your applications out at once! You’ll get totally overwhelmed if you start hearing back from people and need to complete tasks all at once. Treat it like an iterative process where you’ll send out several applications each day, learn from any mistakes you can identify based on feedback from the process, and try again the next day.
Note: This is NOT an excuse to procrastinate or only send out one application a day. You should have a definite goal for number of applications per day. 3? 5? 10?
Over time, you will work your way through your excel list. It’s usually good to start at the bottom with the companies that you would barely work at. Once you feel comfortable with your application-sending and hopefully interviewing abilities, you can start tackling the companies at the top that you really want to work for.
Where do you start? Do two things at once – send applications to a few companies towards the bottom of your list to practice but also look at the top companies on your list and build a strategy. Remember, the best way to get in is to NOT use their online resume drop but to instead identify a real human being at the company and connect with that person somehow. Even better is to be so publicly brilliant that they come to you but… we can’t have it all.
So there are probably a few companies that you’d really like to work for. You’ll want to spend a lot more time on them than you would for the ones at the bottom (which are hopefully good for interview practice). Not only should you try to find a real human being at the company, but you can also potentially get noticed by tailoring your project work to them. You’ll be building projects (I hope) to stay in practice anyway, so make one of those a clone of the top company’s website with a new feature you’d like to see, then use that to display your interest.
Get to know the company and its needs and see if you can reach out to address them somehow. Do they have local events you can visit? What do they sponsor? This stuff takes creativity. You need to walk the line where you’re not a stalker but you do care enough to push hard. If you’re wrong, they may say no. It happens, you’ll live and move on. But you’d better try! You’ll probably figure things out that will help you with other companies anyway.
One of the key parts of the process, though, is keeping your spirits up. It SUCKS looking for jobs full time. You can go weeks without hearing a peep from anyone. Then you’ll have a day where you get an interview and your spirits will soar and then you won’t pass and you’ll feel like crap again. Then you’ll get another three interviews in one day and it’ll be crazy for a time before another long waiting period. The inconsistency of it is maddening, so do what you need to in your own life to make sure you don’t let it get you down.
It’s also really important to not act/sound desperate, even though you probably are. No one wants to hire someone who is desperate because it violates so much of the social proof that people use to figure out if you’re a good candidate – if no one else will hire you and you’re so desperate, it makes them wonder what’s wrong with you. And, frankly, there’s nothing wrong… everyone goes through a grueling process when they start looking for jobs. Just don’t let it get to you (or at least don’t make it sound like it’s gotten to you).
The point here is really just to make sure you understand that it’s a really annoying/painful/long process for everyone and you’re not alone!
If you’re applying to several different types of positions, tailor your resume for the specific type of opportunity. Just remember that, if you’re submitting it virtually, they can see the title.
It’s also important to note that if you’re not gaining traction getting responses with a certain resume, don’t be afraid to switch it up. Keep track of the changes and see which version performs better than the others.
Some positions require you to also submit cover letters. In my own experience, I’ve rarely actually seen the cover letter that an applicant has submitted for a job posting. They have a magical way of getting lost or ignored. If someone’s spending < 10 seconds looking at your resume at first, why are they going to read a long cover letter?
Though they may not look at your cover letter during the first pass, if your resume looks interesting then the cover letter has a way of becoming more important. The hiring manager wants to make sure the story he crafted in his head is even more awesome in reality when hearing it from the applicant’s own words. So it’s important to not use meaningless buzzwords and platitudes in your cover letter but instead focus on providing a concise but descriptive (and specific) letter answering the key questions we’ve talked about before (are you capable and driven?).
It also needs to answer a new question that the resume doesn’t really address directly: “Why does this person actually want to work at MY company?”. That’s actually very important if it’s a startup or other strongly cultural organization – they’re looking for people who have a very strong reason for wanting to work there so they know you’ll stick around and grow with the company.
Every piece of communication you have with a company is relevant. The most important is the one where you first reach out via email. You probably want to treat that as a condensed version of a cover letter – express your brilliance and fit in just a few powerful sentences.
Track every application you send out in your spreadsheet by the date you sent it. As we said above, you don’t need to go crazy on Day 1 but keep a regular flow of applications going out.
Follow up on all applications you care about. Follow up once in the first few days and again after a week or two if you haven’t heard anything. This obviously works best if you’ve identified an individual at the company before, but the point is that perseverance matters and it can help you display the kind of drive you’re trying to show in your resume anyway.
This actually applies to the whole process, not just applications. Follow up your interviews (with a thank you to your interviewer on day 1 too). Follow up your tech screens. The goal here isn’t to be naggy and annoying/desperate, and it’s certainly not to be a robot sending auto-generated emails all the time. Just be human and honest and simple in your language.