Are you tired of your current position and have decided to start looking for a new job in tech? Strap in because you're about to get a real-world guide on how to find that next job of your dreams!

I've been in the IT industry for 21 years now. I have had eight full-time jobs, a handful of contract jobs and even went full-blown entrepreneur for two of those years building my own startup.

In this article, you're going to learn what I've learned the hard way in my journey to find that next great tech job.

Know What you're Looking For

Before you even start a job hunt, know what you want. It's important to record exactly what you're looking for in a new position. Record your minimum requirements and nice-to-have perks. This will allow you to filter out the jobs before they get dumped into your funnel (explained later).

Be as specific as you absolutely can in this phase. If you're wishy-washy about what you do and don't want, you're going to get extremely frustrated later!

For example, below are some of the things I recorded before I started my job hunt. These examples should give you an idea of the types of things to think about before you start hunting for a job.

Attribute Required Nice to have
100% Remote X
< 5% Travel X
$X,000/year salary X
Medical Insurance X
Flexible Schedule X
< $500/month medical premiums X
4 Weeks Vacation X
> 10 paid holidays X

It's Not What You Know It's Who You Know

Although I hate the sentiment behind the saying, the statement "It's not what you know, it's who you know" is totally true in a lot of contexts.

You can search job boards and apply for jobs until your eyes bleed but you're still just a stranger to the company like everyone else. Even if you have a stellar resume, the recruiter or hiring manager must still prioritize your resume the same as everyone else's.

You can get a huge leg up on the interview process by asking local or online friends for help. The more connections you have, the more leads you'll get. Your network is in the know. They not only know about what positions are open but what positions aren't even advertised.

Focus on Helping Others not "Networking"

Although this is something you can't just do because you want a job, help as many people as you can. Talk to fellow geeks and get to know them but never consider it "networking". "Networking" holds a holds a bad connotation. It's fake and everyone is ultimately out for themselves; maybe not today but they're investing in you when the time comes they need help.

Start by helping others right now even if you're not looking for a job!

Instead, focus on simply helping others in any way you can. That could be by writing articles, answering questions in forums, speaking at user groups and conferences or simply being a helping hand on social media.

Build a network by helping people, pure and simple with no strings attached. Treat building a network of people like you should making money. Never be laser-focused on making money. Instead, focus on what you love to do and enjoy the money as a side benefit.

By helping others, you not only improve the lives around you but also amass a ton of friends that might help you out down the road. It's a win-win!

The Inside Scoop

Having a network of friends also gives you the inside scoop on upcoming jobs. If you're employed at a company, those on that team will frequently know ahead of time if a job is opening up. They also know what kind of pain the team is going through and can encourage the manager to look into hiring someone.

Having an inside man or woman on your side is so beneficial.

Who would you rather hire? A stranger off the street with an outstanding resume and can talk the talk or a referral from someone you know and trust? Granted, the job candidate still needs to look great in the interview process but that referral can sway a yes/no hiring decision in your favor.

Always try to have someone on the "inside" to be your biggest cheerleader.

It's tough to gauge a person based off of a few interviews but if a hiring manager can get some insight into a person and validation from a trusted team member, that goes a long way.

Surviving the Job Application and Interview Process

If you're not lucky enough to have a job handed to you by a friend, you're going to have to apply for and interview for jobs. Let the fun begin!

Applying for jobs is stressful. It's stressful due to all of the research you should do and the waiting game. It's the anticipation that kills me personally. If you're up for it though, I can offer some solid advice to make it worth your while.

Don't Wait on Employers or Recruiters

Your skills are valuable. Don't forget that. You are not the subservient one in the job hunt dance. It's an equal partnership. You have skills that employers need and employers need those skills. For this reason, don't wait to hear back from that "perfect" job. Instead, focus on quantity (at first).

Treat a job application as simply a request for more information. When shopping for a car, you don't buy the first one you see. Shop around.

Once you submit an application, many employers will not even have the common courtesy to return an email. You could be waiting for months without a word. During this time, you could be applying for more jobs and find that perfect fit while Big Company X finally gets around to giving you a call back.

Instead, don't wait. Never stop applying for jobs and investigating leads your network gives you until you get a job. You can always politely decline interview requests later on.

Break out the Funnel

Treat the application process as a big funnel. Up top, you've got lots and lots of job leads from your network and jobs to apply for. As you come down the funnel, the number of potential jobs become smaller and smaller.

Each lead or job application will trickle down these funnel "layers" with interviews, cancelled budgets, no responses and so on.

Your job is to fill up the funnel as much as possible and find the signal from the noise after time as jobs get filtered out or fall farther down the funnel.

Layer 1: Quantity vs. Quality with Applications

Much like marketing and sales departments consider a lead, pre-sales and sale, you should treat the application process like this. Attempt to find as many jobs as you can that fit your criteria mostly.

Don't just apply for "perfect" jobs. Instead, apply for many jobs that seem close and get more information in the interview. You're not going to get every job you apply for so don't just apply to one. Treat applying for a job as simply asking for more information.

Some sites that I recommend looking for jobs at are:

Layer 2-1: Recruiter Interviewing

Once you've stuffed the funnel with potential jobs, it's time to start interviewing. Hopefully, you've applied for enough jobs where some will start falling down the funnel and baring fruit with interviews.

The first level of interviewing is typically with an external or internal recruiter. They may have titles like talent acquisition, talent management and the like. These are the front line between you and your potential employer. I'll be assuming you'll be interviewing with an internal recruiter in this article.

This will typically be a shorter phone call 15-30 minutes. During this call, the recruiter is attempting to learn about what you're looking for in the role. They won't have the technical knowledge or will be able to answer any specific questions at the role.

The recruiter is HR. They know a lot about company-wide benefits, culture and perks. But they probably don't know much about the specific team or position. Wait for the hiring manager and team interviews for those questions.

The recruiter is there to pass on more information to the hiring manager about you and to answer any questions you may have about the company, as a whole.

Be nice, be cordial and be honest with the recruiter. They may know the company in and out and what it can provide but they're not going to be able to answer specific team or job-related questions. Leave that for the next interview.

Typical questions to ask with the recruiter are:

  • What kind of benefits does the company provide?
  • How much vacation/PTO will the company provide?
  • Is there a 401K match? If so, how much?
  • What are the paid holidays?
  • What's the company culture like?

Layer 2-2: Hiring Manager Interviewing

The next layer of the interviewing process is meeting with the hiring manager. This is probably the most important interview. You're now talking to the person tasked with making the decision to hire you!

This is the interview where you need to ask any and all questions pertaining to the actual job.

  • What kind of projects will I be working on?
  • What kind of hours will I be expected to be available?
  • What percentage of support vs. project work will I be doing?
  • Is there an on-call schedule?

The hiring manager will probably be your boss. Remember this. It may be hard in a single meeting but try to get a sense or his/her personality and imagine yourself working for them. Do they seem nice? Are they friendly? Or do they seem overly stern? You can usually get a sense of how someone is fairly quickly.

Can you see yourself reporting to this person every day?

Layer 2-3: Team Interviewing

The team interviews are where you get to talk to the people you may be working with side by side, in the trenches. These are the people that you need to talk to and get their take on the daily grind.

  • What does your daily job look like?
  • What's the best and worst thing about your job?
  • Do you think the team meshes well? Any challenges?
  • How much support do you typically have to do?
Establish a rapport with potential team members. Talk to them about topics not necessarily related to work. Attempt to joke around. Get a feel for how they are as people not just workers.

Layer 3: The Offer

So you've gotten through the interview process for one or more jobs. What now? Hopefully, you've gotten one or more job offers! It's time to make a hard decision. You hopefully started out at the top of the funnel with dozens of job applications and leads from your network and are down to a handful of offers.

You must now decide what job you're going to take but how do you decide? Everyone's requirements are going to be different but here are some common decision-making factors.

  • Which job seems to have the best people to work with? Does the boss seem friendly and understanding? Did you get along with the team during the interview? How did you "click" with everyone?
  • What attributes do you credit to a great boss? Do you think they'd be awesome and especially come recommended by others? What did your potential future coworkers say about working for him/her?
  • What's the kind of work that makes you forget time? What kind of work makes you forget you're working? Do you see yourself being able to do this more so at one particular company?
  • How important is salary and benefits to you? Do you need that extra money? If so, are you willing to take the job that you don't have a gut feel it's the best but may make up for that with cold, hard cash?
  • Are you willing to forego a job that you make not like as well as the others for the potential to move to a better position in a company you admire in the future? In other words, are you taking this job not for the job itself but for the company?

Track Your Progress

If you're planning on following my shotgun approach at applying for as many jobs as possible, you have to track them in some way. I've chosen to use a spreadsheet like below.

You can see some of the main attributes I tracked for each job that I either got a lead on through my network or I applied for on my own. It's important to remember details like this to put you in the right frame of mind if someone gets back to you. You also don't want to look stupid or that you don't care about the job if you suddenly forget about the company!

My job hunt spreadsheet

Track everything important to you. What you can't see in the spreadsheet above is my notes section. This is where you can include any specific feelings you have about the company, interesting tidbits of information that might sway your decision at some point and more.

The most important part of tracking progress is ensuring you give each position the same level of scrutiny and effort in the decision-making process.

Overall Tips to Find an Awesome Job

Throughout the job hunt, interview and hiring process, be sure to keep these tips in mind:

  • Be brutally honest with everyone. Admit when you don't know something.
  • Don't try to be someone you're not.
  • Be patient but don't wait around. Keep applying.
  • Remember the employer needs you as you need them.
  • Don't just take the top job that offers you the best salary and perks. Think of the people you'll be working with first.
  • Search jobs with a purpose. Know what you want and when you want it. Be direct with the employer telling them exactly what you're looking for.

Takeaway

A job hunt can be a stressful time but it's worth it! If you take your time, survey the job landscape, tap into your network and look under every rock, you're bound to find an awesome job.

You probably won't find a job immediately. Do your best to continue on with your current routine as best you can as you work on the job hunt in parallel. Hiring a new employee is a big deal for companies and the process takes time.

Hang in there!