From 100 to 1 - How my second job search was 99% better

Posted August 12, 2016

While writing a post on a recap of my career, I realized something amazing: during my previous job search, I applied to over 100 jobs before I got one. During this job search, I applied to 1, and I got it.

What??

This truly blew my mind when I realized how stark the difference was. Why did this happen? How was this round so much better and easier? I’ve thought a lot about it and here’s what I came up with:

I’d become a better interviewee.
Out of the 100+ places I applied to last year, I probably had around a 30% interview rate. I had more phone interviews than I could count, numerous second round code tests, a handful of third round video calls and even one fly-out for a day with the company. Interviewing is something that gets significantly better with practice and, looking back, I was pretty bad at it when I started. Everything from answering standard questions about yourself, to getting better at thinking on your feet when you’re faced with an unexpected test of knowledge, all of this gets better when you’re repeating the motions. Even more importantly, I was able to have ideas in my head about what I wanted in my workplace. I had good questions to ask, and lots of them. Interviewers appreciate that.

I had more code.
This time around I was able to physically and confidently show code I had written on my own accord, and some of it was kinda good! I received numerous compliments on my CSS experimentation page, and I’m almost certain they checked my Github, of which I am proud of my contribution numbers. It’s not like my code was spectacular or genius or anything, it’s that I was simply writing it on my own, and consistently. It’s a big one, and if you enjoy fooling around with your code, it’s just an added bonus.

My skills were better.
It might be obvious that this was helpful in getting a new job, but I have leveled up a few times over the past year. Another bonus to writing code on the side is getting better at doing it! You don’t have to always write; but read, digest, look over your own stuff. Often times that leads to the most productive code writing there is. The other half of my improvements came from work. I’m someone who learns best when I’m forced to solve a new problem, this is something I am sure about myself. Thankfully, being on a small dev team put me in many of those situations.

I applied within my means.
Having another job and more time under my belt helped me reach a benchmark on the scale of programming jobs. When I was in Minneapolis, I seemed to be right in the middle of those benchmarks; I was too experienced for entry level, but not quite experienced enough for mid-level. I’m sure this contributed to my prolonged job search last time. Be wary and realistic of your skills. Of course it’s good to stretch for the best job you can, but it’s important to shoot for realistic goals.

I could be face-to-face.
Another detriment to my last search was my inability to interview face-to-face. I wanted out of Minneapolis, so I was applying all over the place. Unfortunately not all employers are comfortable with, or prefer, video interviewing. In one memorable case, I was favored for a job in another city after making it through several rounds, but lost the opportunity to someone else after he/she was able to show up in person. It can be very difficult to interview for a entry/mid-level position when you can’t be there in person.

Hopefully these tips can be useful. I also understand that along with these things, I probably just got really lucky. I know the job search can be a grind, and the only thing we can do is make sure we’re the best candidate we can be.

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