Re: Finding a new job

Subject: Re: Finding a new job
From: "Doug, Data Librarian at Ext 4225" <engstromdd -at- PHIBRED -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 30 Nov 1995 10:23:21 -0600

Ann Casey & Others in Search of Work:

This is my hardy text file of job hunting tips, with a few modifications
since the last time I posted it to the list (a good 9-12 months or so ago)
so I hope this doesn't count as a "needless repost." Here goes:

1) Sending out a truckload of resumes is not very efficient or effective. I
know lots of people who say "Gee, I sent out 40,000 resumes and didn't get a
single interview." When you ask how many follow-up calls they did, they look
blank. They've expended all their effort in bulk mail, and don't have anything
left to pursue the most promising leads. (Of course, last time I posted
this somebody promptly came forward with a personal experience of making
the "bulk mail" approach work; as with all advice, YMMV.)

2) Apply to advertised jobs that you really want. Unless the ad specifically
states "No calls," call and ask about the job first. If you have time, do a
little research on the company--what does it make, who are its customers, where
is it positioned? (scrappy newcomer, serenely dominant, struggling middle tier,
prosperous niche, etc.) If possible, find out who the position will report to.
Then, write a letter *to that company* explaining why you want *their job.*
This makes a far greater impression than an one-size-fits-all cover letter.

Also, remember that your cover letter and resume are pieces of professional
writing--they should be the best you'll ever do. Prospective employers will
assume that you'll never do better for them in terms of organization, grammar,
spelling, etc. than you do when writing for yourself in the cover letter. (I
mention this only because I've seen a lot of really bad cover letters lately.)

3) Once the letter and resume are sent, follow up in a couple days with a phone
call to ask if your stuff arrived, if there is anything else they want
(transcript, references, etc.) and when you can expect to hear from them. This
has several effects, all good. First, you make sure your stuff is on the right
desk; both the US and internal corporate mail have been known to lose things.
Second, it's another indicator to the company that you are interested in their
job, not just any job. Third, it gets you noticed, since they will probably
have to sift through the pile and pull your stuff out to verify that it's there.
Finally, if they indicate at that point that you're out of the running, you may
be able to get them to talk about why (thus identifying weaknesses that may be
correctible) and to talk about other job opportunities they know about in other
companies (because they feel bad and will want to help you).

4) Remember that regardless of a company's formal policy, it is almost always
true that the best candidate does not get the job; the *safest* candidate will
usually get the job. Consider it from the hiring managers perspective. If the
candidate is hired and does well, this is considered largely a function of the
candidate's merit, not the hiring manager's wisdom. If the candidate is hired
and performs as expected, the hiring manager is perceived as simply doing his or
her job. However, if the candidate fails (particularly in a dramatic way) the
immediate question is "Who the hell hired this person?" In almost all
companies, the internal incentives function make managers much more interested
in eliminating the worst candidates than finding the best ones. That's one
reason for the premium on experience. While it's true that experienced people
are generally somewhat more productive than the inexperienced, their real
attraction is that they blow up less often.

5) Join STC (Society for Technical Communication) and avail yourself of the
following services:

* Attend local chapter meetings faithfully. Meet people, talk about their jobs
and companies. Find out who is growing, even if they are not necessarily hiring
at the moment. Maintain close tabs on growing companies that you like; make
sure they know you're available, but don't beat them over the head with it.
When openings come up, you'll be among the first to know.

* Check out the STC BBS for an on-line posting of job opportunities. Dial up
Arlington, VA at (703)522-3299.

* Get to know the job bank coordinator in your local chapter and the chapters
in cities you want to live in. I'm not sure if there's a central listing of job
bank coordinators or not, but if you write STC headquarters at stc -at- tmn -dot- com, I'm
sure somebody there could tell you. (or call them at (703)522-4114.)

* When attempting to gauge the "reasonableness" of salary offers, use the
STC Profile as a guide. It's available from stc -at- tmn -dot- com or, if you can use
FTP, use to and get the "stcsal.txt" file in the pub/stc

* If the timing is right, attend the STC International Conference, usually
held in May. There is usually a job center of some sort and companies
sometimes conduct interviews right at the convention site.

6) Don't underestimate your college placement office; my first two technical
writing positions came from ads in my alma mater's job bank.

7) If you're a software writer, don't forget the Midwest, and don't forget
to look outside the computer industry. Insurance companies, banks and
most research-based companies (drugs, biotechnology, seed, chemicals, etc.)
employ tech writers for their internal Information Systems departments, as
well employee procedural training, etc. For example, our Data Center would
be a solid, medium-sized software company if it stood on its own, but you
don't automatically think of a seed company as a source of computer-related

8) After the interview, follow up with a thank-you note. If the interview
group is small, hit everybody you talked to, but in day-long, mass
consultation affairs, remembering the key HR person and key business person
is probably enough. Don't goof up your performance by fussing about names.

The thank-you presents the following opportunities:

* Again re-emphasizes your interest in *their* job, not just any job.

* Establishes you as a courteous, well-brought-up person who would be
pleasant to work with. (A *very* underrated quality by technical job
seekers, who often feel they can be as abrasive as they want as long as
they're "competent." Major error.)

* A last-ditch chance to bring up anything you want to emphasize that
didn't come up in the interview. For example, if you're a Macintosh whiz,
and they're a heavy Mac shop, casually mention how much you would enjoy
using their advanced equipment, which is similar to what you have at home,
used in a design course, etc., etc. Or, you may want to profess your
admiration for a particular technology or method that they are using: "I
look forward to being able to apply the Information Mapping principles I
learned last fall...." Be careful about this; it's possible to lay it on
too thick, but handled correctly, it can be a plus.

8) And of course, remember the advice of the immortal Winston Churchill:
"Never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never,
never, give up!"

Feel free to write me directly at the address below if you have additional
questions, or just want to commiserate.


Doug "No one gets to miss the storm of What Will Be,
ENGSTROMDD -at- phibred -dot- com just holding on for the ride."

-- The Indigo Girls

The preceding opinions and positions are mine alone, and are only
coincidentally related to those of Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc.

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